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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 Staff

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 (40)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

CTaylor's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As a elementary school counselor, I get frustrated by principals who think that SEL is my sole responsibility instead of something the teachers could accomplish through everyday interactions and integrated lesson plans. I am an itinerant teacher along with PE, Art and Music so my students learn & "practice" conflict resolution skills, how to deal with teasing,how to make friends, etc. once a week for 30-45 minutes. I am put into a schedule to give teachers their much needed break and planning period however, since they're not in the classroom when I am teaching, they cannot reinforce or encourage the skills I am teaching. This makes my lesson pointless. We don't teach math once a week without revisiting it often, why would we neglect the important stuff of how to get along with others????

Elizabeth Yearwood's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I can't agree with CTaylor more when stating that Emotional and Social Learning must be part of a child's day. The district that I work in has trained our entire staff in the Responsive Classroom approach. The core beliefs revolve around the fact that teaching social and emotional skills is just as important as teaching the academic skills. I don't believe these skills should be taught in isolation or through the school counselor or social worker. These skills should be incorporated/taught in the classroom everyday. I have a morning meeting everyday where the children are given opportunities to greet each other, play a cooperative game with each other and share and respond to each other. Building a community of learners that are comfortable taking risks begins with being confident both socially and and emotionaly, and the academics will follow.

M.Easton's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I couldn't agree more. Every teacher should be responsible for SEL. It is something that should be carried out throughout a students day, not just during guidance lessons. We are currently adding this and character ed. to our current building improvement plan.

Tracy Maxwell's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I completely understand your frustration. As a middle school math teacher, I consider it my number one priority to make sure that students know how to communicate effectively with one another. One strategy that I use is to incorporate cooperative learning activities into my lessons on a regular basis. This allows students to continuously work on social growth. From my experience, you can certainly teach SEL and required content at the same time. It is our responsibility to do so.

Do you think that it would help to suggest some specific cooperative learning activities to teachers? They are really not that difficult to manage. Maybe you could even begin the activities during your class time, possibly by teaching students the structure of the activities themselves, and then teachers can pick up from where you left off. I don't know how realistic that suggestion is in your school district. Hopefully it helps.

stephanie g's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I must say that this is my first time blogging and I am very inmpressed with this topics info. I am a secondary teacher working with all at risk kids in an alternative school and the main focus of my job is social and emotional learning mainly through the boys and girls town social skills. I plan on gaining much insight from fellow educators as well as giving any if needed.

Bharti 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think SEL is the group effort to be done in the school. Its not the sole responsibility. It teaches children how to accept each other in spite of differences in individuals. This is not the bookish knowledge but the knowledge to be given to the kids for showing them how to live with others.

melissa's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree but without the desire to value others in our society, bookish knowledge gets us nowhere in my opinion. Social and emotional tools are essential and should be started before kinder. It is the teacher's responsibility to pick up where the previous teacher left off. I think this is a crucial step in education.

amber's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I completely agree that SEL is something that must be taught starting in kindergarten by all classroom teachers. As a first grade teacher, I consider social and emotional learning to be just as important as academics. So much of my day is dedicated to showing my students how to solve problems and how to interact with one another. I feel that it's one of the most important things I can teach my students.

rachel schadel's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I do not think it is your sole responsibility or any counselor's responsibility to teach SEL. First we have the most and consistent interaction with the students and deal with the everyday issues in the classroom. It should be united work between a counselor and the teacher to enforce SEL in the classroom. Our counselor works at another school as well as our school. The times she is there, she usually has individual counseling sessions or there is a crisis in which she is involved in. She will try to schedule a monthly guidance session, but it usually ends up getting canceled. I would be more than willing to implement SEL. There are so many situations that occur daily, and I would love to be more educated how to create a more effective classroom. I was under the impression that in order for SEL to be effective, it had to be implemented 30-40 minutes daily. If there was a once a week lesson, I would love to do it!

Rachel
Third Grade
Cincinnati, OH

Shirley Larry's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a seasoned teacher of thirty-plus years, and I agree whole-heartedly that we as educators should be concerned about teaching the whole child, not just the academics of the child. Over the years that I have taught, I have seen many changes in the curricular structure of education. That structure, unfortunately, has eliminated any type of social activity from the day-to-day schedule of students from kindergarten through twelfth grade. We no longer allow our children to be children. In most instances their school is like a 7:00 am to 3:00 pm job. They have a lunch (30 minutes), and they are back on task. Our elementary kids don't get recesses as they use to get, so they have a lot of unreleased energy that sometimes becomes explosive. Nap times have been taken. Lunches are given around 10:30 a.m with no definite snacks for later. We are pushing academics and not giving them any time to socialize with each other. Group activities may help, but too often we know that there is a dominant person there either by chose or by selection. When do we allow them to socialize. This is elementary level! High schoolers are in no better shape. If we are going to educate a generation that will be competent enough to govern our society in the future, we need to focus on the whole child, not the academic area only.
Thanks, Kelly, for the website for Developmental Designs.

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