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Importance of Social and Emotional Learning

Social and emotional learning (SEL) helps students develop both social and emotional skills. These key skills complement traditional academic content for a more well-rounded, comprehensive education.

With minor variations, all SEL student programs work to develop five core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.

As an alternative to focusing on a single negative behavior, teachers can take a comprehensive approach to tackling problems through SEL education. Negative behaviors may arise from limited emotional and social competence, which may be caused by negative family and environmental factors or genetic temperaments.

Schools and families can counter negative behaviors by modeling and teaching appropriate emotional and social skills.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has defined five interrelated sets of cognitive, affective and behavioral competencies for students.

The 5 SEL Competencies

To define SEL, CASEL has identified the following five cognitive, affective and behavioral competencies that students need to learn for greater success in life:

1. Self-Awareness
Self-awareness involves students tuning in to their feelings or thoughts. Students can identify how their emotions affect their own behavior. They also learn to recognize others’ needs and feelings. In understanding their own strengths and limitations, they establish a sense of confidence.

2. Self-Management
Students learn how to control their thoughts, emotions and behavior. Self-management skills help the student use appropriate play and social interaction skills, participate in classroom activities, and engage in instructional activities.

3. Social Awareness
Students learn to empathize with others and acknowledge differing points of view. They also recognize and learn how to conform to established norms for social and ethical behavior. A more accepting and respectful school environment results when students are more sensitive to others’ feelings.

4. Relationship Skills
Students learn to communicate clearly, listen well, cooperate with others and work through disagreements. They can also resist social pressure to mirror unhealthy behaviors. The ability to have positive interactions in social situations — whether at school, home or work — is an essential life skill.

5. Responsible Decision-Making
Students make decisions by taking ethics, safety, personal well-being, social norms, and the resulting consequences into consideration. Making a good decision involves asking questions:

  • What can I do? (Creative alternatives)
  • What do I need to know? (Useful information)
  • Will I do it? (Commitment to follow through)
  • What am I really deciding? (Helpful frame of reference)
  • What do I want? (Clear values)
  • Am I thinking straight? (Sound reasoning)

When their social and emotional skills are nurtured, students do better in all areas of their daily lives, including school.

If you’re interested in an academic career that involves the nurturing of social and emotional skills in learners, a master’s degree in educational leadership can be a good choice.

Through coursework required for an M.Ed. degree, teachers can learn ways to have a more meaningful impact on their students’ social and emotional learning. An M.Ed. degree can put you in the running for school leadership roles in the public and private sectors, including principal and assistant principal.

Louisiana State University Shreveport offers a Master of Education in Educational Leadership Online. The online M.Ed. program at LSUS is designed to develop culturally responsive educational leaders. Program graduates learn the fine points of serving a diverse student population that includes English language learners.

The M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program includes the following courses:

  • Technology Leadership in Schools.
  • Creating a Professional Learning Community.
  • Legal & Ethical Issues in Education.
  • Utilizing Data for School Improvement.
  • Funding Public Education.
  • Facilitating Human Resource Development and Empowerment.
  • Mobilizing the Community.
  • Curriculum.

If you are a certified teacher with leadership aspirations, a master’s degree can help you advance to the role of principal, assistant principal or other position of leadership. Through coursework focused on enhancing your management and leadership skills, you can prepare for new opportunities that require socio-culturally aware leaders to take charge.

Learn more about LSU Shreveport’s M.Ed. in Educational Leadership online.


ASCD: Report Highlights Opportunities to Improve Social-Emotional Development in the Nation’s Schools The Importance of Self-Awareness for Kids With Learning and Attention Issues

American Psychological Association: Social Awareness + Emotional Skills = Successful Kids

ACT for Youth: Social Awareness

Decision Education Foundation: Decision Skills

British Columbia Ministry of Education: Your Role in Helping Children and Youth Develop Healthy Relationship Skills

Vanderbilt University’s Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning: Helping Children Learn to Manage Their Own Behavior

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