What is social and emotional learning?

Social and emotional learning (SEL) refers to the development of emotional intelligence in learners. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) explains that "SEL is a process for helping children and even adults develop the fundamental skills for life effectiveness. SEL teaches the skills we all need to handle ourselves, our relationships, and our work, effectively and ethically." This theory focuses on the development of a student's emotional capabilities - their ability to recognize, understand, and label their emotions in order to ultimately master those feelings. It also emphasizes the importance of understanding others and their emotional state. SEL works to foster five cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies:


● self-management,

● social awareness,

● relationship skills, and

● responsible decision making

Similar to character education, SEL is designed to help students understand and better function in society. Unlike character education, however, SEL deals in the realm of feelings and emotions rather than the realm of morality and ethics.

Maurice Elias and Jeffrey Kress explain aspects of an SEL school and curriculum that will promote success in learning

 Life skills and social competencies: the general skills needed to negotiate the complex interactions in school, the workplace, and life (e.g., self-control, listening, communication, problem-solving)

● Health-promotion and problem-prevention skills: context-specific and developmentally linked application of life skills, needed to confront specific situations which put an individual at risk of psychosocial difficulties (e.g., how to use assertive communication to refuse drugs when offered).

● Coping skills and social support for transitions and crises: the ability to access resources, both internal and external supports, during times of stress.

● Positive, contributory service: a chance to build meaningful relationships and to contribute to efforts different from, "larger than," oneself, along this the reflective processes which engender a sense of usefulness and purpose.

Incorporating SEL into a school's curriculum has proven effective at helping students better function in and out of their learning environment. Leslie Luton Matula, co-founder of MindOH! notes that studies show "improved academic performance with marked improvements in pro-social behavior such as cooperation and respect." She goes on to explain that benefits include teacher retention and improved student behavior outside of school.


How does SEL relate to Whole Person Learning?

SEL is integral to whole person learning. When one talks about educating the whole person, that includes the necessity to help the learner develop the social and emotional intelligence to be a functional member of the learning community and society at large. This involves the ability to recognize and manage their own emotions while also understanding how to be in relationships with others. These skills are incredibly necessary as students do not learn individually - they learn as groups and communities. The ability to function in those settings is, therefore, integral to their growth.


What examples exist of SEL lessons? lists the following sample SEL curricula:

● PBS Arthur Series: Site offers a variety of free SEL activities for children 3-7 years of age.

 ● Developmental Studies Center: Several sample SEL activities from the Caring School Community Program (found under the "What's Taught" section of the site map)

 Project ExSEL: Offers free social and emotional literacy lessons.

 ● Do 2 Learn: Offers two free, interactive online emotion games, the feelings game, and a facial expressions game.

● Responsive Classroom: Several community-building activities can be found in this site's newsletter archives.

● Wings for Kids: Dedicated to SEL after school, site offers free activities for elementary school age kids.

 ● EmoSocial: An online journal that helps children label their emotions and characterize the nature
of their relationships.



Additional Resources

Elias & Kress: 

Leslie Muton Latula, Character Education and Social-Emotional Learning: Why We Must Teach the Whole Child, The Impact of Enhancing Students' Social and Emotional Learning 


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