What is Social Emotional Learning?
Social emotional learning (SEL) is both a new and an old concept.
It’s a method of learning that encompasses the whole person, not just the facts that you learn from books and lectures. As the name implies, this way of learning (and and teaching) incorporates social and emotional aspects into the curriculum.
When Did Social Emotional Learning Come About?
The whole-education concept is not a new one. Nearly 2,400 years ago (in 380 B.C.), Plato wrote The Republic, and in it, he talked about a system of education that covered not only book learning, but learning that encompassed the whole person.
Plato talked about how it was necessary to include 4 elements into education: music, gymnastics, mathematics and dialectics. He felt that including these topics when teaching students would ensure that the components of the soul would be in harmony with each other, and as a result, the student would be well-balanced.
In the 1960’s, a holistic education program was put into play at 2 under-performing schools in New Haven, CT by a man named James Comer. 20 years later, the grades and achievements of the students had dramatically improved, and researchers at Yale took notice.
Psychology professor Roger Weissberg and Yale graduate Timothy Shriver created a Social Development program in the New Haven schools to expand on the holistic education concept.
The term “social emotional learning” became mainstream in 1994 when CASEL was formed. CASEL is an organization dedicated to this whole-person education concept, and the acronym initially stood for “Collaborative to Advance Social and Emotional Learning”.
The goal of this type of educational program was to prevent violence and drug use in the schools, to encourage students to make healthy choices, to strengthen connections between the school and the community, and to help students make responsible behavior choices.
In 1995, David Goldman wrote a book called Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. The book indicated that character matters more than intelligence in life situations, and the book became a huge success. Another important point in the book is that character can be taught. It’s not just something someone is born with or without. This helped push the educational ideas put forth by CASEL and its social emotional learning concept more into the American mainstream pop culture.
In 1996, CASEL moved from Yale to the University of Illinois at Chicago, and in 2001, they changed their name to “Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning”. So the acronym stayed the same, but they changed the name to include a focus on academics, as well as the social and emotional aspects of education.
In 2011, Congress even passed H.R. 2437, which is known as the Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Act of 2011. The purpose of this bill was to provide funding to schools in order to train teachers and educators about how to teach kids the attitudes and skills that lead to social and emotional competency.
What are Some of the Tenets of Social Emotional Learning?
CASEL defines social emotional learning as “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions”.
Some of those SEL skills include being able to recognize their feelings, deal effectively with conflict, and exercise self-control.
Maurice Elias, head of Rutgers University’s Social Emotional Learning Lab, describes it this way:
“Think about what it takes for kids to be in school. They have to sit. They have to listen. They have to pay attention. They have to wait their turn. They need to have the ability to remember and follow directions. These are all social-emotional learning skills. If kids don’t have those skills – even if they are smart – they are not going to succeed academically. And even if they succeed academically, they are not going to put their intellect to productive use in the context of the workplace. Indeed, it’s clear that these same skills are essential for vocational advancement.”Maurice Elias
Does Social Emotional Learning Only Apply to Kids, or Can it Be Used in Adult Education, too?
People tend to automatically think that, if you’ve reached adulthood, you’ve already matured and have no need for further developing your social and emotional skills.
Obviously that’s not the case for a large proportion of adults. Just because you’re past the age of 18 doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from using the principles of SEL.
Supporting and helping an adult socially and emotionally is just as crucial as it is for kids, especially when they’re in a learning environment like college. It’s important even in informal, non-academic classes and environments.
A 2011 study showed that adults who participated in SEL-enhancing activities showed lower cortisol secretion (the “stress hormone”), better physical well-being, as well as an improved quality of social and marital relationships.
Using Games to Teach Social Emotional Learning
Games make learning fun, and, especially in some subject areas, the research shows that games enhance learning.
Stephanie Jones, a professor at Harvard, has conducted research on which activities are the most effective in teaching kids social emotional skills. She has developed “Brain Games” that teach kids SEL concepts that research has shown to be effective in a fun and engaging way.
I've listed the games according to the social emotional skill that the game helps foster.
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- What is Social Emotional Learning?
- The 5 Aspects of Social Emotional Learning (Image: Chart)
- When did Social Emotional Learning come about?
- Timeline of Social Emotional Learning (Image: Timeline)
- What are some of the tenets of Social Emotional Learning?
- Does Social Emotional Learning apply only to kids, or can it be used in adult education, too?
- Using games to teach Social Emotional Learning
- Goal: Regulate Negative Emotions
- Goal: Teach Empathy
- Goal: Increase Empowerment and Confidence
- Goal: Ignore Distractions
- Goal: Reflective Listening, Empathy
- Goal: Confidence, Social Coping Skills