Why Should Social & Emotional Learning Be in All Classrooms?

What, exactly, is Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and how can this help children? According to the CASEL (the Collaborative Association of Social and Emotional Learning organization) website, SEL “is a process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions.” However, this isn’t the only thing SEL can help students do. SEL also helps students “set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

SEL is broken down into five different segments, developed by CASEL, which includes the following:

  • Self-Awareness: recognizing and being able to label one’s feelings, ultimately being able to identify one’s limitations.
  • Self-Management: regulating one’s emotions, delaying gratification, managing stress, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward goals.
  • Social Awareness: ability to show empathy, understanding another person’s perspectives, and recognizing and mobilizing diverse and available supports.
  • Relationship Skills: providing clear communication, accurate listening, cooperation, constructive conflict resolution, and becoming a team player and/or leader.
  • Responsible Decision Skills: making ethical choices based on consideration of one’s feelings, goals, alternatives and outcomes.

Schools around the country are beginning to treat Social Emotional Learning with the same respect as other core subjects, like math, science, social studies and language arts. However, it wasn’t always this way. In the past, schools were very informal and disorganized about incorporating SEL into the curriculum. The school infrastructure was not solid, which led to poorly executed SEL programs.

However, today there are a number of schools which have had great success in kicking off a SEL program. This is due to the fact that SEL programs now have a very specific framework embedded in strategic lesson planning and curriculum development.

How can schools begin implementing SEL at their school? According to the article, “How to Implement Social and Emotional Learning at Your School,” schools should consider beginning with a series of seven interrelated activities best organized within eight-week planning cycles. In the end, this method would take a few years to fully bring the program to fruition, but at least it is a starting point.

Activities range from first building a school infrastructure that can support SEL to evaluating the school’s culture and climate through surveying, to eventually building a strong team of SEL professionals to teach SEL lessons to students and other teachers. The key element to effectively introducing an SEL program into a school would be for “there to be harmony across the [SEL] programs and approaches that a school uses, with SEL as the integrative glue.”

How, specifically, does SEL help students achieve succeed in life? According to the article, “Why Social and Emotional Learning Is Essential for Students,” there are both long- and short-term benefits to having SEL employed in the classroom. A few of the short-term benefits include:

  • Students begin to know and become able to appropriately manage themselves.
  • Students understand the perspectives of others, as well as relating effectively to them.
  • Students make wise choices in personal and social decisions.

While these benefits are admirable ones for any student to have, the long-term benefits prove to be even greater. According to the article, “Effects of Social Development Intervention in Childhood 15 Years Later,” students will likely become the socially-conscious citizens that teachers and administrators hope for. Students with greater social and emotional competence ultimately “increase the likelihood of high school graduation, readiness for post-secondary education, career success, positive family and work relationships, better mental health, reduced criminal behavior, and engaged citizenship.”



Casel.org, “What is SEL”

Edutopia.org, “Why Social and Emotional Learning is Essential for Students” and “How to Implement Social and Emotional Learning at Your School.”