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Prioritizing Social Emotional Learning in Education

The education system of today strives to instill rudimentary and advanced skills in students, equipping them to build a robust career path for themselves. This critical process often prioritizes learning aptitude, subject-wise proficiency, and high grades. 

But is learning all about chapters of textbooks? What about important aspects that may seem out-of-syllabus or absent from the books but hold great importance in assisting students to navigate through school life and beyond the classroom in the real world? 

One such core aspect is Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Academic institutions and teachers are responsible for extending social-emotional learning in addition to covering day-to-day lessons on various subjects. The SEL framework is designed for complete personal development covering 5 major areas. Read more on SEL, its framework, benefits, and teaching strategies below.

Defining Social Emotional Learning

National University has termed SEL a methodology for helping students get a finer understanding of their emotions and empathize with others. These specific skills will further allow students to master a rational and reliable decision-making ability, set and achieve milestones, and maintain positive and healthy relationships.

Committee for Children illustrates SEL as a skillset that empowers students to handle challenges, practice self-discipline, control impulses, and manage emotions more responsibly. It results in students thriving academically, professionally, and socially. 

Child Mind Institute’s definition of SEL encompasses better emotion management, responsible decision-making, goal setting, and relationship-building.

Importance of Social Emotional Learning

Multiple studies and research have been conducted in favor of social-emotional learning. The Meta-Analysis of SEL Programs states:

  • A decrease of 9%  in conduct problems like misbehavior and aggression in the classroom
  • A decrease of 10% in emotional distress like depression and anxiety 
  • An improvement of 9% in attitudes towards self, others, and school
  • An improvement of 23% in emotional and social skills
  • An improvement of 9% in behavior in the classroom and overall school
  • An improvement of 11 % in test scores 

Social emotional learning improves academic performance, stress management, and chances of success, and reduces stress and depression rates. In a broader perspective, these skills can have a meaningful impact on reducing poverty, decreasing crime, and boosting social mobility.

Social and emotional learning skills can greatly improve the classroom and teaching scope. Teachers will find it easier to guide conscientious, empathetic, and self-aware students who can make responsible decisions and evaluate their actions and respective consequences.

5 Competencies of Social Emotional Learning

Regardless of the words to define social emotional learning, the 5 aspects of the CASEL SEL framework, as curated by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), are paramount.


The keys to self-awareness are a comprehensive understanding of one’s thoughts, emotions, and values and realizing one's behavioral influence in different contexts. Furthermore, self-awareness necessitates a study of biases and prejudices to initiate personal growth.

An article published on Landmark Outreach outlines the steps to becoming precisely self-aware: recognizing emotions, possessing accurate self-perception, identifying strengths, having self-confidence, and demonstrating self-efficacy. 

Self-awareness efforts are fundamental to helping students find themselves!


National University describes self-management as managing one’s thoughts, emotions, and actions effectively in different situations. The process guides students to control their responses best and behave in ways beneficial to themselves and those around them. It further supports them in meeting personal aspirations.

Besides managing emotions, setting objectives, showing resilience, and using feedback as tools for personal growth are skills linked with self-management. A close look will confirm that self-management closely follows self-awareness in the CASEL framework.

Social Awareness

One’s emotions, actions, and educational, social, and personal growth are not subjected to themselves. Social factors play an essential role in all these aspects. Hence, social awareness is a counterpart to self-awareness and the third element of the SEL framework. Similar to self-awareness, social awareness requires recognizing and compassion for surrounding people’s emotions.

The skill set that helps with social awareness involves the capability to grasp others’ perspectives and acknowledge and respect all forms of cultural diversity and background differences. 

Merging the education of self-awareness and social awareness is a fine approach. The practice of empathy for themselves will best teach the need to do the same for others.

Relationship Skills

Identifying the most and least sociable students in a classroom is difficult. Building and maintaining relationships comes easily to some and seems a task to others. The fourth element of the SEL framework, relationship skills, aims to aid students in communicating with people, forming relationships, resolving conflicts, and maintaining positive bonds while avoiding social pressure.

Learning to set shared goals and collaborative efforts to solve problems make students better team players. Leadership skills are also incorporated into relationship skills. They are not mere pillars for leading a group; they will encourage students to take a stand for the right and become promoters of social justice.

Responsible Decision-Making

Students have multiple decisions to make, whether inside or outside the classrooms. The decision-making process in the final stage of the SEL framework entices ethical, safe, and constructive decisions and awareness about the potential outcomes of each choice. 

The definitions of right and wrong decisions are sometimes more complex than one might think. Responsible decision-making teaches students to evaluate and compare their decisions' positive and negative consequences to pick the most appropriate one. The consequences can be emotional, intellectual, physical, and/or social. Further, students will understand the basic rule of positive decisions leading to positive consequences and negative choices resulting in negative consequences.

Teaching Social Emotional Learning

Various teaching approaches and methods are available for social-emotional learning. One popular method involves planning lessons strictly around SEL and asking students to use the skills throughout the day. 

McGraw-Hill Education has presented 7 SEL Principles. 

  • Create: Curating a nurturing, caring, and safe learning environment 
  • Intricate: Incorporating SEL skill-building into academic instructions whenever possible
  • Instruct: Providing precise instructions
  • Reflect: Review how SEL is embedded with social and cultural contexts
  • Respect: Encourage mutual respect
  • Communicate: Exchange ideas on SEL with all concerned individuals
  • Empower: Encourage students to take charge of their SEL

Social-Emotional Feedback

Understanding the mood of all students in a classroom is difficult. That said, social-emotional feedback refers to teachers analyzing the students' emotional state of mind when forming or executing lessons.

Wrapping Up!

Social emotional learning is an intricate part of a complete education and, hence, must be incorporated into teaching practices. With the exact skills to emotionally and socially evaluate oneself and others, exercise emotions like empathy and compassion, and make well-informed decisions, students can embark on a successful academic, professional, and personal future.

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