More Than an Add-On: Incorporating SEL Everywhere
Interest in social and emotional learning (SEL) has been steadily increasing for years, but the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated this momentum significantly. As a result, schools and districts exploring ways to incorporate SEL into their programs will find scores of options in the education market, so it’s important to understand how SEL works to make the best choice for your communities.
Making the Connection
Understanding SEL means recognizing that social and emotional skills impact students’ success in school and life. Social and emotional learning programs equip students with skills to:
- Develop their own identities
- Hone their social skills for interacting with others
- Build and maintain supportive relationships
- Find productive ways to manage their goals, ambitions, and emotions
With those skills and relationships in place, students are better positioned to process and manage common struggles, including bullying and cyberbullying, family issues, and peer pressure. Focusing on social and emotional learning can also equip students to handle the challenges brought on by COVID-19’s destabilization of comforting systems and routines.
Finding the Right Fit
Just as no single educational approach fits every school community, there are various ways to integrate SEL into education initiatives. Some schools and districts use separate, SEL-focused programs alongside core curriculum, while others seek out curricula with built-in SEL components.
As an example of the latter, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) explains that:
English Language Arts (ELA) can be enhanced when instruction and teaching practices are explicitly designed to promote all five core competencies of [SEL]. We know from research that when curriculum and instruction are intentional about giving students the chance to develop core social and emotional competencies[…], this significantly increases academic achievement, improves attitudes and behaviors, decreases negative behaviors, and reduces emotional distress.
Putting SEL into Practice
Whether you prefer a dedicated SEL program or curriculum infused with elements of SEL, seek out math and ELA programs that promote the development of SEL skills as students learn grade-level content. For adaptive curriculum options, this sometimes means providing instructional design that supports students’ self-management through goal-setting, self-monitoring and self-motivation, and organizational skills.
What does that look like in practice? Imagine Learning’s ELA and math programs, for example, support goal-setting within instructional sequences as each learning session concludes. Students view a personalized log-out screen, providing an opportunity to review the individual progress necessary for setting and achieving their goals.
However schools can manage to do so, providing SEL is “an integral part of education and human development” (CASEL, again). Moreover, research from The Aspen Education & Society Program & Council of Chief State School Officers indicates that students who acquire SEL skills are more likely to meet College and Career Readiness Standards than students who do not. So where standalone SEL programs aren’t an option or aren’t desired, teaching with core programming that includes SEL integrations will be rewarding for the whole school community.