What is SEL?

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Defining SEL

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Social and emotional competencies can be expressed similarly across developmental stages but differently by culture. If educators and leaders implement SEL without regard to students’ cultural, racial/ethnic, linguistic, or economic backgrounds, some students may feel more alienated in their classrooms. Effective SEL processes involve aligning relationships, instruction, structures, and systems in ways that are culturally responsive, developmentally appropriate, coherent, and beneficial for all. Effective SEL practices are taught through explicit instruction, as well as embedded across all academic and non-academic components of the school day, including after-school and expanded learning programs and extracurricular activities. 

Done well, SEL holds the promise of transforming education as we know it. 

Transformative SEL is a process whereby students and teachers build strong, respectful relationships founded on an appreciation of similarities and differences; learn to critically examine root causes of inequity; and develop collaborative solutions to community and social problems.


Our Approach

We view SEL through the lens of Social Justice and Equity – Mental Health and Wellbeing.

When we refer to SEL, we are including systematic efforts to promote any or all of the following areas: social and emotional development, character development, 21st century skills, workforce readiness, employability skills, multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS), positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), mindfulness, grit, growth mindset, whole child development, moral development, positive youth development, restorative justice, behavioral skills, positive climate and culture, and caring schools and communities.

Taken together, these areas increase students’ personal and interpersonal skills, which in turns sets them up for continued success in school and life.

For more information visit What is SEL? at CASEL.

SEL Impact

An extensive body of rigorous research (including randomized control trials, longitudinal follow-ups, and multiple replications) demonstrates that education that promotes SEL gets results, and that teachers in all academic areas can effectively teach SEL. Evidence demonstrates that social and emotional learning (SEL) improves mental health, social skills and behavior, academic achievement, and college and career readiness.

Educators Value SEL

Teachers are calling for schools to prioritize integrating SEL learning practices and strategies.

Principals Value SEL

Principals say SEL is essential, but want more guidance, training and support to teach these skills effectively

SEL Investment Yields Return

On average, for every $1 invested in SEL programming, there is a return of $11.