What is SEL?

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.*

Effective SEL processes necessarily involve aligning relationships, instruction, structures, and systems in ways that are culturally responsive, developmentally appropriate, coherent, and beneficial for all. Effective SEL unfolds through explicit learning and when woven throughout everyday practices. SEL competencies used by individuals, between individuals, and within and between groups are necessary for thriving, just, diverse, democratic societies.


Effective social-emotional learning (SEL) is a transformative and evidence-based educational process that teaches children, from pre-k through 12th grade, the mental skills that will significantly reduce emotional stresses that lead to violence and addiction, improve problem-solving skills, enhance empathy, raise academic test scores and increase resiliency.

SEL serves as an umbrella for many programs and initiative that serve to make youth feel safe and provide a positive learning environment. These include:

  • Character Education.
  • Service Learning.
  • Peer Mediation.
  • Bullying Prevention.
  • Anger Management.
  • Drug/Alcohol Prevention.
  • Violence Prevention.
  • Ethical-Decision Making.
  • Harassment Prevention.
  • Positive Behavior Supports.

Sport psychology, positive psychology, cognitive-behavioral psychology are sciences that support the SEL teaching methodology.

The competencies attained by effective social-emotional learning programming include:

  • recognizing and managing our emotions;
  • developing caring and concern for others;
  • establishing positive relationships;
  • making responsible decisions; and
  • handling challenging situations constructively and ethically.

They, and the skills needed to reach these goals, allow children to calm themselves when angry, make long-lasting friends, resolve conflicts respectfully, and make ethical and safe choices.

SEL is a framework for school improvement by creating and maintaining a caring learning environments. Students learn better in a positive and safe school.

The most beneficial SEL programs are:

  • sequential and developmentally appropriate instruction in SEL skills;
  • implemented in a coordinated manner, schoolwide, from preschool through high school;
  • reinforced in the classroom, during out-of-school activities, and at home;
  • giving teachers ongoing professional development in SEL;
  • uniting families and schools to work together to promote children’s social, emotional, and academic success.

*“What is Social and Emotional Learning?,” Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, accessed April 30, 2016, http://www.casel.org/social-and-emotional-learning/