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SEL in a Nutshell

It was in 2024, a decade ago, when I first encountered SEL, the acronym for Social and Emotional Learning. Since then, I have been an active advocate for the integration of SEL principles and competencies into school curriculums across the various institutions where I have been working. In this post, we'll take a moment to review this educational framework and its implications, not only for education but also for the advancement of our society as a whole.

When we talk about taking a holistic approach to education, we mean that we should not only focus on teaching academic knowledge, but we should also pay attention to certain social and emotional skills that are correlated with appropriate child development. These abilities are included in the SEL framework, which can help students develop a range of skills and competencies that we all need to handle ourselves, our relationships, and our work effectively and ethically.

According to CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) we can group these skills into five different groups:

  • Self-awareness: It is the foundation of all other competencies, as it involves recognizing one's emotions and thoughts and their impact on behavior. This includes understanding one's own emotions, values, strengths, and weaknesses, as well as developing self-confidence and optimism.

  • Self-management: It refers to the ability to regulate one's emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations. It encompasses developing self-control, managing stress, motivating oneself, and setting goals effectively.

  • Social awareness: This area is about understanding other people's emotions and points of view, as well as respecting diverse cultures and backgrounds. On the other hand, it also includes acknowledging the resources and support available in family, school, and community.

  • Relationship skills: The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with different people. It requires effective communication skills, active listening, resisting social pressure, solving conflicts in a peaceful way, and helping others (prosocial behavior).

  • Responsible decision making: It involves considering ethical, safety, and social factors before making decisions. It also requires evaluating the consequences of our actions in academic and social situations.

There are several studies that demonstrate the significant benefits of implementing a Social and Emotional Learning framework in schools. Firstly, students who acquire SEL skills show an improvement in their attitudes towards themselves, others, and their school. In the long term, this leads to more positive social behavior, reduced misbehavior, less emotional distress, and better academic performance. Consequently, the classroom and school climate also become better, which positively impacts the job satisfaction of the staff.

Despite the proven benefits of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), schools still face challenges in implementing it effectively. Limited resources, time constraints due to existing curriculum demands, lack of adequate teacher training, or difficulty in measuring impact can all hinder a successful implementation. Moreover, enjoying the outcomes of a SEL program requires stability and time. Unfortunately, school leaders often lack patience, and don't give those in charge of coordinating the program the space and time they need to achieve the expected goals.

In any case, I'm happy to see that over the past decade, there has been a noticeable increase in the recognition of the value of Social and Emotional Learning. More and more schools are realizing that a real holistic approach is needed to tackle the challenges we face today and in the future. And SEL is definitely one of the main keys in this journey.

Recommended resources:

  • What Is the CASEL Framework?, article on the CASEL website, which includes information on the CASEL framework, research on the benefits of SEL, and practical resources for implementing SEL in schools and communities.

  • Panorama Education, it is a company whose website has a wealth of resources on SEL, including articles, blog posts, and webinars. They also offer a free SEL assessment tool that schools can use to measure their students' social and emotional skills.

  • Edutopia has a section dedicated to SEL, which includes articles, lesson plans, and other resources.


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