Chances are you went into education because you love teaching and you enjoy interacting with young people. But the increased focus on academic benchmarks and testing scores has left teachers with less time to teach “soft skills” – those personal qualities that help students connect with others.
Social and emotional learning (SEL) can be a significant part of a student’s overall education. Targeting the development of these skills can translate into higher academic achievement, among other gains.
In short, integrating SEL into the classroom can help prepare students for the future.
What is SEL?
It’s important to remember that students develop socially and emotionally at the same time they are developing academically. Ignoring social and emotional skills development will have an adverse effect on academics. That’s why it’s important for educators to be intentional when implementing social and emotional learning.
SEL consists of five key skills:
- Self-awareness – recognition of one’s own emotions, personal goals, and values
- Self-management – regulation of one’s own emotions and behaviors
- Social awareness – understanding of and compassion for others’ backgrounds or cultures
- Relationship skills – ability to establish and maintain healthy relationships
- Responsible decision-making – making positive choices involving one’s own behavior
These five key skills are essential for success in virtually every area of life, from education to employment to family and community relationships. Integrating SEL into the classroom not only creates better academic outcomes, it also gives students a firm foundation to operate successfully once their academic career is complete.
The Effects of SEL Beyond the Classroom
Investing in students by teaching social and emotional learning in the classroom does more than improve academic success. In the long-term, employers seek individuals with the very traits that SEL develops: problem-solving, teamwork, character, and grit.
Schools that include SEL as part of their curriculum are not only helping to educate academically, they are helping future employees develop critical soft skills. As students complete their education and enter the workforce, they can expect more opportunity, higher pay, and greater success.
And while SEL initiatives help to build a better future workforce, they first provide a significant return on investment for schools. Research indicates that for every $1 spent on quality SEL initiatives, there is an $11 return on investment.
Strong SEL initiatives in the classroom result in:
- Greater academic success
- Fewer behavioral issues
- Less emotional distress
- Positive social behavior
- Better teacher-student relationships
- Less bullying
- Improved career readiness
- Improved graduation rates
- Less teacher stress
- Positive school climate
Schools across the country turn to SEL for these benefits and much more.
Bringing SEL Into The Classroom
Even with the far-reaching and positive outcomes of SEL, schools are sometimes reluctant to add another task to their staff’s efforts. However, bringing social and emotional learning into the classroom doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, many educators find that incorporating SEL principles into classroom lessons provides the greatest impact.
Implementing SEL doesn’t have to be difficult. Schools can develop SEL initiatives by following some simple steps:
- Define goals for your school as a whole, including behavior expectations
- Spell out what those goals and expectations look like in all areas
- Develop a schoolwide infrastructure that can support SEL including planning cycles and assessment
- Coordinate your SEL programs to align with your school’s overall goals
- Prepare staff to teach SEL through modeling and integrated instruction
- Create and provide opportunities for students to practice SEL skills
- Establish a regular SEL check-in to gauge students’ emotional ability and mental health
- Connect with and learn from other educators who have greater practice in SEL implementation
Coincidentally, these steps are quite similar to those used to establish a PBIS initiative. Just as PBIS initiatives can help make your school more effective and efficient, incorporating SEL principles can have a positive effect on behavior schoolwide. Helping students to develop the five key skills associated with social-emotional learning will sync with your PBIS initiative in many ways.
Social and emotional learning takes academic learning a step further, helping students to develop resilience in the face of adversity. When combined with a PBIS initiative, SEL can help improve behavior, develop communication skills, and improve leadership among students. It can even help teachers gain more time to teach!
Integrating SEL principles with your PBIS initiative can reap huge rewards. Not only do students learn behaviors and routines that can help class time run smoothly, they also develop lifelong personal skills. Conducting regular SEL check-ins will help you assess how well your PBIS initiative aligns with your SEL practices. Consider including SEL in your lesson plans!