What is Social and Emotional Learning and why is it important?
What is SEL? SEL stands for social/emotional learning, or as defined by the Utah State Board of Education Rule R277-100-2, “[T]he process through which students acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitude, and skills necessary to:
understand and manage emotions;
set and achieve positive goals;
feel and show empathy for others;
establish and maintain positive relationships;
make responsible decisions; and
This may sound familiar – it is based on the definition from CASEL (the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning), “The process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
Social/emotional learning is:
NOT just a program.
NOT just a lesson.
NOT just for students.
True SEL is embedded into schools from the main office to the classroom, to the living rooms and kitchen tables of our families. It is a school culture and a community culture. More important, we know from the research that managing emotions, achieving goals, having empathy, maintaining positive relationships, making responsible decisions and advocating for ourselves are all concepts that can both be taught and learned. This is where evidence-based programs and lessons can be helpful, but these skills have to be modeled and ingrained into the school and community for learning to happen. Simply teaching a lesson on how to set and achieve goals does not mean that you do SEL. We must go farther: Do students see that you as an adult can model this? Do you have goals as a school? Do students know what these goals are and do they know how the school community is working together to achieve these goals? Did students get to help set the goals? Mastery will only happen when the adults in the building are able to practice what they preach.
Earlier I mentioned CASEL, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan source for high-quality, evidence-based social/emotional learning resources and data. Founded in 1994, CASEL brings together all the latest research and information on SEL.
Why SEL? The need for SEL is very compelling when we explore the data behind it, and the data are why the state of Utah and our schools and districts have embraced SEL. So why is social and emotional learning so critical to holistic education for Utah students?
SEL leads to improved academic performance, social and emotional skills, attitudes, relationships and perceptions of classroom and school climate. These improvements are also long-term.
SEL leads to decreases in anxiety, behavior issues and substance use.
SEL leads to positive classroom behavior.
A 2011 meta-analysis of SEL showed an 11 percentile-point gain on standardized achievement tests. This challenges the idea that “soft-skills” are not just nice to have, but are critical!
SEL can reduce emotional distress – after this last year and a half, don’t we all need a little more of this?
A 2017 meta-analysis shows that SEL has longitudinal effects that last.
SEL benefits students regardless of socioeconomic status, background, race or school location.
SEL leads to future adults who are more likely to graduate from high school, complete a college degree and obtain stable employment in young adulthood. They are less likely to depend on social programs and public assistance, and less likely to be in a detention facility.
Teachers who possess social/emotional competencies are more likely to stay in the classroom longer.
Of executives surveyed by the World Economic Forum in 2015, 92 percent said that skills such as problem-solving and communicating clearly are equally or more important than technical skills.
All of the top 10 skills identified by the World Economic Forum involve social and emotional competence:
Complex problem solving
Coordinating with others
Judgment and decision-making
I hope this introduction gives you a solid foundation and provides a standard for Utah school counselors to rally behind in regard to social/emotional learning.
Box Elder School District uses a research-based and very well vetted SEL curriculum called Second Step in our K-5 grades
Committee for Children has championed the safety and well-being of children for over 40 years. We are committed to developing and supporting the use of research and evidence-based social-emotional learning (SEL) curricula both in and outside of school settings. Our Second Step SEL programs strive to create a positive school climate that supports social and academic success for every child. Social-emotional learning teaches children skills and concepts that help them to understand and manage emotions, feel and show empathy, build positive relationships, set and achieve personal and academic goals, and make responsible decisions. To foster healthy development in children, Committee for Children encourages parents, caregivers, and educators to model these skills at home and in the classroom.
We recognize that students, families, schools, and communities are all part of broader systems that shape learning, development, and experiences. Lessons and examples throughout Second Step include learning from and interacting in positive ways with family members. Family engagement is a central focus of Second Step, with family resources and communications that share the goals of the program and provide insight into how adults can support their children’s social-emotional development.
Second Step lessons support children in setting achievable goals, making effective plans, and identifying strategies and resources to help them follow through on goals. In addition, students learn how to develop a growth mindset and apply goalsetting strategies to their academic and personal lives. This helps create classrooms that are connected and empowered by helping students set and achieve collective and personal goals, learn from challenges, and recognize their personal strengths.
Additionally, the Second Step lessons and activities in Middle School incorporate real-life situations and representations from various cultures and life experiences to help empower students, equipping them with the tools they need to make responsible decisions. Students relate lesson content to their own lives and interests, helping them to feel connected through these community-building classroom interactions.
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning Click on each logo below to access SEL websites.
The pacing guide below will show you how Second Step builds across grades.
Scroll to find your child's grade and see what lessons are being taught.