What is SEL?

Social & Emotional Learning

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is 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.

SEL advances educational equity and excellence through authentic school-family-community partnerships to establish learning environments and experiences that feature trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation. SEL can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities.

SEL proactively helps children and adults develop and practice the following competencies:

Relationship Skills
Responsible Decision-Making

The abilities to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts. This includes capacities to recognize one’s strengths and limitations with a well-grounded sense of confidence and purpose.

The abilities to manage one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations and to achieve goals and aspirations. This includes the capacities to delay gratification, manage stress, and feel motivation and agency to accomplish personal and collective goals.

The abilities to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse individuals and groups. This includes the capacities to communicate clearly, listen actively, cooperate, work collaboratively to problem solve and negotiate conflict constructively, navigate settings with differing social and cultural demands and opportunities, provide leadership, and seek or offer help when needed.

The abilities to make caring and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across diverse situations. This includes the capacities to consider ethical standards and safety concerns, and to evaluate the benefits and consequences of various actions for personal, social, and collective well-being.

Emotional Intelligence

Together, these skills form emotional intelligence—EQ, as opposed to IQ.

Children are not born with EQ; it requires intentional instruction and ongoing practice. SEL is not a box that we can check off or a 20-minute lesson. It is most effective when infused all day, every day throughout our teaching, mentoring, and parenting.

Emotional Intelligence

A Framework for Success

This work takes a village. All of the adults in a child’s life—in the classroom, at school, at home, and in the community—must work together to provide meaningful SEL opportunities. Educators and parents already intuitively model SEL; Frameworks helps make this work more intentional and strategic, enriched with research-based tools and best practices.

When children have these skills, they have a toolbox to pull from when they face any challenge, big or small. SEL proactively builds that toolbox, so it is best done before significant problems arise. In this sense, SEL is on the prevention side of mental health.