Social-Emotional Learning

In recent years, educators have evolved from solely focusing on students’ intelligence quotient to emphasizing emotional quotient as well. To help create well-rounded citizens, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) developed what is known as Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). When applied properly, SEL provides students with the ability to understand both themselves and others in school and society.

Core Competencies of SEL

As defined by the CASEL resource webpage, SEL focuses on the following five competencies:

  • Self-Awareness—the capacity to identify personal “emotions, thoughts, and values” and how those factors impact behavior
  • Self-Management—the capacity to regulate the previously stated behavior factors
  • Social Awareness—the understanding that each individual brings his or her own perspective, culture and diversity to each situation
  • Relationship Skills—the propensity for maintaining relationships with various types of individuals
  • Responsible Decision-Making—the understanding that each choice results in consequences affecting more than simply the individual

Each competency helps students develop skills that benefit the self and others. The earlier students begin to incorporate SEL concepts into their lives, the more socially aware they will be. SEL does not place more focus on one aspect over another, but it is essential that students first understand who they are before learning how to work with and understand others.

Benefits of SEL

One major benefit of SEL is a boost in students’ self-confidence and self-advocacy. Those taught SEL competencies in elementary school have the skills necessary to balance school, work, home and social life during tumultuous teenage years. They are more empathetic towards one another and have the capacity to implement better time management and decision-making skills. When children are confident and secure in who they are, they are less likely to turn to drugs, alcohol or self-harm to cope with the stressors of daily life.

As mental health awareness grows in society and schools, so does the importance of SEL. Early development of social-emotional skills impacts children’s mental and physical well-being as teenagers and adults. Studies have shown well-rounded children are more likely to graduate from high school, earn a college degree and secure a job before the age of 30. In low-income schools with a high population of minimal parental support, it is especially critical for teachers to foster healthy SEL skills. A healthy awareness of social-emotional competencies will allow students who experience trauma of any kind (abandonment, violence, bullying, etc.) to process the issue and learn from the experience in a healthy manner.

SEL and Special Populations

While social-emotional learning has obvious benefits for all students, those with special needs could benefit even more than those without additional mental, social or physical factors. Students who fall under the “youth with disabilities” label often feel a separation between themselves and their peers; it is not uncommon for this population to feel as if they are being judged for their differences. A healthy emotional quotient helps diminish this stigma by allowing the student with disabilities to have confidence in him or herself and teaches the rest of the students all individuals should be embraced for their uniqueness.

Additionally, many English Language Learners are navigating both their home culture and the culture of the society in which they are currently living. A large portion of students who have recently moved feel disconnected from who they are and who they believe society wants them to be. The social awareness competency is crucial for all individuals; the ELL is encouraged to embrace his or her home culture while other students are urged to make every student feel comfortable in their school. All parties gain a better understanding of the customs and traditions that are brought to the United States from all over the world.


Some teachers may find it tedious or unnecessary to spend valuable class time teaching Social-Emotional Learning skills when the curriculum appears to be a more demanding and daunting task. However, taking the time to build these fundamentals will lead to academic success in the long run.


If you are interested in learning more about SEL, as well as other teaching strategies and methods, contact Morgan Dixon, iCEV Education Specialist, at or 806.745.8820.