The Social-Emotional Learning Approach in Education

School isn’t just a place where students discover math and read books — it’s where they learn to be part of a community. Many want to ensure that these school communities are positive and teach students to become productive, happier members of society. That’s where social-emotional learning comes in. 

Choice Advisors Texas has observed that with all the problems currently facing students, there’s a more significant push than ever to enact social-emotional learning tactics in classrooms. But what is this movement about, and what does the future have in store for it? Learn everything you need to know about the social-emotional learning movement here. 

What Is Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)?

Social-emotional learning believes that learning isn’t limited to facts and figures. Instead, students become better, higher-functioning adults by learning how to become more socially and emotionally aware of themselves and the people around them. 

SEL actively instructs students on the techniques that will help them grow emotionally and socially to better understand their feelings and where they belong amongst their peers. 

How SEL Is Being Used Now

A study by CASEL found that 97% of principals believe that SEL techniques increase the chance of students’ success. This is likely due to the benefits of SEL, which include:

  • Improved mental health. Rather than leaving feelings at the door, students learn to understand and confront their feelings.
  • Better teamwork. Success depends on society’s collaboration rather than one person’s accomplishments in the real world. The group work in SEL activities encourages students to use teamwork rather than rely only on themselves.
  • Develop leadership skills. By increasing the number of group activities and emphasizing social instruction, those with leadership tendencies can strengthen their skills.
  • Greater success in academics. As students learn to focus their minds, improve time management, and be more mindful of themselves and their organization, they have the skills to achieve academically.
  • Positive social experiences. By creating a classroom environment of positivity and group activity, students expect positive social norms and carry them into their futures.

However, despite these benefits and consensus among educators on the incredible potential of SEL, the same study by CASEL discovered only 25% of schools have the resources and plans in place to enact SEL. 

The Pushback to the SEL Movement

As the divide grows between lawmakers and educators, the movement that’s exciting and energizing teachers and administrators alike is getting strong, negative reactions from people in the communities, including politicians. Some states are moving to ban any traces of SEL strategies and goals in public school classrooms. 

Opponents of the theory believe that in this increasingly politicized and divided social climate, social-emotional learning is a chance for teachers to force their beliefs on students. However, educators counter this by sharing that SEL’s simply a way to help students face increasing fears and anxiety. 

The Future of SEL

As of now, most educators and school principals seem excited by the possibilities that come with SEL-style instruction. However, there is a disconnect between the majority who want to use these strategies and the minority who can implement them. 

In addition to the lack of implementation plans, the pushback to the movement is strong. Because of this, we may not soon see widespread investment in SEL in schools. However, the ideas and strategies from social-emotional learning are exciting educators so much right now may become a standard part of teaching pedagogy as methods slowly evolve. 

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