What is Social-Emotional Learning?

Ademola Ademiluyi

Keeping up with the complex nature of our world can be demanding, especially for infants, teenagers, and young adults. Their emotions reflect in just about everything they do. Hence, to learn, comprehend, and practice good behaviours in and outside the classroom, researchers suggest that teachers must help these kids learn how to manage their emotions and the unpleasant encounters they experience in their personal lives. Emotional balance does not only help students to be the best versions of themselves when learning, but educators are also able to achieve set objectives and goals. In this piece, I have explained the different components of Social-emotional Learning. I have also discussed its importance in schools, and its lifelong effects on us all.

Social-Emotional Learning defined

Social-Emotional Learning is a form of education that focuses on assisting young learners to be masters of their emotions. It helps them to understand and practise empathy, keep good relationships with others, set goals, and make good judgments about situations. Source: CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, Emotional Learning).

Social-emotional learning is also referred to as SEL. It may either be taught in the classroom or within extra-curricular activities.

What is Social-Emotional Learning?

What are the Components of Social Emotional Learning?

SEL has five fundamental components and these are Self-awareness, Self-management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making.

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Self-awareness in SEL

When students struggle to understand their emotions, their academic strengths and weaknesses, source of inspiration, and the reasons they react to some certain issues in some certain ways, it is most likely because they lack self-awareness. Being aware of one’s emotions is key in the academic development process.

Self-management in SEL

The second component of Social-Emotional Learning is Self Management. Once students become aware of their emotions, the next step is learning how to manage them. The ability to manage stress, setbacks, anger, as well as knowing how to motivate oneself are all traits of self-management.

Social Awareness in SEL

Social Awareness includes showing empathy, having respect for individual differences, coping with the behaviours of others, and coming to terms with the norms of one’s environment. Studies have shown that students who are aware of all these are likely to learn deeply and act modestly, even outside the school environment.

Relationship Skills

Having a good rapport with classmates, teachers, and other peer groups is another component of social-emotional learning. Students ought to learn habits such as active listening, cooperation,  and conflict management as they play huge parts in their learning processes.

Decision Making

Being able to make good choices and abiding by them is quite a crucial aspect of the socio-emotional lives of children and young adults. Once they learn how to arrive at useful decisions, there is a low possibility that they will develop bad morals.

What is Social-Emotional Learning?

So, why do we need SEL in Schools?

Not many people will argue against the relevance of social-emotional learning in academic environments – the reasons are not farfetched. At the least, a student will spend 30 hours in school every week and those hours are usually when they are most active. Now, If a child spends most parts of their developmental stages in schools, where else can they learn how to understand and manage their emotions? A child mostly gets to interact and play with many of his/her mates in school. In the process, they come across challenges and activities that may contribute to their growth.

Moreso, teachers place more attention on the academic development of the child. While this may be due to how they were trained as well as the importance parents place on their ward’s academic performances, studies have also shown that including social-emotional learning activities in the process of interacting with these students will have positive effects on their learning outcomes.

A study co-carried out by The Pennsylvania State University on SEL in primary schools reveals that it helps to reduce emotional stress and drug abuse. The research also reveals that SEL increases the academic performance of students. In the long run, they will not only earn good grades, but they will also be able to demonstrate positive social habits.

In another report compiled by an American agency, National Public Radio, students who display questionable attitudes at home and in school have high chances of developing mental problems or getting involved in criminal activities as they grow into adulthood, SEL can help fix that.

Researchers have also discovered that students who undergo SEL at a young age are those who mostly progress with their studies after high school, graduate with good grades and get good jobs.

What is Social-Emotional Learning?

In a nutshell, SEL helps to:

  •  Reduce crime rates,
  • Cut down the number of school dropouts,
  • Increase the number of students who enroll for higher education
  • Improve mental health
  • Reduce student trauma
  • Promote healthy relationships,
  • Enhance wellbeing,
  • Develop emotional intelligence and many other positive attitudes.

These and all other reasons I have highlighted above explain why it has become important that schools pay as much attention to SEL as they do to academic learning.

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