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Arkansas State University

Read About Social-Emotional Learning

Today’s classrooms are becoming more diverse with every passing year. Students come from a variety of cultural, social and economic backgrounds, bringing with them different motivations for learning and performing academically. It falls to teachers to provide a consistent learning environment that offers opportunities for all students to succeed. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) can serve as a foundation for safe and positive learning that enhances students’ abilities to progress academically based on their individual needs.

What Is SEL?

Through SEL, students engage in processes of developing self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills. Studies have shown that people with strong social-emotional skills are better equipped to cope with everyday challenges and succeed in their academic and personal lives. Social-emotional skills inform one’s social interactions to manage emotional responses. Not only are they necessary when facing everyday events and issues, they are important for coping with out-of-the-ordinary challenges. Currently, some educators are adapting SEL techniques to help their students through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), identifies five core competencies that SEL promotes:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship skills
  5. Responsible decision-making

There are several ways to implement SEL, including free-standing lessons designed to explicitly enhance students’ social and emotional competencies, teaching practices such as cooperative and project-based learning, and organizational strategies that create a climate conducive to learning.

Who Can Benefit From SEL?

SEL is not just for students, even if their learning outcomes are the main focus.

Teachers who foster social-emotional skills in their own lives and practices can cope with everyday challenges as well as out-of-the-ordinary crises. In an article for EdSurge, Christina Cipriano and Marc Brackett recommend that  educators be intentionally aware of stress and its effects on both students and teachers. They recommend the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence’s RULER to recognize stress and its effects on both teacher and students. RULER is an acronym for

Recognizing emotions in self and others
Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions
Labeling emotions accurately
Expressing emotions appropriately
Regulating emotions effectively

What Are Some Effective SEL Resources?

The RULER is just one of many tools and programs in SEL. CASEL suggests that effective SEL approaches incorporate four crucial elements represented by the acronym SAFE, standing for Sequenced, Active, Focused and Explicit. They should include connected and coordinated activities that foster social-emotional skill development, active forms of learning to empower students to grasp these skills, emphasize developing personal and social skills, and target specific skill sets.

We Are Teachers offers a resource of 21 easy ways to incorporate SEL strategies into the classroom. For example, when students have opportunities to work with partners, teachers can guide them in working with others, coaching them on how to listen and talk to one another. Teachers can also offer activities, handouts and classroom materials. The “8 Phrases that Nurture Growth Mindset” poster provides students with examples of positive phrases they can use to foster resilience and overcome failure in healthy ways.

Students who participate in SEL programs show significantly more positive outcomes than their peers in enhanced SEL skills, attitudes, positive social behavior, and academic performance. They also exhibit significantly lower levels of emotional distress and behavioral problems.

According to a Phi Delta Kappan meta-analysis, students who participated in SEL programs experienced a gain in academic achievement, proving that, when students are self-aware and able to cope emotionally, they are also able to perform better academically. Additional findings show that SEL programming is most beneficial to students when implemented in planned, systemic ways extending from preschool through high school.

Learn more about A-State’s MSE in School Counseling online program.


National Education Association: Social-Emotional Learning Should Be Priority During COVID-19 Crisis

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL): What Is SEL?

EdSurge: Teacher, Interrupted: Leaning into Social-Emotional Learning Amid the COVID-19 Crisis

CASEL: [What Is SEL?]: Approaches

We Are Teachers: 21 Simple Ways to Integrate Social-Emotional Learning Throughout the Day

Phi Delta Kappan: An Update on Social and Emotional Learning Outcome Research

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