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Social emotional learning (SEL) is a process for learning life skills, including how to deal with oneself, others and relationships, and work in an effective manner. In dealing with oneself, SEL helps in recognizing our emotions and learning how to manage those feelings. In dealing with others, SEL helps with developing sympathy and empathy for others, and maintaining positive relationships. SEL also focuses on dealing with a variety of situations in a constructive and ethical manner.[1]

Historical influence[edit | edit source]

During the mid-1990s, Daniel Goleman published his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, which popularized the concept of emotional intelligence. The term social emotional learning (SEL) emerged from the research in social competence programs which could be applied to emotional intelligence.[2]

Skills involved[edit | edit source]

The following 15 skills listed are involved and promoted in SEL:

  1. "Recognizing emotions in self and others"
  2. "Regulating and managing strong emotions (positive and negative)"
  3. "Recognizing strengths and areas of need"
  4. "Listening and communicating accurately and clearly"
  5. "Taking others' perspectives and sensing their emotions"
  6. "Respecting others and self and appreciating differences"
  7. "Including identifying problems correctly"
  8. "Setting positive and realistic goals"
  9. "Problem solving, decision making, and planning"
  10. "Approaching others and building positive relationships"
  11. "Resisting negative peer pressure"
  12. "Cooperating, negotiating, and managing conflict and nonviolently"
  13. "Working effectively in groups"
  14. "Help-seeking and help-giving"
  15. "Showing ethical and social responsibility" [3]

Mental health in K-12 education[edit | edit source]

2003 research from CASEL found that 71% of students in 6th through 12th grade thought their school did not provide them with a caring, encouraging environment.[4] Another statistic from the same study revealed that "at least 1 child in 10 suffers from a mental illness that severely disrupts daily functioning at home, in school, or in the community" and that 70-80% of struggling children don’t receive appropriate mental health services.[5] Teaching social and emotional learning in schools aims to enhance children's understanding of themselves and those experiencing mental hardship and to encourage comfort in a school setting that values the development of knowledge, interpersonal skills and wellbeing in students.

Illinois Learning Standards[edit | edit source]

There are three goals for SEL in the Illinois Learning Standards:[6]

  1. "Develop self-awareness and self-management skills to achieve school and life success."
  2. "Use social-awareness and interpersonal skills to establish and maintain positive relationships."
  3. "Demonstrate decision-making skills and responsible behaviors in personal, school, and community contexts."

Benefits[edit | edit source]

The benefits of SEL can be found both in a school and home setting. For instance, SEL improves positive behaviors while reducing negative behaviors. Positive behaviours include improved social emotional skills, improved attitudes about self and others, and improved behaviour within the classroom. Negative behaviours that are reduced include conduct problems and emotional distress. Furthermore, SEL skills are maintained throughout life; even into adulthood, they can help to foster success.[7]

Moreover, SEL can help to improve several skills including nonverbal communication skills, socially compentent behaviour, and social meaning and reasoning. Nonverbal communication is important because the majority of emotional meaning is conveyed without spoken words, and instead utilizes paralanguage, facial expressions, gestures and postures, interpersonal distance, and touch, rhythm and time.[8] Social skills also play an important role in interpreting, encoding and reasoning social and emotional information that are associated with the social behaviour exhibited by the child.[9] Finally, social meaning and reasoning are important in problem solving. Social meaning is the ability to interpret others' emotions and language, and to be able to respond appropriately, whereas social reasoning is that ability to identify a problem, set goals and evaluate the possible solutions available.[10]

According to CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) the key findings linking social and emotional learning include improved academic performance and educational outcomes (including a 14% increase on standardized tests), promotion of deeper understanding of subject matter, helped students learn well with others, increased student engagement in school, and decreased behaviours that interfere with learning.[11] Studies also show that sustained and well-integrated social and emotional learning (SEL) engages students and improves achievement.[12]

Research reported on the Edutopia site suggests a positive correlation among SEL and academic success. Edutopia resources state that a high EQ corresponds to reduced misbehaviors and class disruption, fostering enhanced learning environments, as well as developing greater confidence and resilience in children in the face of academic struggle due to strengthened interpersonal bonds and communication skills.[13] Beyond the classroom, CASEL states that SEL promotes the cultivation of lifelong skills such as responsible decision making by considering impact, and relationship management by emphasizing effective communication tactics.[14]

In education[edit | edit source]

Teachers, counselors and parents can play an important role in facilitating SEL. To begin, learning social and emotional skills is similar to learning other academic skills. Implementing a prevention program in schools can help to increase competence and learning in students which may be applied to more complex situations in the future. Teachers can accomplish this in the classroom through effective and direct classroom instructions, student engagement in positive activities, and involving parents, students and the community in planning, evaluating and implementing the program into the classroom.[15] For instance, a program known as the Strong Start: A Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum was evaluated in a classroom setting for children in second grade. The results of the study illustrated that the Strong Start curriculum program fostered tools important for social and emotional competence, which was evident through increased positive peer interactions and reduction in negative interal emotions.[16] Also, a program known as Roots of Empathy was created by Mary Gordon in Toronto, Canada of 1996.[17] The globalization of the evidence-based classroom program promotes increasing social and emotional competencies, and empathy in children.[18]

