SEL Overview Blog730x398

Social and emotional learning overview

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 academics by fostering empathy, building and maintaining positive relationships, and making responsible decisions.

Major goals of social and emotional learning 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 and beyond, students need to be able to do more than just study and understand core academic 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 set up social and emotional initiatives have seen a 13% increase in students’ test scores and grades. SEL also provides long-term effects on 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

New research 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. However, social and emotional learning is nothing new in the world of education. In fact, it’s been around for millenia.

Social and emotional learning is as old school as Plato and Socrates, where the importance of character and moral education is reflected in the 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 1990s and 2000s.

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 beginning 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 scores can be given 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.

There are many curriculums and resources bringing social and emotional learning in the classroom. Have Nearpod? Check out our SEL lesson collection you can add onto a school or district license to bring CASEL aligned K-12 content to your students.

If you love what Flocabulary brings to the classroom with culturally responsive teaching and a vocabulary focus you should check out our SEL lessons.

It can be easy to overlook social and emotional learning as part of a school or district curriculum. Yet, students are expected to have these skills when they enter the workforce. Bringing SEL into a school’s curriculum in a uniform way allows students to understand how to be in charge of their actions, emotions, relationships, and more.