3 Clear Benefits of Social-Emotional Learning Programs
Is social-emotional learning (SEL) as important as industry leaders say? We’ve all seen the SEL methods Ted Lasso uses to inspire his soccer players on the hit TV show, but do they really contribute to long-term learning and success for students and educators?
While many have discussed whether educational institutions should be responsible for teaching students ideas and practices outside of pure academics, the research is clear. When social-emotional learning programs are implemented in schools, students and educators thrive.
In a recent episode of Lexia’s podcast, All for Literacy, host Dr. Liz Brooke spoke with Trisha DiFazio and Allison Roeser about the idea of SEL and how it fits into the educational environment. DiFazio and Roeser are the authors of Social Emotional Learning Starts with Us, an essential resource that guides teachers through strategies to implement SEL into everyday instruction.
Providing tools to educators that improve the social-emotional well-being of their students measurably improves the classroom experience as a whole. When students have internal and external awareness and the ability to make responsible decisions, the classroom becomes more balanced and energy flows toward learning and growth. And when classes can focus on making educational strides, teachers and administrators experience a decrease in stress and an increase in job satisfaction.
The benefits of SEL programs trickle up from students, to teachers, and to administrators, and are eventually capable of changing an entire district.
What is Social-Emotional Learning?
A resource for all things social-emotional learning, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)describes SEL as “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.”
Essentially, SEL includes five core social and emotional competencies—self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. SEL programs seek to foster the development of these competencies so students can thrive personally and academically.
Benefits of Social-Emotional Learning Programs
From the definition alone, SEL sounds like an ideal scenario, but what does the research say about program outcomes?
The data has shown overwhelmingly positive results, leading all 50 states to adopt comprehensive SEL standards with developmental benchmarks for preschool students.
Let’s walk through three crucial outcomes of social-emotional learning programs:
Benefit 1 – SEL programs lead to improved cognition and academic outcomes
CASEL analyzed 213 studies that involved more than 270,000 students and found SEL programs lead to improved academic performance and student cognition. This landmark meta-analysis found SEL programs increased student academic performance by 11 percentile points compared to students who did not participate.
DiFazio says, “We know [SEL] is tied into every academic content area because…emotional and cognition are linked.” She goes on to discuss how when students have positive beliefs about their identities—for example, stating “I am a reader” versus “I’m not a good reader”—their performance is likely to improve.
SEL programs show students how to change or reframe their mindset, which can be a powerful tool when it comes to academic improvement and success.
Benefit 2 – SEL programs lead to reduced disruptive behaviors and emotional distress
The same meta-analysis conducted by CASEL found students who participated in SEL programs showed improved classroom behavior, an increased ability to manage stress, and a better attitude overall.
In our All for Literacy episode, Roeser discusses how “SEL puts relationships and engagement at the heart of schooling.” And how when these elements become the focus of schooling, students feel empowered to make positive and healthy decisions. This often leads to better relationships with teachers, peers, and even with technology and social media.
It’s no secret teacher burnout is a real problem in education and can cause educators to leave the field. When SEL programs reduce disruptive behaviors in the classroom, teachers have the energy and bandwidth to focus on the lesson at hand. This keeps teacher stress to a minimum and contributes to the retention of quality educators.
Benefit 3 – SEL programs lead to socially and emotionally competent adults
Various data analyses by CASEL measured a positive correlation between strong emotional competencies and higher levels of well-being up to 18 years later. Similarly, there were statistically significant associations between early social and emotional skills development and reduced societal costs required for public assistance, public housing, police involvement, and detention.
“They're even linking the long-term benefits [of SEL programs] now to less drug use, [and] lower level of incarceration,” DiFazio states in our related podcast episode. “[Studies are] finding that emotional regulation [is] one of the most important skills you can have as an adult.” And that finding success as an adult is often related to one’s emotional regulation skills.
Helping students thrive through a deep understanding of social-emotional learning
The numbers have spoken—social-emotional learning programs lead to positive benefits in student and instructor well-being. Study outcomes have solidified these intervention methods as a critical part of education.
Educators and administrators can help students thrive by understanding the core competencies of SEL and how to best integrate programs into their classrooms and schools. This, in turn, leads to a higher feeling of job satisfaction for teachers and administrators and decreased incidence of burnout.
Listen to DiFazio and Roeser on the All for Literacy podcast for more about how to implement SEL strategies into everyday instruction and schoolwide culture.
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