What is SEL?

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. It refers to a broad set of skills children and adults can learn and use to regulate their emotions, communicate with others, use compassion and empathy to understand the needs of other people, build relationships, and make good decisions.

These foundational life skills become even more important for young people as they enter the workforce and build healthy relationships as adults.

They include:

  • Self-awareness: Knowing their strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and “growth mindset.”
  • Self-management: Effectively managing stress, controlling impulses, and motivating themselves to set and achieve goals.
  • Social awareness: Understanding the perspectives of others and empathizing with them, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
  • Relationship skills: Communicating clearly, listening well, cooperating with others, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict constructively, and seeking and offering help when needed.
  • Responsible decision-making: Making constructive choices on personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety, and social norms.

When we reference SEL, we recognize its complementary nature to related areas that also stress social and emotional development and the safe, supportive, and engaging environments that support it, including:

  • Whole child development
  • Positive youth development
  • Character development
  • 21st century skills
  • Workforce readiness
  • Multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS)
  • Positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS)
  • Trauma-informed practice
  • Restorative justice
  • Positive climate and culture for schools and communities

For more information, visit “What is SEL?” at CASEL.

Download the CASEL Framework

Next: Why do we need SEL?