What is Social-Emotional Learning?
“Social-emotional learning is a broad term referring to how students regulate their emotions, communicate with others, use compassion and empathy to understand the needs of other people, build relationships and make good decisions,” says licensed psychologist Jennifer B. Rhodes.
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success.
People with strong social-emotional skills are better able to cope with everyday challenges and benefit academically, professionally, and socially. From effective problem-solving to self-discipline, from impulse control to emotion management and more, SEL provides a foundation for positive, long-term effects on kids, adults, and communities.
SEL advances educational equity and excellence through authentic school-family-community partnerships to establish learning environments and experiences that feature trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation. SEL can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities.
Benefits of SEL
More and more research points to social and emotional skills — like cooperating and helping others — as the foundation of thriving in life. Students with strong skills in these areas get along better with their peers. They’re also more likely to graduate from high school and get a full-time job.
One long-term study looked at the connection between kids’ early social-emotional skills and their well-being as young adults. The study started tracking a group of students in kindergarten. Teachers rated them on a scale of one to five, based on their ability to do things like sharing and listening to others.
The study followed these students for nearly two decades. It found that for every point higher the kindergartners scored on that five-point scale, they were:
54 percent more likely to get a high school diploma
Twice as likely to get a college degree in early adulthood
46 percent more likely to have a full-time job at the age of 25
Other research has looked at SEL instruction. Early findings show it can lead to:
Less emotional distress
Fewer disciplinary incidents
Increases in school attendance
Improved test scores and grades
Research confirms and teachers, parents, and principals agree: Social and emotional competencies can be taught, modeled, and practiced and lead to positive student outcomes that are important for success in school and in life.
Decades of research studies demonstrate the following benefits of SEL:
- Improvement in students’ social and emotional skills, attitudes, relationships, academic performance, and perceptions of classroom and school climate.
- Decline in students’ anxiety and behavior problems.
- Long-term improvements in students’ skills, attitudes, prosocial behavior, and academic performance.
- Wise financial investment according to cost-benefit research.
Social-emotional learning skills
Self-awareness , like identifying emotions, recognizing strengths and needs, and developing a growth mindset
Self-management, like managing emotions, controlling impulses, and setting goals
Social awareness, like seeing things from other people’s perspective, showing empathy , and appreciating diversity
Relationship skills, like communication, cooperation, and conflict resolution
Responsible decision-making, including thinking about the consequences of personal behavior