Social-emotional learning (SEL) is one of those buzzwords you hear quite a bit in the education world today. If you’re not familiar with social-emotional learning, it is essentially curriculum focused on learning about our emotions from a cognitive and emotional level and learning different skills that can be used to help manage strong emotions.

You can think of it as the “feelings class”. If students can understand their feelings at a deep level, they can then become equipped to make decisions on which coping skills they can use to address challenging situations. Imagine if we could all resolve conflict from this standpoint!

The Five SEL Competencies

To best understand how SEL works, it’s best to understand the areas are of focus associated with SEL learning. National University, a non-profit university in San Diego, identifies these five competencies below:

1. Self-awareness: The ability to recognize your emotions and how they impact your behavior.

2. Self-management: The ability to take control of your thoughts, emotions, and actions.

3. Social awareness: To act with empathy within your home, school, and community.

4. Relationship skills: The ability to build and maintain healthy relationships, which includes being able to listen and communicate well with others, resolving conflict, and knowing when to advocate for help or offer help.

5. Responsible Decision Making: Choosing how to act or respond to a situation based on learned behaviors such as ethics, safety, weighing consequences, and the well-being of others as well as yourself.

What SEL Looks Like in the Classroom

Edutopia, a foundation that is dedicated to transforming K-12 education to help students effectively apply knowledge, attitude, and skills necessary to thrive in their studies, careers, and adult lives, has explained it simply. Students learn through exposure, modeling, and repetition. Teachers and counselors can model social and emotional skills. Providing varied opportunities to practice and hone these skills is vital to learning and retaining meaningful and responsible coping strategies.

Why SEL Is Important

After reading these descriptions you may be wondering why we’re discussing SEL, but it’s important to know that there is strong data behind the impact of SEL. According to a study conducted by Child Development, “Current findings document that SEL programs yielded significant positive effects on targeted social-emotional competencies and attitudes about self, others, and school. They also enhanced students’ behavioral adjustment in the form of increased pro-social behaviors and reduced conduct and internalizing problems and improved academic performance on achievement tests and grades.” The benefits are twofold—both emotional and academic—which is always a win-win from an educator standpoint.

What You Can Do to Support SEL at Home

Be the ear and the model for your child! Encourage your child to talk through their feelings, walk them through situations that they have found challenging, and offer them the opportunity to discuss the decisions that they feel work best for them. Hopefully with this social-emotional knowledge in their back pocket they can be self-aware, self-manage, use proper social and relationship skills, and make decisions on their own…but a parent’s support never hurts either.

About the Author:

Jessica Miller