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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

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.

Jen's picture

I just recently discovered this website from a faculty at my college. I am fascinated with social and emotional learning. I was wondering if anyone has any feedbacl on the roles of emotional safety/emotional risk in social and emotional learning..

Thanks!

Patrick McMillan's picture
Patrick McMillan
Single dad (2 boys, 12 yrs & 9 yrs) Denver, Colorado

As a parent of 2 elementary school students I felt it was my responsibility to begin SEL at home and hope my efforts would be supported at school. I began teaching my kids lessons and doing SEL activities at home, and the results were noticed by my eldest son's teacher in 3rd grade when she asked what I was teaching him, and could I teach this to her entire class. The principal then asked me to teach all the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classes. From surveys sent to teachers, parents and kids, the results have been fantastic. The program is called An Exercise in Happiness and is designed for use in the classroom but also contains activities designed for parents to do at home with their kids. A grown-ups guide comes with the kids Lessons and Activity book. See www.KidsCanDoAnything.com

Huan's picture

Why should helping students in the social and emotional realms of their lives enhance their academic learning? If we think back to our school days and remember a teacher we enjoyed, we almost certainly will bring to mind also a classroom environment where we enjoyed learning. From the perspective of neuroscience, that optimal learning environment reflects an internal brain state well attuned for learning.

Elana F's picture

Of course social and emotional learning is important. STudents cannot be successful in school or life without character development and good inter and intra personal skills. However, most teaachers are not prepared to teach this. I would be great if you could include some stragtegies or a toolkit to teach this. Alternatively, there are several national organizations that work with schools.

Kelly Parker's picture
Kelly Parker
EFL teacher from Nevada, teaching teachers in China

While I certainly agree that " Empathy is key", SEL is not that "easily integrated into all subject areas" as this article suggests. While the focus is on K-12, I've had some success with SEL in EFL education here in China. It's worth the effort to integrate, as I've discovered, but I must emphasize the effort part.

For college freshman, I always include at least 3 weeks of empathy training, as I believe it helps unlock active listening skills for advanced communications. Empathy also helps EFL learners develop a knack for translating before they've learned enough vocabulary to follow a second-language conversation.

I teach negotiations to college seniors, and find that this is difficult if students have not had prior experience with active listening. That is, they could do well if they initially unlock the door with the empathy key.

In sum, SEL training is not that easy, but the payoff in student development is worth the effort. For teachers who teach multiple grade levels, consideration should be given to starting with empathy, moving on to active listening, and eventually tackling advanced skills like negotiations.

Eimear O'Neill's picture
Eimear O'Neill
Parent of an active 7 year old son..and I'm a life long learner Mom!

I would love to get hold of the teaching materials to teach my son and educate myself but the website is no longer live:(
Any help appreciated!
Thank you!
Eimear

[quote]As a parent of 2 elementary school students I felt it was my responsibility to begin SEL at home and hope my efforts would be supported at school. I began teaching my kids lessons and doing SEL activities at home, and the results were noticed by my eldest son's teacher in 3rd grade when she asked what I was teaching him, and could I teach this to her entire class. The principal then asked me to teach all the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classes. From surveys sent to teachers, parents and kids, the results have been fantastic. The program is called An Exercise in Happiness and is designed for use in the classroom but also contains activities designed for parents to do at home with their kids. A grown-ups guide comes with the kids Lessons and Activity book. See www.KidsCanDoAnything.com[/quote]I would love to get hold of the materials for parents but the website is no longer in use.

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