What is SEL?

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control & interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work & life success. Social emotional skills include self awareness, self engagement, responsible decision-making, relationship skills and social awareness. Laying these foundations of SEL in education has positive, long-term benefits in children’s lives.

Defining SEL

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is 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.

Increasingly SEL has become a coordinating framework for how educators, families, and communities partner to promote students’ social, emotional, and academic learning.

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, and positive climate and culture for schools and communities.


According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey of S.C. high school students

  • 25% were currently drinking alcohol
  • 19% were currently using marijuana
  • 15% had taken  pain pills without a doctor’s prescription
  • 26% were offered, sold or given illegal drugs on school property                                             
  • 39% had sex;  91% unprotected
  • 18% had carried a weapon
  • 24% had been in physical fight
  • 21% had been bullied  
  • 33% felt sad or hopeless
  • 19% considered suicide; 11% attempted  suicide              
  • 43% increase in suicides 10-24
  • 250,000 children live in poverty
SEL is needed to help! SEL implementation as a foundation to educational learning has strong evidence that it helps children with all social emotional skills that prevent these statistics from being our reality.
“As a social worker, I find SEL to be an integral component of childhood learning, growth, and development. Schools are more than academic settings. They are safe settings for children to learn and practice relationships. SEL recognizes and supports all children as they develop confidence, empathy, and connections with their peers.” -Mike Ottone, National Association of Social Work - SC Chapter

The top 10 job skills identified by the World Economic Forum all involve social and emotional competence.

  • Complex problem solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • People management
  • Coordinating with others
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Judgment and decision-making
  • Service orientation
  • Negotiation

SEL Impact

An extensive body of rigorous research (including randomized control trials, longitudinal follow-ups, and multiple replications) demonstrates that education that promotes SEL gets results, and that teachers in all academic areas can effectively teach SEL. Evidence demonstrates that social and emotional learning (SEL) improves mental health, social skills and behavior, academic achievement, and college and career readiness.

Educators Value SEL

Teachers are calling for schools to prioritize integrating SEL learning practices and strategies.

Principals Value SEL

Principals say SEL is essential, but want more guidance, training and support to teach these skills effectively.

SEL Investments Yield Returns

On average, for every $1 invested in SEL programming, there is a return of $11.

For more information visit SEL Impact at CASEL.