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Why social-emotional learning matters

Janice LavalleeOctober 26, 2021

Two students smiling

Look around your classroom. How many of your students really know how to solve learning issues and manage their emotions? Probably very few. 

To learn successfully, both children and adults must develop these skills over time and receive consistent support. The methods used in Social-Emotional Learning, or SEL, can help. 

SEL, created by educators in the 1980s, focuses on self-control, self-awareness and interpersonal skills. And it’s a method that many educational institutions are turning to in 2021 to make learning more successful. 

CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, recently did a study of 270,034 students in kindergarten through high school. They found that evidence-based SEL programs produce a wide variety of positive outcomes for students including better attitudes, fewer behavioral issues and better academic performances. 

Maintain SEL skills 

And these results didn’t go away. Another study of the long-term effects of SEL showed that students maintained these positive skills and attitudes for an average of 3.75 years afterward. 

As we mentioned earlier, people with strong emotional skills can cope better with everyday challenges and benefit on an academic, professional and social level. SEL has also been shown to provide a foundation for positive, long-term effects on issues such as problem-solving, self-discipline, impulse control and managing emotions.

Here are the top 5 skills your students will learn with social-emotional learning: 

1. Self-management

Once young adults and students increase their social and emotional skills, they begin to understand the significance of self-management. This can involve intrinsic motivation, personal goals and emotional management.

2. Self awareness

One of the main aspects of SEL is establishing and maintaining a high degree of self-awareness. This allows students to understand how positive reinforcement works and how it can help them improve their self-image.

3. Social awareness

Having a strong self-image is not the same as a social image. Students who learn to treat others with respect and care through SEL initiatives will develop social awareness. 

4. Responsible decision-making

Teaching students to make specific life decisions affects different aspects of their physical, intellectual, emotional and social interactions. It’s a simple formula that shows how positive choices lead to positive change and growth.

5. Relationship skills

SEL skills also empower young adults and kids to develop fruitful relationships. It helps students master conflict resolution and understand the needs of others so they can maintain positive relationships.

Reduced aggression 

Many educational institutions have embraced the methods of social-emotional learning and have started to adapt their curriculums to include it. Today’s educators are learning how to implement SEL activities with a personalized touch to create an empathic, inclusive, and safe classroom environment. A study by the Resilient Educator showed that students are 42% less likely to show physical aggression when social-emotional learning activities are in place.

Other studies show that SEL learning has reduced bullying targeted toward students with disabilities by as much as 20%. 

SEL skills are helping students tackle a wide range of subjects, such as math, reading and writing, and becoming more responsible. SEL gives them an opportunity to adopt positive habits and lead more fulfilling lives well beyond school. It also helps students who think and learn differently to address their difficulties and build self-esteem.

11% increase in academic achievements 

Using SEL in elementary school, middle school and high school has had promising results. A recent study by CASEL showed that students who were part of SEL programs showed an increase of 11 percentile points in academic achievements compared with those who weren’t part of such programs.

Other benefits included: 

  • Improved behavior in the classroom
  • Better ability to manage stress and depression
  • Improved attitudes about themselves, others and school

SEL in everyday life

It doesn’t stop there. The benefits of social-emotional learning can also spill over into other aspects of daily life. Here are just a few examples:

Families

SEL allows young adults and students to form positive bonds in their own families. These relationships can help individuals from all walks of life to strengthen their emotional and social wellbeing in adult life. SEL is a targeted approach that allows educators to tailor activities that can help kids strengthen their bond with their parents and develop close relationships with other children.

Schools

A safe school environment provides students an opportunity to hone their social and emotional skills. SEL-supported students use their intuition to make decisions, which results in a more productive and harmonious environment. Data also shows that SEL makes students happy and improves their performance.

Communities

The main benefit of SEL is that it instills good understanding, sharing and respect for individuals from different perspectives and backgrounds. 

This improves social connections among students and creates a prosperous community. While SEL can support students in a conventional school setting, its benefits extend to all kinds of social situations.

SEL gives every student a chance 

It’s well known that students who think and learn differently can face more hardships than others. SEL skills can help students with low self-esteem and anxiety. 

Educators can support struggling students by guiding them through a specific process and creating some self-reflection. They can also talk about their own challenges to create an open environment for kids to speak out about their struggles.

The key is to give every child an equal chance to express themselves and succeed. Make sure you provide all the SEL material and highlight what your students should prioritize. If you want to create a positive environment, take positive SEL actions that will make a difference in your students’ social, academic and personal lives. Focus on unique measures that can immediately improve students’ behavior, academic achievement and classroom environment.

Families can help

Families can play an important role in helping their children succeed with SEL. For example, they can learn more about emotional intelligence and the various self-control mechanisms their children can use. Parents can also create a self-awareness checklist to help their children realize and recognize their core strengths and challenges.

Once young students receive the proper help, they can improve their performance in school and their social lives. SEL is all about long-term social, academic, and emotional gains. It’s also about teaching competencies and creating a foundation for kids to build and improve their positive behaviors.

Photo: Google Edu

Social Emotional Learning