Written by Tracy Williams

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) entered the education spotlight as a promising approach to teaching and learning some years ago. Since then, policy makers have been strongly advocating for it and schools have readily adopted it. But what is the rationale for implementing SEL into schools?

What is Social Emotional Learning?

The aim of SEL is for students to better comprehend their emotions and demonstrate empathy for others.

“Social Emotional Learning refers to the process through which individuals learn and apply a set of social, emotional, behavioural, and character skills required to succeed in schooling, the workplace, relationships, and citizenship”

Jones et al., 2017, p. 12

Why is Social Emotional Learning so important?

Durlak et al.’s (2011) analysis of 213 rigorous studies of SEL in schools indicates that students receiving quality Social Emotional Learning instruction demonstrated:

  • Better academic performance: achievement scores an average of 11 percentile points higher than students who did not receive SEL instruction.
  • Improved attitudes and behaviours: greater motivation to learn, deeper commitment to school, increased time devoted to schoolwork, and better classroom behaviour.
  • Fewer negative behaviours: decreased disruptive class behaviour, non-compliance, aggression, delinquent acts, and disciplinary referrals.
  • Reduced emotional distress: fewer reports of student depression, anxiety, stress, and social withdrawal.

How is Social and Emotional Learning being incorporated into schools?

SEL is not a standalone subject but rather is intended to be incorporated across the whole curriculum. Social and emotional skills vary across school communities, as some schools understandably prioritise different skills and competencies based on student needs. However, five common competencies of SEL that are incorporated into curriculums are:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Social Awareness
  4. Relationship Skills
  5. Responsible Decision Making

Let’s look at what each of these competences mean in further detail.

Self-Awareness – The ability to understand one’s thoughts, beliefs, values, emotions and behaviours. This involves recognising strengths and areas for self-development.

Self-Management – The ability to regulate and manage one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours effectively across different situations and contexts, and achieve goals.

Social Awareness – The ability to empathise and understand other’s perspectives and interact positively with diverse groups of people.

Relationship Skills – The ability to establish and maintain healthy relationships and navigate conflict and resolution.

Responsible Decision Making – The ability to make constructive choices about behaviours, interactions, social norms and to have an awareness of the realistic consequences of actions and the wellbeing of ourselves and others.

How can I enhance Social and Emotional Learning in my school?

Using resources such as the multi-award-winning character-based online education platform Amazing People Schools can help you embed SEL proficiencies into your school environment. It takes a whole school approach and encompasses resources that align with all five of the above-mentioned SEL competencies. The resource-rich website provides schools with practical applications to help students develop the vital skills that underpin each competency.

Amazing People Schools caters for primary and secondary students to improve the key SEL competencies in the following ways:

Self-Awareness – Our character-based resources provide students with ongoing opportunities to self-reflect and prompt them to explore their own character strengths as well their thoughts, emotions and behaviours.

Self-Management – By exposing students to many different role models, Amazing People Schools shows students how great people accomplished amazing things by utilising their own character strengths to achieve their goals and aspirations. These powerful exemplars serve as an inspirational tool for students and can promote self-reflection with regards to their own aspirations and goals. Amazing People Schools show students that they can achieve their goals with management of their thoughts, feelings and actions.  An important component of our extensive online resources are the student tasks that explicitly teach students about the importance of positive self-talk. 

Social Awareness – Introducing students to a culturally diverse cast of characters means students are provided with an enriching opportunity to appreciate diversity and demonstrate respect for difference. When students view the Amazing Person’s life stories from the character’s perspective, they gain a variety of valuable and ongoing opportunities to empathise with these inspirational role models, as they experience trials and tribulations alongside them. Additionally, there are whole lessons, teacher guides and multiple students’ resources dedicated to explicitly teaching the skill of empathy, which is a crucial character strength to possess when trying to develop social awareness. 

Relationship Skills – Amazing People Schools helps students to improve their communication, teamwork and leadership. A lot of the Amazing People featured on the website demonstrated tremendous leadership qualities which helped them achieve their objectives. Some even became highly successful entrepreneurs, like Walt Disney, Coco Chanel and Madam CJ Walker.

After using Amazing People School’s online resources, students begin to understand how and why these incredible people achieved great things, even when faced with challenges and setbacks. Our digital resource library includes lessons and student tasks which are predominately collaborative and are specially designed for students to develop their communication, teamwork, and leadership skills, as well as giving students exposure to situations that require them to navigate conflict and resolution.

There are also designated lessons and teacher guides on teamwork that explicitly teach this character strength. These lessons attached to characters strengths give students a safe place to share their thoughts, feelings, reflections. This provides students with the opportunity to understand their peers, which is a vital skill in establishing and maintaining relationships.

Responsible Decision Making – Our resources give students a wide exposure to a variety of role models and exemplars who faced great adversities. Students will see how our range of Amazing People managed to identify issues in their lives and effectively problem solve, making wise decisions after devising solutions, weighing up options, considering consequences and evaluating.

Key skills such as adaptability, perseverance and integrity are explored in practical ways to teach students how to harness and develop these critical life skills. These are all practical skills that are required to assist students in being able to make responsible decisions.

We have only mentioned a few of the many character strengths that are covered as part of the Amazing People Schools resource suite. Throughout the site students are encouraged to explore and discuss a wide range of character strengths that they value as important in their own lives and that they admire in others.

Amazing People Schools is currently offering all schools a complimentary trial of their multi award-winning website. Sign up to Amazing People Schools to see how you can utilise these resources to help support and complement Social Emotional Learning in your school.

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