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Social and Emotional Learning

What Are the Benefits of Social-Emotional Learning in Schools?

5 Min Read
students smiling in a classroom

When you are looking at incorporating SEL into your curriculum, what does the research really say? And what kind of benefits can we expect from SEL? 

We’re glad you asked! We’ve done some research and put together some more information about the benefits of social-emotional learning. Take a look! We’re sure you’ll find the answers to all your burning questions about SEL.

What is Social-Emotional Learning?

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is a process that helps young people acquire skills to manage their emotions, achieve goals, develop empathy and make responsible decisions.  By focusing on the student, SEL also makes the education system more equitable. 

SEL teaches students to work through conflicts using guided exercises. It promotes composure by acknowledging the power of empathy.

Although SEL is commonly practiced in schools, it can also be successfully applied outside the classroom.

4 Benefits of SEL in the Classroom

1. SEL helps you regulate your emotions and manage stress

The American Journal of Public Health found that kindergarten students who had better social-emotional skills were more likely to succeed in school, work, and other areas of life. They also showed fewer behavioral problems and less emotional distress.

2. SEL improves academic performance 

SEL programming is highly effective. Studies have found that SEL fosters safe learning environments and prevents violence. It also decreases emotional distress, disruptive behavior in school, or on-the-street drug abuse/addiction. The result? Better academic performance. 

SEL is also linked to improved physical health. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that  increased physical activity can also help to develop students’ social-emotional learning. 

Kyle Bragg, a National Board-certified teacher says teaching SEL through health and physical education can help students navigate daily challenges related to academics and positive social behavior.

3. SEL promotes resilience

Research has shown that children with the ability to self-regulate, (an important SEL skill), are less likely to get frustrated or angry when they face obstacles. 

SEL also builds children’s self confidence, which motivates them to build realistic goals. Want to help your students become more resilient? Here are four SEL techniques promoted by the  American Psychological Association

  1. Prioritize relationships
  2. Practice mindfulness
  3. Set goals 
  4. SEL improves mental health

Schools and districts around the world are focusing on mental health issues by developing students’ skills. They’re finding that kids with SEL skills are less likely to experience anxiety, depression, or other psychological problems. 

There’s no doubt that a school that supports SEL will have a positive impact on its students. When pupils participate in  activities that promote social-emotional well-being, like arts programs or drama clubs, they can find new ways to  develop essential life lessons. 

In other words, promoting social awareness and emotional development in schools is a great way to support mental health! 

4. SEL increases equity

SEL focuses on creating caring learning environments for ALL students. 

How?

By encouraging them to reach their full potential with full support from staff members. 

According to CASEL, SEL advances educational equity and excellence by:

  1. Supporting authentic school-family-community partnerships
  2. Fostering trusting and collaborative positive relationships
  3. Promoting rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction
  4. Applying ongoing evaluation of policies, practices and outcomes

Who Benefits from SEL? 

So, what are the real SEL benefits? As we’ve already mentioned, SEL can have a positive impact on our workplace, home and everyday life. 

Here are a few examples: 

How does SEL benefit students?

Social-emotional learning prepares teachers and students to express empathy, which allows them to handle difficult situations more effectively. 

  • In fact, multiple studies have shown that SEL reduces anxiety in students and makes them more likely to return for future classes. 
  • When students learn social-emotional skills, including conflict management techniques or solution-focused communication practices, they can improve their relationship skills and social interactions with peers and adults at school. 

Your job is to teach your students how to learn. This means providing lessons that are easily understood, self-paced, and offer many opportunities for success. SEL helps teachers create a student-friendly environment that fosters creativity and aims to solve problems through collaboration. 

How do parents benefit?

New research shows that social-emotional learning can benefit parents across the board. 

Building SEL time into parents’ daily routines can give both parents and children time for self-care practices such as journaling, going for walks (even if only 10 minutes!), meditating, and exercising.

SEL also prompts parents to ask questions, listen actively, and promote eye contact to validate children’s feelings. 

Practicing SEL skills at home also creates stronger parental and child bonds. By working together, parents and children can improve communication skills such as cooperating, listening, and understanding emotions with respect for each others’ feelings. 

Parents can also set SEL goals with their children and model SEL skills that are taught at school.

How do employees benefit?

SEL creates an environment where workers want to succeed. This ultimately reduces the turnover rate. 

In a recent study, the Committee for Children stated that a school-based social- emotional learning curriculum provides the key to workforce development by teaching the skills that employers seek. In addition, these programs have been found effective in improving behavioral and academic success as well as career outcomes.

SEL success in the workplace can be attributed to numerous factors. When we feel safe, we’ll be more creative and produce better work because we don’t feel we’re being unduly judged or criticized. 

A survey by the Business Roundtable/Change the Equation showed that 98 percent of CEOs have difficulty “finding candidates with the competencies and training to fill open positions.” — at all skill levels. 

Why?

Because businesses are looking for people with knowledge and SEL skills like self-efficacy, problem-solving, and conflict resolution. 

The Bottom Line on SEL Benefits

Social-emotional learning is a relatively new area of study, but the benefits of SEL in schools are already starting to show. Children and adults who have learned SEL skills have better academic success and emotional well-being. 

SEL extends beyond academics into physical health, mental health, and more. SEL skills have a positive impact on our communities, homes, and workplaces. 

This article was adapted from a blog post initially developed by the education technology company Classcraft, which was acquired by HMH in 2023. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.

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