An example of a social and emotional learning case study portrayed in the Edutopia Schools That Work installment includes San Francisco, CA elementary school Visitacion Valley. Many Visitacion students struggled with PTSD and anxiety due to witnessing or involvement with gang related violence, so principal Dierke began giving students the opportunity to meditate in an effort to reduce truancies and suspensions while increasing wellbeing. Since its implementation in 2008, suspension rates have declined by half and are now bellow the state average. Truancy rates have now decreased by 61%. [19]

Furthermore, counselors can also play an important role in facilitating SEL. The role of a counselor is to promote academic and social development for students. The expertise and leadership roles that counselors fulfill can be applied to a student environment that promotes social and emotional development. However, this type of initiative involves tending to students of all backgrounds, through classroom counselling for all students in SEL. Counselors should collaborate with teachers, students, parents and administration to design and implement a program to promote SEL.[20]

Parents[edit | edit source]

It is important to also recognize that the facilitation can happen both at school and home. Acquiring nonverbal communication skills is important for developing SEL skills, since the majority of emotions are conveyed without words. Teachers and parents can improve nonverbal communication skills through the technique of emotional coaching. Emotional coaching is a technique developed by John Gottman and can provide guidance about emotions for children through a step process. Step 1: One needs to be aware of the learner's emotions, Step 2: Recognition of uncomfortable feelings can be a gateway for teaching and guidance opportunities, Step 3: Emotions exhibited need to be validated rather than evaluated, Step 4: Learners need help in labeling these emotions, Step 5: Finally, the problem that led to the emotions needs to be solved.[21]

Furthermore, at home SEL can be fostered through the emphasis of sharing, listening, confidence, and tending to matters. A child's emotional and social development can grow by promoting and practicing these behaviours.[22]

See also[edit | edit source]

Learning disabilities[edit | edit source]

It is recognized that the majority of children with learning disabilities have difficulties with social relationships. More specifically, there are three SEL skill areas that can be addressed and improved for children with learning disabilities. Firstly, it is difficult for children with learning disabilities to recognize emotions of self and others. However, academic implications to improve the skill may involve reading or hearing a story and understanding the emotions of the characters and the plot. Secondly, it is difficult for children with learning disabilities to regulate and manage strong emotions, both positive and negative. Improving this skill may involve conversing with the teacher about these emotions and recording these emotions on a scaled thermometer. Lastly, it is often difficult for children with learning disabilities to recognize their strengths and areas of need too. Until the Last Child is a vehicle to promote positive connections between school contributions and recognizing strengths. Also, Ability and Time of Ability is a program used to help identify strengths of students and then have them work together at set times.[23]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  2. Elias, M. J. (2004). The connection between social-emotional learning and learning disabilities: Implications for intervention. Learning Disability Quarterly 27 (1): 53–63.
  3. Elias, M. J. (2004). The connection between social-emotional learning and learning disabilities: Implications for intervention. Learning Disability Quarterly 27 (1): 53–63.
  8. Elksnin, Linda K., Nick Elksnin (2003). Fostering Social-emotional learning in the classroom. Education 124 (1): 63-48.
  9. McKown, Clark, Laura M. Gumbiner, Nicole M. Russo & Meryl Lipton (2009). Social-emotional learning skill, self-regulation, and social competence in typically developing and clinic-referred children. Journal for Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology 38 (6): 858–871.
  10. McKown, Clark, Laura M. Gumbiner, Nicole M. Russo & Meryl Lipton (2009). Social-emotional learning skill, self-regulation, and social competence in typically developing and clinic-referred children. Journal for Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology 38 (6): 858–871.
  12. Five Keys to Successful Social and Emotional Learning. Edutopia / The George Lucas Educational Foundation.
  15. Greenberg, Mark T., Roger P. Weissberg, Mary Utne O'Brien, Joseph E. Zins, Linda Fredericks, Hank Resnik & Maurice J. Elias (2003). Enhancing school-based prevention and youth development through coordinated social, emotional and academic learning. American Psychologist 58 (6/7): 466–474.
  16. Caldarella, P., L. Christensen, T. Kramer & K. Kronmiller (2009). Promoting social and emotional learning in second grade students: A study of the strong start curriculum. Early Childhood Education Journal 37 (1): 51–56.
  17. History and Milestones. Roots of Empathy. URL accessed on 30 October 2011.
  18. About our program. Roots of Empathy. URL accessed on 30 October 2011.
  20. Velsor, P. V. (2009). School counselors as social-emotional learning consultants: Where do we begin?. Professional School Counseling 13 (1): 50–58.
  21. Elksnin, Linda K., Nick Elksnin (2003). Fostering Social-emotional learning in the classroom. Education 124 (1): 63-48.
  23. Elias, M. J. (2004). The connection between social-emotional learning and learning disabilities: Implications for intervention. Learning Disability Quarterly 27 (1): 53–63.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

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