Understanding Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

Though SEL is a relatively new concept it is proving its benefits.



Social-emotional learning or SEL is becoming a requisite in the areas of education and personal development these days. Social-emotional learning refers to the process by which individuals acquire and employ certain skills that help them to stand up for themselves and others. These skills include self-regulation, self-awareness, self-control, interpersonal skills, etc. These skills are important because they help people to avoid identity crises, regulate emotions, achieve personal and collective goals, empathize with others, build and sustain healthy relationships and make responsible decisions.

SEL is closely linked with academic skills and they cannot be separated. There are different ways by which teachers can implement teaching social-emotional skills to students continuously. It means the teaching of social-emotional skills does not have to be limited to a particular program or unit or lesson. Let us examine various possibilities by which social-emotional skills can be imparted to students persistently:

Becoming deliberate in finding opportunities to practice the skills: The need to apply social and emotional skills is always present. They are required in every group work, discussion, conversation, alone time, etc. Teachers can practice becoming conscious about recognizing chances to help students execute these skills in various scenarios. Teachers can motivate students to listen and cooperate before group activities. They can also tell students that it is okay to make mistakes and one should be brave to ask doubts. Teachers should also be broad-minded to welcome the perspectives of students about a particular thought, topic or question. They should encourage students to be good listeners to other people’s explanations, findings, and thought processes. Teachers can also ensure that they are accepting recommendations from their students regarding the approaches and teaching methods they follow to teach a topic. It is also good to talk about other things that are not covered in the textbook. Identifying students’ interaction with each other, the classroom behavior of each student, giving importance to their feeling towards classroom interaction and atmosphere, etc. help a teacher to overcome academic challenges. Taking deliberate attempts and dedicating enough time to practice these skills will help the students to make these skills habitual.

Developing a warm classroom atmosphere: Students thrive in their learning process when they are appreciated, feel safe and secure, and loved. One of the best ways to inculcate this feeling in students is to let them know that they are respected and loved for the individuals they are. Assigning responsible work to students will help to build trust in them. This will also help in fostering leadership qualities in students. They can also be provided opportunities to take part in parent-teacher meetings and it is also advisable to let them make their own decisions regarding their higher studies and passion.


Pay attention to creating meaningful relationships: Having meaningful relationship between classmates, between a child and parents, and between a student and teacher play a major role in the formation of positive attitudes toward life. It also kindles the spirit of achievement among students. One of the best methods to help students understand the value of a meaningful relationship is to provide teacher-mentors to students. A teacher who acts as a mentor for the same students for consecutive years helps the students to understand the dynamics of long-term relationships. It also guarantees them a secure feeling which further motivates them to care for other individuals. Even small group work can help students acquire social and emotional skills by listening to their peers and conveying their ideas through talking.

An inclusive approach to discipline: The idea of discipline can be used to heal wounds and traumas of relationships than being utilized as a tool for punishment. For example, it is always good to name a student’s misbehavior as an inappropriate habit, behavior, or choice instead of labeling him as a bad student. Teachers can have discussions with students about setting classroom behavior that is appropriate. This will make the students feel that they are included and important. Teachers can also communicate with the students about the importance of following particular behavior in the classroom. Teachers and students can work together in implementing classroom norms and modifying them according to their needs. It is also significant to make the students empowered by the need for conflict resolution in life. Discipline can be used as a conflict resolution tool than punishing students for their misbehavior.

Redefine student success from traditional meaning attributed to student success: Students should be enlightened that they have a life beyond academics. Traditionally a student’s success was measured on the basis of the marks he scored for his examinations. A student should be educated that there are several other skills that are equally important as their academics. Students should be appreciated when they show empathy and stay consistent in their work even if their progress is slow. They should be admired when they demonstrate listening skills and encounter challenges. This approach will help them to have clarity about what they have to do in life.

Speak for bringing changes in the system: Good teamwork is the foundation of great social and emotional skill education. It is essential to talk about the need for SEL in school. It is also recommended to conduct meetings to talk about SEL and to share ideas regarding the program to confirm that students’ needs are met and they are on the right track of development. A teacher can also demand the time and resources to implement SEL in the classroom to help students cultivate the skills they need for overall success.

There are four principles that help in the success of SEL. They are:

  • Integration of academics with SEL: Several types of research conducted in the field of cognitive science prove that student learning is related to their emotional state. Hence, SEL cannot be achieved through practicing it as a separate program from academics. It should be present in all aspects of learning like classroom norms, practices, etc.
  • Avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach: SEL cannot be successful if it follows a strict or rigid agenda. It on the other hand becomes successful when curtailed according to the needs of the community it is been introduced to. Different settings require a different approach to the implementation of SEL.
  • Stimulating demand, but not mandating: SEL can be successful if it is introduced by proper means of awareness programs. It can prosper in a supportive environment.
  • Increasing the supply of models and practical guidance: This suggests that proper funding to the intermediaries can help in bringing up a lot of models, creating a supportive environment, and gathering data to execute the teaching of skills.

Though SEL is a relatively new concept it is proving its benefits. It helps in improving the mental health of individuals. It is highly beneficial for both students and teachers in the learning process.

Author – Sanjeeva Kumar Sinha, Principal, Jain International Residential School, Bengaluru, Karnataka



Exit mobile version