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What is Social Emotional Learning (SEL)?

Social and Emotional skills or SEL can be taught and learned as a subject like Literacy or Math; it is helpful for everyone to learn and improve their skills.

How would you behave in social situations if you didn’t know what was expected of you? What would you say in conversations if you weren’t sure what the appropriate response was? Imagine trying to interact with people if you couldn’t read their emotions or attempting to interpret their body language when you don’t understand what the different gestures are likely to indicate.

Everyone needs social and emotional skills to thrive in life. Without these, day-to-day activities would be very difficult and stressful. These skills are learned throughout our lives, during childhood and adulthood. Often, we learn these skills from personal experience or from watching others. However, it is also common for people need a little more support and guidance to develop these abilities.

SEL is now being prioritized more in education and is being built into lessons alongside academic learning. It can have many benefits.

Over the years, it has been shown to:

  • Reduce behavioral problems, aggression and emotional distress.

  • Improve positive attitudes toward self and others.

  • Improve social and emotional skills and understanding.

  • Increase student's academic performance by 11 percentile points.

  • Result in 10% fewer psychological, behavioral, or substance abuse problems when they reach the age of 25.

  • Increase helping behaviors in school.

SEL first began in the 1960s at the Child Study Centre in the Yale School of Medicine. Here, the Comer School Development Program began. It focused upon supporting the social and emotional needs of the students in elementary schools in New Haven, Connecticut, due to the poor results in their academic report cards. These schools later became the charter for Social Emotional Learning.

Currently, the main source for information on Social Emotional Learning is the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning or CASEL. The CASEL wheel clearly shows the five main components for SEL (pictured below). Below are some questions suggesting what topics each section might include, there are often other Picture by

questions which may be covered or sometimes not all of them may need to be taught.

1. Self-awareness – this involves having a positive self-concept and understanding your own emotions.

How do I feel?

What am I thinking?

What is causing these thoughts?

What is making me feel this way?

How do I best express my thoughts and feelings?

2. Social awareness – to be able to understand the social situations and feelings of others.

What are other people thinking?

What might be making them think like this?

How do other people feel?

What makes people feel the way that they do?

How do I understand other’s thoughts and feelings?

3. Responsible decision making – the ability to make decisions and feel responsible and accountable for them.

What are the likely consequences of my actions for myself?

What are the likely consequences of my actions for others?

What are my beliefs and how do these connect to and influence my decisions?

What are the different options for solving this problem?

4. Relationship skills – the ability to build relationships and communicate with others.

How do I build relationships and friendships?

How will my actions impact my relationships?

How do I interact positively with others?

How to I communicate with others?

5. Self-management – the ability to manage and regulate your own emotions, to be able to set your own targets/goals and motivate yourself.

How can I manage my emotions?

How can I respond to different events?

What are my goals?

What is important to me?

How do I achieve my goals?

How do I stay motivated and focused on my goals?

References: – outcomes


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