What is Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)?

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), a leading organization in the field of education, social and emotional learning is “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

A core belief that guides all of Center for Responsive School’s social and emotional programming, services, and products is that students need to learn a set of social and emotional competencies—cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control—to be successful in and out of school. In addition to these five core competencies, CRS has developed comprehensive and developmentally progressive standards for social and emotional learning in kindergarten through grade 8.

CRS’ SEL competencies and standards are aligned with CASEL’s core competencies:

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Why is SEL so Important?

At Center for Responsive Schools, we believe that teaching social and emotional learning (SEL) competencies is as important as teaching academic competencies. In all of our programming, services, and products we focus on five social and emotional competencies–cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control–and we emphasize helping students build these competencies in a safe, joyful, engaging learning environment that is developmentally responsive to their strengths and needs.

For Students

In our global 21st century society, students need more than ever to develop strong SEL competencies. Among the competencies needed for success are the abilities to communicate clearly with people from diverse backgrounds, collaborate, demonstrate self-control, listen well and pose respectful questions, and look at situations from a variety of perspectives.

In the classroom, students with SEL competencies are better able to:

  • Take an active role in creating a safe learning environment
  • Form friendships with a range of peers
  • Have conversations about difficult topics
  • Set and work toward goals
  • Analyze a problem, find a solution, and put that solution into action
  • Manage their emotions and stay on a path to success
  • Navigate complex social situations

When students take an active role in creating a safe environment they feel more comfortable talking about learning, taking risks, and being challenged; and when students learn strategies for having meaningful conversations with classmates, they are better equipped to face difficult situations and challenging interactions outside the classroom. Because SEL provides a foundation for creating an open and accepting environment, new friendships form, cliques break down, and new cliques are far less likely to crop up. Ultimately, your students develop trust in themselves and others, build friendships with a broader range of classmates, and learn how to interpret the world.

For Teachers

As a teacher, you know the challenges of adapting to changing initiatives while providing a quality education for all students. Our approach to SEL enables you to provide consistency for your students with strategies and practices that help you create a predictable, comfortable, and supportive learning environment. This approach also offers room for flexibility, allowing you to adapt to new curricula as needed. As a result, classroom—and individual—stressors are dramatically reduced, increasing students’ engagement with learning, improving academic achievement, and allowing all students to flourish.

By teaching and modeling the five SEL competencies, teachers can better:

  • Plan and facilitate small group and collaborative learning
  • Facilitate rich student conversations
  • Plan lessons to meet a range of student needs
  • Trust that students can be self-directed in their learning
  • Know that the classroom will be a safe and kind environment

Research confirms the importance of SEL skills and their connection to academic progress. A meta-analysis of over 200 school-based SEL programs found that students who receive SEL instruction had more positive attitudes about school and improved an average of eleven percentile points on standardized achievement tests compared to students who did not receive such instruction (Durlack, Dymnicki, Schellinger, Taylor, and Weissberg, 2011).

For Parents

In an SEL environment, you can be certain that your children are learning and growing both academically and socially, developing the skills needed for career and lifelong success. In the classroom, teachers actively facilitate conversations with classes and small groups about challenging and relevant topics. As students are taught to develop their critical thinking skills, they learn how to interpret the world around them and ask questions that will lead to change. They also gain skills to observe similarities and differences in their community in such areas as language, religion, and politics, and develop respect and empathy for others through effective communication and collaboration. As a result, they’re better equipped to face complex situations and have challenging conversations, both inside and outside the classroom, empowering them to contribute their ideas, take part in their community, and support causes they care about.
SEL prepares your children for the future by helping them:

  • Cultivate confidence and leadership skills
  • Develop a sense of empathy as well as individual responsibility
  • Create interpersonal relationships with diverse fellow students and colleagues
  • Work collaboratively in groups