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Why SEL?

Social Emotional Learning or SEL is a process through which students, and also adults, learn and practice important life skills that are needed for success in college, professional careers and life in general. These individual skills, normally known as social and emotional competencies, include recognizing and managing our emotions, developing caring and concern for others, establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and handling challenging situations constructively and ethically.

In addition to working on students’ individual competencies, SEL is also a framework to work on the social and emotional factors in the context that drive learning environments.The leadership and management style at the school, rules and protocols around discipline, and behavior expectations will determine the type of learning environment that is created at the school.

Benefits of SEL

Research has found that addressing students’ individual competencies and the social-emotional factors in the context through SEL programming has a positive impact on students. Durlak et al. (2011) conducted a meta-analysis of more than 200 SEL programs, and found the following benefits:

  • Improve students’ social-emotional skills.
  • Improve students’ attitudes about self and others.
  • Enhance connection to school.
  • Promote social behavior
  • Reduce conduct problems and emotional distress.
  • Improve students’ achievement test scores by 11 percentile points.

How to teach SEL

In the classroom, CASEL (2013) identifies three broad strategies to implement SEL:

1. Explicit instruction.

2. Embedding SEL with teaching strategies.

3. Embedding SEL with academic content.

A systematic approach to SEL should define how to address each one of these strategies at the school and classroom level. Although teachers will develop these strategies as they implement SEL in their schools, it is recommended to think through them as you are designing your approach to teaching social and emotional competencies.


Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta‐analysis of school‐based universal interventions. Child development, 82(1), 405-432.

Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (2013). CASEL Guide. Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs. Retrieved from CASEL’s website.

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