Social And Emotional Learning Overview, Social Emotional Learning

An Overview of Social & Emotional Learning

Post Series: Social & Emotional Learning

There’s been a lot of talk about social and emotional learning (SEL) in the education space in recent years. Looking for an intro to SEL and what it means for teachers and students? We’ve got you covered.

What Is Taught in Social and Emotional Learning?

Social and emotional learning goes beyond the academics by teaching students to be empathetic of others’ opinions and perspectives, build and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Major goals of SEL are to teach students:

  1. Self-awareness: Having a clear perception of your personality, thus allowing you to understand other people, and how they perceive you
  2. Self-management: Taking responsibility for one’s actions
  3. Social awareness: Being aware of your surroundings and social circumstances
  4. Relationship skills
  5. Responsible decision-making

In order to excel in school, students need to be able to do more than just study and understand core content—they need to be able to communicate and work with their peers, manage time and stress and have basic problem solving skills. According to 8 studies, schools that have implemented a SEL plan in their classrooms have seen a 13% increase in students’ test scores and grades. SEL also provides long-term effects students’ behaviors, attitudes, and skills.

Before we dive deeper, let’s take a step back and learn about the history of SEL and how it found a place in the K-12 education space.

A (Very) Brief History of SEL

We’ve written about new research that points to social and emotional learning (SEL) as a key to lifelong achievement. Because this new research continues to pour in, SEL is oftentimes branded as a novel addition to the curriculum. But we’ll let you in on a little secret: Social and emotional learning is nothing new in the world of education. In fact, it’s been around for millennia.

Social and emotional learning is as old school as Plato and Socrates, where the importance of character and moral education is reflected in Republic. In the United States, character development was embedded in the foundations of American education by Horace Mann, further expanded by education reformers like John Dewey, and expounded on by education scholars nationwide in the 1990’s and 2000’s.

Core Competencies of SEL

The output of this long-term, national conversation about character development (in addition to the extensive research over the past 30 years) is the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), whose core competencies serve as tenets to comprehensive SEL instruction in the classroom and beyond.

Here’s how CASEL breaks down social and emotional skill sets, and how students learn these skills (note how, as with many things, it all begins in the classroom):

Assessing Social and Emotional Learning

Testing the effectiveness of SEL can be difficult. Experts have differing opinions on how it can be tested, or even if it even can be. It is difficult to test skills that are thought to be inherently learned at home. However, many experts have come up with a 5-point rating system that measures students on a somewhat fluid scale for each skill they should learn. One model from Marzano Research via Edutopia ranks social skills development on a scale of 0-4, with 0 indicating little to no understanding, and 4 as having the most understanding. Partial score can be give to students to allow fluidity within the system.

Some versions of this assessment also ask parents to evaluate their children, and students to evaluate themselves. This rating system is then, ideally, turned into a conversation with the student to carefully assess their progress.

Some ed tech tools, like Peekapak, are built to solely teach SEL skills in the classroom and at home. Flocabulary offers over a dozen units on social and emotional learning, too, including units and assessments on:

  • Managing frustration and worry
  • Building empathy
  • Conflict resolution
  • Active listening
  • Oversharing

Learn more about how Flocabulary supports SEL here.

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It can be easy to overlook SEL skills as part of a school curriculum. Yet, students are expected to have these skills when they enter the workforce, but aren’t taught them in a uniform way. Bringing SEL into a school’s curriculum allows students to understand how to be in charge of their actions and emotions.

To learn more on social and emotional learning, check out these handy links:

Additional Reading

  1. Adams, Jane Meredith. “Understanding Social and Emotional Learning: a Quick Guide.” EdSource.
  2. Adams, Jane. “Taylor Et Al FINAL Document 6 17 2017.” DocumentCloud, EdSource.
  3. Felton, Emmanuel. “When Social and Emotional Learning Is Key to College Success.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 2 Mar. 2016.
  4. Harper, Amelia. “On-Site SEL Advocates Would Benefit Students, Argues Rutgers Professor.” Education Dive, 23 Aug. 2017.
  5. Kamenetz, Anya. “Social And Emotional Skills: Everybody Loves Them, But Still Can’t Define Them.” NPR, NPR, 14 Aug. 2017.
  6. Marzano, Robert J. “Building SEL Skills Through Formative Assessment.” Edutopia, 14 July 2016.

Nirali Patel

Nirali is the social media intern at Flocabulary. She previously spent time teaching English at a monastery and student teaching at a high school. For fun, she watches, quotes and breathes "The Office." Her favorite Flocab video is "The French Revolution."

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