14Augsel benefits

Decades of research have shown how social emotional (SEL) learning promotes positive outcomes for students, both in the classroom and into their adult lives. The development of foundational social and emotional skills through an SEL curriculum that is integrated into classroom lessons and educational programming carries with it a number of SEL benefits. These benefits are well-researched and contribute to student achievement and well-being. So, how does SEL benefit students?

Let’s take a look at:

  • What SEL is
  • Why it is important to teach
  • What benefits are gained by students and educators through SEL teaching 

What is SEL?

An SEL curriculum integrates social emotional learning into the everyday lessons taught within a classroom. By providing an emotional education for students as well as a cognitive one, educators are able to promote a positive learning culture in the classroom and students gain valuable skills they can use throughout their lives. SEL is an approach to education that gives students a process to acquire tools and knowledge that improve their classroom learning experience and their lives beyond the classroom. 

A Brief History of SEL

Studies conducted and practical application done over several decades has found that social emotional learning plays an essential role in promoting student success, both in the classroom and beyond. Integrating this crucial curriculum into school educational programming benefits both students and educators in multiple ways.

The modern concept of social emotional learning started at the Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine in the 1960’s, but as an integrated part of the educational curriculum became more prominent in the mid-1990’s. At this time, scholars across multiple fields of study began working together to identify key competencies that allowed students to better navigate both school and life. An integrated curriculum emerged that promoted the development of these key competencies in students. Over several decades, this large body of research and practice established a foundational understanding of both the key skills and competencies gained through SEL learning and the benefits of developing them.

In this article, the SEL benefits we refer to come from the body of knowledge gained by these decades of research and practice that has led to the development and application of an SEL curriculum and an understanding of its benefits. 

Why Teach SEL?

The importance of SEL lies in the fact that students need both the hard skills of reading, writing and mathematics, but also the soft skills gained through SEL learning. An SEL education is centered in helping students develop skills such as:

  • Recognizing, understanding and managing emotions
  • Caring and considering others
  • Feeling and showing empathy
  • Making reasonable decisions
  • Understanding and behaving ethically and responsibly
  • Developing and maintaining positive relationships
  • Regulating and avoiding negative behaviors
  • Setting and achieving positive goals

By developing these skills through the process of learning, students in the classroom develop positive SEL behavior that promotes more successful educational outcomes. 

The Benefits of SEL

The benefits of SEL in schools span a wide range for both students and teachers. Let’s dig a little deeper into these SEL benefits

Benefits for Students 

SEL benefits for students are grounded in the development of social and emotional skills and competencies that support positive outcomes throughout their lives. These include:

  • Academic success
  • Healthy behaviors
  • Mental wellness
  • Positive social behavior
  • Healthy well-being
  • Enhanced coping skills and resiliency
  • Future readiness 

Academic Success

One of the main SEL outcomes for students is improved academic performance. Hundreds of studies show improved academic achievement for students who have the opportunities to develop and practice social and emotional skills in the classroom. Grade test scores are higher as is attendance and homework completion rate. The supportive relationships built through SEL accelerates learning across the board, including students cognitive skill development. As SEL supports a more positive educational environment students are more engaged in learning and gain a higher level of investment in school performance. This all positively impacts academic success. 

Healthy Behaviors

Studies have shown SEL classrooms are more relaxed and focused on student engagement rather than negative student behavior. Students who participate in an SEL curriculum more often feel that their concerns are heard and respected. This allows students to focus on learning rather than disruptive behavior. SEL promotes students finding their voice, allowing them to appropriately express their emotions, even anger and aggression, which prevents more damaging behavior to surface. The long-term benefits of recognizing, understanding and managing behavior is considerable as students carry those skills for a lifetime. Studies also demonstrate a decrease in substance abuse among students who develop skills through SEL. 

Mental Wellness

Research on SEL benefits shows that students who engage in an SEL education have less depression, anxiety and stress. Studies suggest that when students develop the core competencies promoted by SEL their executive cognitive functions improve. This allows them to:

  • Focus better
  • Switch their attention more easily from task to task
  • Apply stronger self-regulation skills

Developing these skills lowers students’ emotional stress and raises their overall engagement in learning and life. 

Positive Social Behavior

One of the key SEL benefits is the development of stronger interpersonal interaction skills. In other words, students get along better with others. Learning to develop and maintain positive and productive relationships with their peers, parents and teachers helps students gain the self-knowledge necessary to develop these relationships throughout their lives. Stronger student-teacher and student-peer relationships also establish a more effective learning environment in the classroom. This emphasis on positive social behavior also contributes to a reduction in bullying and student aggression.

Healthy Well-being

A strong SEL education creates a safer and more supportive school climate. This cultivates a sense of belonging in students and strengthens their engagement and connection to the school and its people. This in turn cultivates factors that contribute to students’ overall mental well-being. Caring relationships, safe supportive environments and positive social and emotional skills create a buffer for students against mental health risks. 

Enhanced Coping Skills and Resiliency

Another SEL benefit is the development of students’ coping skills when things do not go as expected. This helps promote resilience in students, which can contribute greatly to their success in and out of the classroom. The same factors that contribute to a student’s sense of belonging and inclusiveness within the school environment contribute to the development of these coping skills.  

Future Readiness

One of the greatest SEL benefits for students is the building of social emotional competencies that contribute to stronger positive lifetime outcomes. Research has shown that SEL education supports students in reaching lifetime milestones, such as high school graduation, completion of postsecondary education and more stable lifetime employment. Since research on SEL benefits has a history that is decades long, it is possible to study the long-term impact of SEL education throughout a student’s life. These studies have shown that the positive impact of an SEL education carries through a students’ school years and into their adult lives. This effectiveness  

SEL Benefits for Teachers

Some of the SEL advantages for teachers include a stronger sense of well-being and a higher sense of job satisfaction. Both of these factors contribute to less teacher burnout.  

SEL helps teachers:

  • Build and maintain stronger relationships with their students
  • Manage their classrooms more effectively
  • Lower the level of anxiety in their classrooms
  • Establish a positive and productive learning environment
  • Promote stronger student engagement with lessons and learning

In other words, SEL benefits teachers by supporting them in doing the job they set out to do. 

Longevity of SEL benefits

Improvement in social and emotional skill building benefits students for a lifetime. Students learn more in school than just reading, writing and arithmetic. Learning involves the whole person and also all the people who make up the school community. In other words, a learning environment is a social space and social spaces are also emotional spaces. SEL benefits the emotional and social learning of students, helping them build both social skills and emotional skills that they can use for the rest of their lives.


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