Understanding Social and Emotional Learning

Understanding Social and Emotional Learning: What it is and Why it is Important

With so many education buzzwords flying around it can be hard to keep them all straight. From whole child learning to STEM (that has now often turned into STEAM), 21st century skills to character education, there’s a lot to remember — let alone actually do in your classroom!

 

SEL (short for Social and Emotional Learning) is one that deserves to be at the forefront of your mind and heart. It isn’t just a fancy, feel-good term; it is a practice that can drastically impact the way your classroom grows and the academic success of your students.

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Articles, Teaching Resources

 

 

 

 

 

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Mission, SEL, Social Emotional Learning, Understanding SEL, Vision

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lead Author(s)

BeWE Crew, Haley Brittingham

 

 

 

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Understanding Social and Emotional Learning: What it is and Why it is Important

With so many education buzzwords flying around it can be hard to keep them all straight. From whole child learning to STEM (that has now often turned into STEAM), 21st century skills to character education, there’s a lot to remember — let alone actually do in your classroom!

SEL (short for Social and Emotional Learning) is one that deserves to be at the forefront of your mind and heart. It isn’t just a fancy, feel-good term; it is a practice that can drastically impact the way your classroom grows and the academic success of your students.

 

What is Social and Emotional Learning?

Social and Emotional Learning is the process of acquiring core competencies to recognize and manage emotions. These include setting and achieving positive goals, appreciating the perspectives of others, establishing and maintaining positive relationships, and handling interpersonal situations constructively. Without a doubt, we all need social and emotional learning in our lives. Explicitly teaching SEL skills earlier in life can ensure that students grow up with these essential qualities in their back pockets to refer to every day, in any situation.

 

 

Why is Social and Emotional Learning Important?

When students are engaged in their learning and motivated to proudly complete the task at hand or participate in a discussion, meaningful learning happens. It is estimated that by high school between 40%-60% of students become “chronically disengaged” stemming from a lack of social-emotional development in early childhood.1 Building SEL skills in school helps students become more motivated and loving humans, well beyond their time in the classroom.

And, when students can relate to the content they are learning, they have a sense of urgency and curiosity to learn more. Providing consistent SEL opportunities plays a major role in a student’s development and their approach to school.2 With more engaged students, schools with SEL have experienced a reduction of student fights by half, annually, and an increase in collaboration.3 Years of scientific research shows that SEL, when integrated into the school day, helps develop the “whole child” — leading to higher academic rates, increased high school graduation, and future life success.4 We all want that for our kiddos, right?

Researchers also found that when SEL is embedded within the school curriculum, there is an average increase of 11 percentile points on academic achievement scores compared to their peers who did not receive SEL instruction.5 SEL is the “missing link to academic success.”6

Children who have access to SEL are able to cultivate deeper relationships with others, listen and understand varying perspectives, and get along with people from different backgrounds. SEL lays the foundation for a strong sense of self to overcome obstacles one faces throughout their lives. In turn, those humans can then help others do the same.
 
Smiling children from a Learning Journey

 

Choosing a Program or Tool to Meet Your Students Needs and Interests

 

District Level Stakeholders

Questions to consider:

  • What are your district’s strategic goals? How do the programs or supplementary tools you found help you reach those goals? For example, the West Windsor-Plainsboro School District in NJ has two very specific goals along with their academic rigor goals: Build globally competent students and increase social and emotional awareness. Using Better World Ed content allows them to target both goals while also integrating academic skills like math, too.

  • How does the program support teachers growing their social and emotional competencies, too?

  • Are you looking for one program that can be used throughout K-12 or different programs that will help build on top of another program?

  • Do you and other stakeholders want a program that has to be taught sequentially and for a specific amount of time, or do you want teachers to have a flexible program that integrates into their day?

 

School Administrators

Questions to consider:

  • What are the priorities for my students? What do they need overall? What do we wish they are able to do from an emotional, interpersonal, and cognitive level?

  • How will this program relate to other aspects of our students’ lives? What connections can students make with the learning content?
  • Is the program I’m considering a stand-alone program or can it be integrated into academics? Does it require a specific amount of time each day or week? What will the effects be on the teachers using it?
  • What program would be most engaging with our population of students? What would ignite their curiosity and want them to learn more while practicing their new SEL skills?
  • What other programs, tools, and books are teachers currently using in my school to teach SEL?

 

Classroom Teacher

Questions to consider:

  • What do my students need help with from a social and emotional standpoint? Individually and collectively?

  • What type of content resonates most with my students?
  • What type of learning content would make the most sense for me to use during my busy schedule?
  • What do I require and need as a teacher from an SEL program?

 

Other Helpful SEL Articles

Learn how to integrate Better World Ed SEL within core subjects.

See different ways our teachers have used Better World Ed content.

Discover the Better World Ed approach to making SEL possible early in life, every day, and everywhere.

 

 

  1. https://www.casel.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/PDF-3-Durlak-Weissberg-Dymnicki-Taylor-_-Schellinger-2011-Meta-analysis.pdf
  2. http://www.casel.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/the-missing-piece.pdf
  3. ​Ibid
  4. http://nationathope.org/wp-content/uploads/aspen_policy_final_withappendices_web_optimized.pdf
  5. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/03/21st-century-skills-future-jobs-students/
  6. http://www.casel.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/SEL-TEd-Full-Report-for-CASEL-2017-02-14-R1.pdf
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK402020/

Understanding Social and Emotional Learning: What it is and Why it is Important

Other Helpful SEL Articles

Learn how Better World Ed content integrates SEL within core subjects.

See different ways our teachers have used Better World Ed content.

Discover the Better World Ed approach to making SEL possible early in life, every day, and everywhere.