What is SEL
(Social Emotional Learning)
& Why is it Essential for Children?
Social and Emotional Learning is simply the way kids and adults process and handle their emotional well-being. It encompasses learning strategies to handle stress, manage feelings, and learning how to create and maintain healthy relationships with people. SEL also helps teach how to set and achieve goals, make responsible decisions, as well as learning about empathy, compassion and other tenets of good character. These are life skills that children and adults need throughout their lives.
The problem is children today are under attack by a barrage of negativity, stress, and bullying like never before. They are coming into contact with some of the worst examples of human behavior on social media or through television. As adults, we often struggle to protect ourselves from these destructive images and behaviors. Imagine how much more perplexing it is for children who lack the experience to process and navigate through it all. It's confusing for them to recognize what really matters amongst all the noise.
It is our responsibility as adults to give children the information and tools they need to handle their emotions and their disappointments and to help build their self-esteem and character. That is exactly what SEL instruction targets. Children exposed to SEL are more confident and feel better about themselves. Their overall behavior improves in and out of school, and there is a substantial increase in their academic achievement. Studies have also shown that children who received SEL instruction are less likely to have mental health issues or engage in drug abuse or criminal behavior. They are also less likely to face unemployment, divorce, and poor health in the future. Below is a current list of SEL studies and statistics which give a more thorough explanation of some of SEL's benefits.
SEL Studies and Statistics
In 2011, a report “Ready to Lead” by (CASEL) the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning reported that after an analysis of 213 studies of 270,000 learners, those who took part in SEL-informed curricula saw an 11% jump in academic achievement compared to those who did not participate.
CASEL also reported students who had already been identified as having problems, had significant improvement in their behavior, developed better attitudes towards themselves, had fewer outbreaks, and also saw an increase in their academic achievement after receiving SEL instruction.
Six years later, on July 12, the same research team published a follow-up study in the journal, “Child Development.” They studied 82 different interventions for more than 97,000 students from kindergarten through high school, for 6 months to 18 years after the program ended. Their study showed that even 3.5 years after the last intervention, students who had SEL instruction were on average 13% points higher academically. They also noted that conduct problems, emotional distress and drug use were significantly lower, but their social emotional skills, and positive attitudes towards their self, and others, were higher.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reposted that lack of SEL instruction correlated to adverse outcomes like the increased chance of unemployment, divorce, poor health, criminal behavior and imprisonment. It also reported that advances in neuroscience imply that targeting SEL instruction in students in kindergarten can have a long-lasting impact on their reading and vocabulary skills, including in high poverty schools. It suggested that SEL may help close achievement gaps.
In 2015, a national study published in the American Journal of Public Health, reported statistically significant correlations between SEL in kindergarten and outcomes for young adults in key areas like education, criminal activity, substance abuse and mental health. It concluded that early prosocial skills decreased the probability of living in or being on the waiting list for public assistance, having incidents with police involvement before adulthood, or spending time in a detention facility.
Options for Youth, a not-for-profit Charter School which provides at-risk and underserved students an alternative to traditional learning methods and environments, reported that students who took part in SEL instruction have had long term improvements in aggression and disruptive behavior. In fact, they reported a 10% reduction in behavioral, psychological and substance abuse problems by the age of 25.