Social Emotional Learning: Fostering Emotional Intelligence in Our Students
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is an important component of education in our schools today. It helps students develop their emotional intelligence and provides important conflict resolution skills. Teachers who have taken the time to develop SEL programs in their classrooms have found that the benefits are far-reaching and well worth the investment.
Before we can delve into the advantages of SEL programs, it is important to define exactly what “social-emotional learning” is. As Vanessa Vega explains in her recent Edutopia article, there are “five key competencies of SEL [that] provide the foundation for maintaining high-quality social relationships and for responding to the challenges of life." Those five competencies are: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
While students can develop the skills gained from social and emotional learning both in and out of the classroom, research is showing that programs that specifically target and build these skills can reap many benefits. A meta-analysis of 213 school-based social-emotional learning programs showed that they increased academic achievement and reduced aggression and emotional distress. Further, not only do SEL programs foster better relationships and communication between students and their parents, families, teachers and peers, but they also help children gain life skills such as self-regulation and stress-management.
In a successful school with a healthy learning environment, it’s easy to think “that all sounds great, but in my classroom or school things run smoothly; we don’t need a program like that.” If you are skeptical, take this into consideration: As Vega reports, according to a national survey of middle and high school students, less than one third indicated that their school provided a caring, encouraging environment and less than half reported that they had competencies such as empathy, conflict resolution, and decision-making skills. With such statistics, no school can afford to ignore the benefits of social emotional learning.
A lack of classroom management issues does not mean that students can’t benefit from an SEL program. Sometimes the quietest, most obedient students in the class are dealing with issues that could be helped by an SEL program. Social and emotional learning develops empathy and communication skills that can serve anyone well throughout life.
Teacher Emily Cherkin has been working in the field of SEL for many years. She holds a Masters Degree in Education with a focus on conflict resolution in peaceable schools and she has seen firsthand how powerful and beneficial SEL can be. As she writes: “Teachers who say they don’t have time to do SEL are missing the point. When you make the time to talk about these issues, you are buying so much more time down the road because your class feels respected and in turn respects you.” She also makes the point that employers value the skills taught in SEL programs now more than ever before.
When you implement social emotional learning in your school, you will find that the time dedicated to fostering successful conflict resolution and emotional intelligence is well spent. To find out more about SEL programs, two places to start are edutopia.org and startempathy.org, where you can hear more from Emily Cherkin as well as others. With these helpful tools, you will be on the road to implementing your very own social emotional learning program in a classroom, school, or district.