What is Social Emotional Learning (SEL)?

“Social-emotional learning is a difference-maker”

Meg Riordan, Ph.D.

The previous blog focused on what mindfulness is and some basic approaches to the practice. Before diving more into mindfulness practice and what it can do for you, it is important to discuss social emotional learning. Social emotional learning (SEL) is an umbrella term that includes school-based programs that are designed to enrich emotional intelligence and literacy, and enhance fundamental social and emotional skills (Hoffman, 2009). The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL; 2013) have identified five main components of SEL. This includes self-awareness where an individual can recognize and label their emotions and the emotions of others (CASEL, 2013; Hoffman, 2009). Another is self-management of one’s emotions and behaviors to achieve goals (CASEL, 2013; Hoffman, 2009). The third component of SEL is social awareness that involves the ability of individuals to acknowledge the perspective of others and the importance of diversity (CASEL, 2013; Hoffman, 2009). Additionally, an individual’s ability to make responsible decisions and establish positive relationships make up the last two components SEL (CASEL, 2013; Hoffman, 2009). The benefits discussed here, among several others, makes practicing SEL a promising tool that can be used to support the overall well-being of students.

SEL is a key factor in human development. Although the concept has historically been overlooked, research surrounding SEL has grown dramatically. The numerous benefits of practicing SEL, especially in a classroom-based setting, are beginning to gather traction and a call for more SEL approaches is increasing. This is especially true regarding students and how teachers can promote SEL in the classroom. Strategies are needed that not only promote students’ academic growth, but their personal growth as well. Teaching students social-emotional skills in the classroom can not only help them in school, but in other facets of life, such as promoting healthy relationships and acquiring jobs (Greenberg et al., 2010). Therefore, it is important to begin viewing SEL approaches as necessary and fundamental, and not as supplementary or extracurricular.