The topic of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is not new, but over the past 5-10 years, it has been gaining strong traction in education due to increasing evidence that SEL is a critical aspect of learning and connection with others. As defined by The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), social and emotional learning is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. CASEL’s widely used framework establishes five necessary components. Specifically, they are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and decision-making.
Interestingly, the research is bearing out that students who participate in SEL programs showed improved classroom behavior, an increased ability to manage stress and depression, and better attitudes about themselves, others, and school. These impacts are long-lasting, well beyond school years; a compelling case for prioritizing this in schools.
Parents may not realize that emotions and social relationships have an important impact on learning. Emotions can ignite an active interest in learning and sustain our engagement in it. Conversely, unmanaged stress and poor regulation of impulses interfere with attention and memory. Additionally, we observe that personal relationships are integral to learning. Learning is social and interactive. Through collaboration with peers and educators, including parents, cognitive growth occurs.
“People think of emotion getting in the way of cognition, but emotion is the reason why we think. Emotion is like the outboard motor that both pushes the cognitive boat and steers it,” says Mary Hellen Immordino-Yang, EdD Director, USC Center for Affective Neuroscience, Development, Learning and Education.
It is information like this that has led The Independence School to adopt a PreK through 8th-grade SEL program called Second Step with lessons around empathy, managing emotions, problem solving, valuing friendships, managing relationships and social conflict, and more.