What is Social Emotional Learning and Why it Matters

What is Social Emotional Learning and Why it Matters

The world is changing fast in the realm of technologies, meaning the half-life of skills is shrinking fast. The education sector must embrace this shift and acknowledge that the essential, in-demand skills of the future will be very different from what has been taught in the past. 

The recognition of social-emotional learning (SEL) has gained significant momentum partially due to the increasing prevalence of mental health problems among students. Statistics show that over 1 in 5 students experience mental health problems during school years, with 50% of them being discovered by age 14 (CDC, 2023). As a result, education, across all levels, is adapting to equip children with the essential skills required to thrive in our dynamic world. 

What is Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)?

Social and emotional learning, also known as SEL, is an educational concept that extends beyond traditional subjects, focusing on vital life skills that empower individuals to navigate life successfully. It encompasses identifying and managing emotions, effective communication, building and maintaining strong relationships, responsible decision-making, and practicing empathy. These SEL concepts equip individuals with the essential skills necessary for personal growth and success.

Rethink What We Teach

Let's delve deeper into this top educational trend in 2023 to understand how the content and delivery of education are expected to undergo transformative changes in the coming years.

“Social emotional learning (SEL) will become the hard currency in the workplaces of the future.” - Forbes

Social-emotional skills, including communication, teamwork, creative thinking, problem solving, relationship management, and conflict resolution, are unlikely to be replicated by machines in the near future. As artificial intelligence (AI) assumes routine technical tasks, these skills will gain even more significance in the professional world. Consequently, they will be integrated into technical education to meet the rising demand from employers and industries. According to HR experts, while "hard skills" like mathematics, engineering, and computer programming are easier to measure and assess, the "essential life skills" are increasingly crucial for company success (Lobosco, 2019). 

What does Science Tell Us?

4-8 is the prime time for developing social-emotional skills. Research consistently highlights the positive outcomes of SEL implementation. Students not only show a 13% increase in academic success but also exhibit a 25% increase in positive behaviors, an 11% increase in healthy identities, and a 29% increase in relationship skills, among other benefits (CASEL, 2021). 

Advancing SEL in the Classroom

Despite the overwhelming evidence, implementing SEL in classrooms remains a significant challenge. A national survey revealed that 45% of teachers, while interested, have not received proper training in SEL and struggle to effectively teach SEL. 

Researchers are exploring the importance and impact of SEL on student learning and development. They are also developing easy-to-implement solutions to foster emotional growth and positive behaviors in the classroom. Being a pioneering state in school-wide SEL implementation, Western Oregon University is leading the way in examining the impact of social-emotional tolls on student development. Their faculty is spearheading an ongoing research project approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). As part of this initiative, they are introducing MEandMine play kits, a silicon-based EdTech company, into classrooms. This study aims to illuminate the significance of social-emotional learning (SEL) for students and teachers. 

There is no doubt that rethinking what we teach is a huge task. However, it is essential if our education systems are to meet the needs of 21st-century students and to prepare young people for success in our rapidly changing world. 

Learn more about SEL

Learn more about the research

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, April 25). About mental heath. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm#:~:text=How%

Lobosco, M. (2019, January 28). LinkedIn report: These 4 ideas are shaping the future of HR and hiring. https://www.linkedin.com/business/talent/blog/talent-strategy/global-recruiting-trends

Sparks,S.D. (2021, October 19). Research report: Social-Emotional Learning. Education Week. https://edweek.org/leadership/social-emotional-learniing/2018/10

The missing piece. CASEL. (2021, August 5). https://casel.org/the-missing-piece/

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