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What is Social Emotional Learning? 5 Competencies of SEL to Focus On

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“Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” ~ Rita Pierson

Teaching involves more than just imparting knowledge and facts to students. The best teachers are those who understand their students’ emotional needs and recognize that social emotional development goes hand-in-hand with classroom performance and student outcomes.

At Alludo Learning, we want teachers and students to have the best possible classroom experience, which is why we have incorporated Social Emotional Learning (SEL) into our professional learning content catalog. Using SEL in the classroom helps teachers and school districts by improving teacher retention and student outcomes. Here’s what you need to know about SEL and five competencies to focus on.

Table of Contents

  1. What is Social Emotional Learning?
  2. Where Does Social Emotional Learning Occur?
  3. What Are the Five Social Emotional Core Competencies?
    1. Self-Awareness
    2. Self-Management
    3. Responsible Decision-Making
    4. Social Awareness
    5. Relationship Skills
  4. What Are the Outcomes of Social Emotional Learning?
  5. Alludo’s Take

What is Social Emotional Learning?

Social Emotional Learning is a teaching model that helps teachers connect with their students by meeting them where they are socially and emotionally. It understands that kids’ brains are developing in multiple ways as they grow and provides students with the emotional and social guidance they need while giving teachers useful tools to guide students as they learn. It is the process of developing essential interpersonal skills as well as self-awareness and self-control, all of which are vital for school as well as for students’ personal lives and eventual careers.

Teaching SEL competencies can help students cope with everyday challenges such as overwhelm, frustration, and disappointment. It teaches skills that include problem-solving, impulse control, self-discipline, and emotional management and regulation.

The research around SEL speaks for itself:

  • Students who learn SEL competencies are 42% less likely to say they were involved in physical aggression than students who do not learn SEL competencies.
  • SEL can decrease bullying by students with disabilities by 20%.
  • School districts get an $11 return on investment for every $1 they spend on SEL.
  • SEL can decrease school dropout rates by 5%-12%.

There’s no one-size-fits-all way to implement SEL at your school. It must be implemented via comprehensive, coordinated, and academically-linked activities, but there’s a lot of wiggle room within that framework.

School districts who want to implement or improve SEL will need to consider the following things:

  • School climate
  • Existing SEL programming
  • School capacities
  • Sociodemographic factors
  • Leadership style and history
  • Current district and statewide mandates

SEL implementation can help students flourish but only if it is done properly and with consideration of factors that can impact its success.

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Where Does Social Emotional Learning Occur?

Social Emotional Learning may be focused in the classroom but can occur in any location where students spend time.

It’s in the classroom that teachers can create activities and opportunities that emphasize SEL skills and encourage students to learn its core competencies. However, it’s essential to recognize that SEL continues beyond the classroom. Students’ knowledge about SEL core competencies affects them at home, in their communities, and in any group activity, including team sports.

Because SEL can affect every area of students’ lives, teachers and school districts must recognize its potential impact. Any place that students congregate, SEL will make itself known. This includes classroom instruction and free time, recess, during extracurricular activities, and at lunch. It’s because the impact is so powerful that SEL has become a mainstay in classrooms around the United States.

Teachers can help students understand their emotions by encouraging them to learn about the core competencies of SEL using self-reflection, activities, and more.

What Are the Five Social Emotional Core Competencies?

While Social Emotional Learning can take place during a wide variety of activities and lessons, all SEL teaching focuses on five core competencies.

#1: Self-Awareness

The first core competency of SEL is self-awareness, the ability of students to recognize and understand their emotions and experiences and how they may impact their actions. With self-awareness comes an increased ability to control emotions in difficult situations.

Self-awareness comes first because it feeds into the other core competencies. Without self-awareness, students may struggle with things like decision making and self-control. In other words, self-awareness is the foundation of SEL.

#2: Self-Management

Self-management is the next core competency of SEL and it provides students with the tools they need to regulate and control their emotions, behaviors, and even thoughts. It may include teaching stress-management skills, goal-setting, impulse control, and organizational skills that can help to reduce stress and negative emotions.

Teachers can help students learn self-management skills by teaching them how to reflect on their emotions and how they have impacted their behavior. Such self-evaluation makes it possible for students to begin to recognize the connection between emotional regulation, behavior, and results.

