What is Social and Emotional Learning?

Michael Kadisha
November 23, 2020

As every meme proclaims, 2020 is one for the record books!

How many times have you tried to find a sense of balance between work, home, and COVID19 stressors? How many times have you found yourself taking a deep breath, seeking some inner calmness? How many times have you tried to see another’s point of view, say when it comes to the politics of late? How many times have you had to remind yourself to be resilient and optimistic in the face of it all?

These core skills around social and emotional wellness that you’ve been relying on can be modeled, practiced, and learned. And schools have put more and more emphasis on the need for such social and emotional learning, known as “SEL,” for students of all ages to succeed in school and beyond in life. 29 states have SEL standards in schools, and CASEL found that SEL has increased in terms of priorities since COVID19. So what is SEL?

In pre-COVID-19 times, SEL was just starting to gain nationwide traction as a critical component of K-12 education. The outcomes are clear — students who have learned social-emotional skills attain greater academic success than those who have not. And intuitively it follows that if a child can develop the skill of recognizing and regulating her emotions, that’s going to help her succeed well beyond academics. — EdSurge, SEL Skills Are More Vital Than Ever. Here’s How to Choose the Right Tools.

Many of you might have grown up talking about such social-emotional well-being in other ways: character development, character education, heath and wellness, emotional literacy, citizenship, or civic engagement. The field of SEL takes all of those notions into account with the goal of helping individual develop into empathetic, fair, and trustworthy individuals, which is quite in line with John Dewey’s original intent of the U.S. public education system.

Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.— John Dewey

CASEL.org is the leading organization around SEL, and they define SEL as five core competencies:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Responsible decision-making
  4. Relationship skills
  5. Social awareness
SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions. — CASEL.org, What is SEL?

One of the challenges for students is to take an SEL lesson and figure out how to apply it to their everyday, real lives. And that’s where platforms like Treedom can help.

Treedom provides community connections for service learning opportunities. By encouraging students of all ages to become active in their communities, we can promote mindsets around contributing, connecting, and citizenship. Students who participate in such service-learning opportunities walk away having seen social-emotional competencies modeled by others. Plus, they have a chance to practice these competencies in the real world. For instance, consider how through volunteerism, students can build healthy relationships, develop a strong sense of identity, consider other points of view, voice their own, build and persevere towards individual and collective goals, demonstrate empathy, and make responsible decisions.

Social and emotional learning benefits include improved academic engagement and performance, support for mental health, decline in student behavioral issues, long-term positive effects on attitudes, relationships, and prosocial behaviors; much of what is reflected in Treedom’s findings:

The Treedom platform and suite of software tools provides both administrators and students with an enriched learning experience since all engagements are tracked in individual profiles and aggregated via an impact dashboard. Request a free demo of Treedom to see how your school and community can connect students to meaningful service opportunities (both virtual and in person). Empower your students with this personalized learning approach today to help support their social and emotional wellness in 2020 and beyond.