Social Emotional Learning

When you read about education issues, you often come across the term social emotional learning.

But what does social emotional learning really mean and why do kids need these skills?

According to CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) social emotional learning is defined as:

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. 


Here are some specific examples of skills that would be included with social emotional learning: 

  • Showing empathy towards others
  • Picking up on social cues (such as knowing that someone may be feeling scared or angry if they’re crossing their arms)
  • Managing your emotions during a difficult conversation
  • Managing stress
  • Maintaining focus
  • Persevering when something gets difficult
  • Understanding consequences

As you can see from this partial list, these skills are important to learn as a child. They are important skills for adults too.

Why do children need these skills?

There are so many advantages for children who are exposed to social emotional learning. One advantage is they learn to have better relationships with other children.

When children are accepting of classmates differences it creates a more harmonious and friendly environment. And this helps children learn.

You may wonder how children can learn math better if they get along with their classmates. What does one have to do with the other?

If a child doesn’t feel accepted by his peers he may not lift his hand to answer a teacher’s question or participate in group work for fear of being ridiculed.

Some other advantages of social emotional learning include:

  • Empathy – the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes
  • Self-Awareness – being aware that if you’re feeling scared you may behave differently than if you’re feeling happy
  • Focus – the ability to focus attention on what a teacher is saying
  • Self-Management – the ability to do your work before you start a conversation with your classmate

If you are interested in learning more about social emotional learning, the following resource by James Cameron Teacher and Special Education Specialist, Amy Johnstone, will help you dig deeper into the subject.

Social Emotional Learning – The missing piece to the LD Puzzle? PDF