What is Social and Emotional Learning?


Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) refers to the processes of developing social and emotional skills to promote healthy interactions with oneself and with others.

Learning these skills is critical because it enables students to ultimately become successful workers and responsible members of society. Strong social and emotional skills also reduce an individual’s risk of developing dangerous or unhealthy behaviors such as drug abuse, violence, bullying, or dropping out of school.

SEL has been termed “The Missing Piece” in a recent national survey by the CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning). As John Bridgeland explained: “Many of the skills that enable students to navigate school and life successfully – grit and determination, empathy and conflict resolution – are the very things that dropouts themselves have told us would have kept them in school and on a path to success.”

According to the CASEL, social and emotional learning is comprised of 5 core competencies:

  1. Self-awareness – recognizing one’s own thoughts, feelings, and how they affect one’s behavior.
  2. Self-management – regulating one’s own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
  3. Social awareness – understanding other people’s perspectives and cultures, and understanding social and ethical norms.
  4. Relationship skills – maintaining healthy relationships.
  5. Responsible decision-making – making sensible and mature decisions about one’s own behavior and interactions with others.

While it would be best if students would develop these social and emotional skills earlier in life, it’s never too late to start. If students have not received adequate training in these skills throughout K-12, universities should take responsibility to fill in the gaps. Higher education is the last chance we have to help students develop these key skills before they leave the confines of school and try to build a successful career.

Online programs should also step up to the plate and devise strategies for how to give over these social and emotional skills in a virtual setting.

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