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Benefits of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

When thinking about what to include in a quality lesson, many things come to mind. Whether it be an engaging hook, a captivating set of questions, or an important set of skills, a good educator has plenty of components they need to include in a lesson plan. One important, yet not often stressed, aspect of a great lesson plan is social and emotional learning or SEL. 

What is SEL? CASEL, or the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, defines SEL as “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.” In short, SEL is all about learning how to manage relationships with others and handle one’s own thoughts and feelings. Examples of SEL skills include self-confidence, stress management, teamwork, and empathy.

It can be tough to fit in everything teachers need to include in their classes already, so asking to also focus on SEL can seem like a daunting task. After all, teachers already have so much content to include –  and it only seems to be expanding. But we at Educate. Radiate. Elevate. know that the benefits of SEL make it a worthwhile inclusion into the curriculum. Here are five important benefits of SEL.

SEL Improves Academic Results

I’m sure you’ve had that one student you just cannot seem to get on track. No matter what sorts of strategies or tactics you’ve tried, a student doesn’t seem to improve. Utilizing more SEL techniques could be the key to making a difference! SEL programs have been proven to help students’ academic performance as demonstrated in an article in the journal Child Development. Data from more than 270,000 students showed that social-emotional learning programs helped improve their academic performance by 11% compared to other students with no SEL program, and 27% more students in a school would show improved performance if they had completed an SEL program. By using SEL to create a better attitude toward themselves and others, students are then able to improve their grades by having a better attitude and outlook.

SEL Promotes Good Behavior

In a post-pandemic world, students are not only behind on learning, but they are having serious behavioral issues as well. More than ever, kids are struggling to focus on their work, which negatively impacts classroom management and often ultimately leads to more disciplinary reactions. The good news is that SEL can help proactively cut down on these issues. Data from several school districts speaks for itself. Graduation rates in Washoe County School District were at 62%, but after implementing an SEL program, they went up to 84%. Warren City Schools had their expulsions cut in half with the implementation of SEL programming. Youngstown City Schools reduced suspensions by 55% through SEL. Data like this has highlighted the importance of social-emotional learning in the classroom.

social emotional learning

SEL Reduces Mental Health Issues

Anybody who works with youth, particularly teenagers and young adults, knows how mental health issues like depression and anxiety have become a serious area of concern for younger people. Thankfully, research by the Early Intervention Foundation shows that social-emotional learning programs can reduce short-term symptoms of mental health issues. Levels of emotional distress, which includes anxiety and depression, were lower in students who went through SEL interventions when compared to students who were a part of different programs such as mindfulness interventions or positive youth development interventions. So while SEL might not be a miracle cure, it can be an effective way to reduce the impact of those conditions.

SEL is an Invaluable Monetary Investment

It’s no secret that many schools today are working on a tight budget that can really limit what is worth investing in. It can make it risky to implement new programs or ideas without knowing if they will be of value. Fortunately, a cost-benefit analysis from Columbia University has shown that, on average, SEL programs have had a return on investment of 11 to 1. This means that for every dollar a school invested into its SEL programs, there was a return of $11. This means for every dollar used for SEL programs, there was $11 saved on other programs, like dropout prevention and academic remediation programs. So not only will social-emotional learning help students improve, but taxpayers and other fiscally-minded individuals can rest easy knowing that any money invested into SEL programs is most likely worthwhile.

SEL Makes a Lifelong Impact

When teachers are deciding what to include in their lessons, it’s important to weigh the value of what they are trying to teach the next generation. They need to make sure that their lessons contain valuable knowledge and skills while working with such little wiggle room in a curriculum. Luckily, SEL programs have been proven to improve well-being almost 20 years later as demonstrated in another article from the journal Child Development. For example, students who were part of an SEL program were more likely to engage in safe sexual behaviors and graduate from higher education later in life. These long-term benefits of SEL persisted regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or geographic location. And, when looking even further into the future, a study from the American Journal of Public Health showed that emphasizing social-emotional learning as early as kindergarten can improve outcomes far later in life. For example, the need for public housing and incidences of breaking the law would be lower if a student was part of an SEL program.

social emotional learning

In Conclusion

SEL, or social-emotional learning, is the process by which people learn how to manage their emotions and relationships with others. While currently not a major focus of most school curricula, it is an area worth dedicating more time to as it has many benefits. SEL can elevate student attitudes and therefore increase students’ grades. SEL has been shown to improve student behavior, leading to less need for discipline. SEL can help cut back on the short-term effects of mental health issues like anxiety or depression. Social-emotional learning programs are a great investment, allowing schools to save money. Best of all, SEL programs can make a lifelong impact, allowing schools to positively shape the lives of the next generations for years to come.

If you would like to positively shape the lives of the next generation, consider donating to Educate. Radiate. Elevate.! E.R.E. is a tutoring service meant to uplift low-income students of color who are disadvantaged. E.R.E. values SEL as a core part of our tutoring strategy. While focusing on academic gains, we make sure to address those social and emotional skills in order to give students tools to be leaders far into their futures. Join our mission to close equity gaps with quality education support!

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