Why Champion Social and Emotional Learning?: Because It Helps Students Build Character | Edutopia
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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Why Champion Social and Emotional Learning?: Because It Helps Students Build Character

Helping students develop a sense of self will ultimately help them to better manage their emotions, communicate, and resolve conflicts nonviolently.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team
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It's not enough to simply fill students' brains with facts. A successful education demands that their character be developed as well. That's where social and emotional learning comes in. SEL is the process of helping students develop the skills to manage their emotions, resolve conflict nonviolently, and make responsible decisions.

Although family, community, and society are significant factors in fostering emotional intelligence and character development, educators must create a safe, supportive learning environment and integrate SEL into the curriculum.

Research shows that promoting social and emotional skills leads to reduced violence and aggression among children, higher academic achievement, and an improved ability to function in schools and in the workplace. Students who demonstrate respect for others and practice positive interactions, and whose respectful attitudes and productive communication skills are acknowledged and rewarded, are more likely to continue to demonstrate such behavior. Students who feel secure and respected can better apply themselves to learning. Students who are encouraged to practice the Golden Rule find it easier to thrive in educational environments and in the wider world.

In SEL, educators (and other students) coach children in conflict resolution and model how to negotiate, how to discuss differences in opinion without resorting to personal attacks, and how to accept others when their attitudes, beliefs, and values differ from one's own. SEL strives to educate children about the effects of harassment and bullying based on social standing, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.

Teachers must lay the groundwork for successful SEL by establishing an environment of trust and respect in the classroom. Empathy is key. Before children can be expected to unite to achieve academic goals, they must be taught how to work together, and so it provides them with strategies and tools for cooperative learning.

Such learning, successfully incorporated into project learning and other teaching styles, is easily integrated into all subject areas and can be effectively assessed with rigorous, sophisticated rubrics. It also contributes to a productive classroom environment where students feel they can learn without concern for their emotional welfare. Return to our Social and Emotional Learning page to learn more.

Social and Emotional Learning Overview

Comments (42)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Giscard Bernard's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Greetings and Salutations.
I concur with you about the importance of the ground work being laid in the early stages of schooling. I am a high school teacher as well. I teach tenth graders and these students come into high school like loose cannons, ready to exposed at any and everything. I find myself modeling for students the proper way to interact with their peers. When they are assigned a cooperative task, I must demonstrate the proper way they are to interact with one another. Yes if the districts would spend more time implementing such programs the educational environment would be much more conducive to learning.

Deborah's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

There are wonderful programs available for schools and teachers to incorporate in their classrooms. As a teacher you can integrate the strategies into all you do ... Check out PATHS (Promoting Alternative THinking Strategies)

Mark J. Perlman's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I find it interesting that we ever got away from the the first mandate of (making) good citizens out of growing young children. One of the main reasons I became an educator was to help others become self-reliant (good or bad, hoping and working for the good). Research aside, it just makes sense (grossly lacking in many administrative handbooks these days).

Maria 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)


I hope that you can reach your kids. I know as an Adult Basic Educator, one key characteristic for students not being successful in school is having someone who could connect with them, understood their learning style (most will be kinestetic) and gave the a reachable dream for the future. If you need any support, let me know. Best of Luck!


Ashley 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a Walden University student working on my Masters in Education. One of this week's assignments is to participate in an educational blog. This is my first time "blogging". I am overwhelmed by the vast wealth of information available to teachers everywhere through communicating via "blogging". I found many topics that applied to my teaching needs, but the topic on SEL and the lack of it in schools, is a subject that I am very passionate about. I am a Special Education teacher grades 3-5 in Montana. I work with students who desperately need these social behaviors. However there never seems to be enough time throughout the day. As I look ahead into the next school year, I hope to make teaching these skills a prioreity. I enjoyed reading other educators opinions and concerns. It is comforting to know that others feel the same way I do.

Holly's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I, too, agree that the social and emotional growth of our students is just as important if not more important than the academics piece. It is hard to really reach a student if they are struggling with personal issues in their life. I think more classes should be mandatory in Jr.High/High School that help equip our students with the tools they need to properly work through a problem or conflict. A high school student at a local district committed suicide a few weeks back and now the district is back-peddling to figure out what they could have done to possibly intervene and prevent such a tragedy. School districts really need to hold forums where they educate students on warning signs and symptoms of teenage depression. We need to be PROACTIVE not REACTIVE!!!

Diana's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that it is important to start this as early as possible. As a teacher of four year olds, I do this everyday. It is a part of our curriculum and performance standards to ensure that students are being taught the basic social skills to function properly in life. It is our responsibility to provide the opportunities for students to observe and practice social skills to create a positive learning environment. Students who feel safe will attend and learn more easily than those who feel a sense of failure or chaos in the classroom.

Andrea Ferguson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I couldn't agree with you more, Giscard. Young people today need role models that they can actually interact with and programs that promote that would be a great benefit. I imagine that you are a great role model. Btw: If you are familiar with my subject, please contact me. All the best...

Andrea Ferguson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I couldn't agree with you more, Giscard. Young people today need role models that they can actually interact with and such programs would be a great benefit. I imagine that you are a great role model. Btw: If you are familiar with my subject, please contact me. All the best...

gailmark's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Call it SEL or character education, as educators we are responsible for developing our students' social skills. I belong to an organization called Just Do the Right Thing www.justdotherightthing.org and we share many of the same beliefs written here.
As part of the program we play a game in the classroom - it is called the Question Game. The Question Game consists of 10 flashcards with a question on one side and the answer on the other side. If covers such topics as honesty, respect, and integrity. The Question Game was designed to help children in the classroom learn that good decisions make you successful in life. For example the first flashcard says Just? on one side and Do the Right Thing on the other side.
We have found tremendous success with students when we repeat the game every day for a period of time.

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