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

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K.G. --Georgia's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Social and Emotional Learning sounds great. I believe that a child must trust and respect his teacher first, then he will recieve the learning she will impose, with respect. SEL may be more suited for adolescents, but I feel that elementary students would also benefit from the program. These students often have trouble accepting the differences in others and resolving their own conflicts. We spend a great amount of classromm instructional time trying to help students solve these issues. We would benefit from a program that can train teachers to train their students to solve their own problems. Then we can have more time for learning.

Debbie Woo-Ming's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Social and Emotional Learning fits right in with Social Skills. The population that I teach is on the Autism Spectrum. In our school, academics are not always the primary focus. Our main concern is to ready our students for the world and its challenges. Our students focus on self-regulating their behavior. They learn how to cope with anger, anxiety, and their sensory issues. They learn about conflict resolution, how to have conversations, ways to show respect others, and how to be themselves. Social and Emotional Learning is truly an important part of our curriculum. This article was a great overview.

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