#3: Responsible Decision-Making

Responsible decision-making is a core competency that impacts students in the classroom but will also have a significant impact on them the rest of their lives. Learning how to make constructive choices with consideration of things like personal goals, safety, social factors, and ethical standards helps students to understand the consequences of their actions.

Part of decision making involves getting students to consider whether they need help to accomplish a goal. It can also impact their attitude toward learning and social interactions as they learn to consider the needs and emotions of the people around them and how irresponsible decisions can affect their interpersonal relationships.

#4: Social Awareness

The fourth core competency of SEL is social awareness, which relates to empathy, compassion, awareness of others, and the ability of students to see a perspective other than their own. Social awareness is essential for the maintenance of healthy relationships, including peer relationships, parent relationships, and relationships in the larger community.

SEL education in social awareness must include talking to students about diversity and equity because they may have trouble seeing the big picture if it’s not pointed out to them. When students can empathize with people of different genders, races, religions, cultures, ages, and financial circumstances, they will find it easy to act compassionately and respectfully. Social awareness also informs good decision making.

#5: Relationship Skills

The other four SEL competencies all feed into the fifth: relationship skills. Relationships are essential in every aspect of our lives. Students are more likely to succeed in school with positive peer and teacher relationships, and they’re more likely to thrive at home with positive family relationships. Later in life, their community and professional relationships will be essential as well.

To build and maintain good relationships, students must understand effective communication, compromise, empathy, perspective, and the parameters of what’s considered acceptable behavior in social settings. Learning how to exercise compassion, set healthy boundaries, and control behavior all contribute to the development of strong relationship skills.

Teacher Happiness Report

What Are the Outcomes of Social Emotional Learning?

We already mentioned some statistics related to Social Emotional Learning, but now it’s time to dig a little deeper to examine the outcomes when SEL is introduced in the classroom. These outcomes are the result of a meta-analysis of 213 studies that examined the impact of SEL on students. Here are some key findings:

  • When teachers incorporate SEL and use SEL interventions to address the competencies we’ve discussed, it increases students’ academic performance by 11%.
  • Students who participated in SEL programs demonstrated improved classroom behavior compared to students who did not participate.
  • SEL helps students improve their ability to manage depression and stress and helps them improve their attitudes about themselves and their attitudes about their families, friends, classmates, and teachers.
  • SEL that provides teachers with trauma-informed training helps students by providing a safe environment and can also help to decrease teacher burnout, according to a 2021 study.

Our Teacher Happiness Survey illustrates the importance of SEL for teachers because it highlights how SEL competencies and interventions can help teachers manage stress and reduce burnout.

What we can see from these results is that SEL activities and competencies can help students learn more effectively as well as helping them build healthy and happy relationships in and out of the classroom.

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Alludo’s Take

Alludo’s mission is to create dynamic digital learning environments that provide teachers and administrators with the tools they need to manage their classrooms and form meaningful connections with students. SEL skills in the classroom can have a remarkable impact on students and teachers.

We have included multiple SEL activities and missions in our professional development content catalog, including activities to help teachers learn SEL core competencies and provide them with the tools and information they need to bring social emotional skills to the classroom.

For example, our Social Emotional Learning & Wellness mission includes nine tracks to help teachers understand SEL core competencies, make self-care a priority, and learn how to set healthy boundaries with their students.

Teachers in districts that have partnered with Alludo have high participation rates for professional learning because we’ve created a system that gives teachers a voice and a choice in what they learn and how they learn it. By incorporating elements of gameplay in our learning missions, we encourage teachers to participate, communicate, and learn.

Increase Teacher Retention with SEL in Your District

When teachers understand SEL and use SEL interventions in the classroom, students’ academic performances improve and they learn how to build healthy and productive relationships–skills that will stay with them far beyond the classroom. The five core competencies we’ve identified here are the key.

Want to reach up to 100% PD in your district? See how Alludo can help make it happen with our free professional development platform trial, including:

  • Hundreds of core topics
  • Asynchronous microlearning activities
  • Timely and specific feedback
  • Analytics that show learning impact
  • Access anytime, anywhere

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