Why teach SEL explicitly in schools?

What is social and emotional learning (SEL)

Social and emotional learning is about learning how to manage feelings, manage friendships and solve problems. These are essential life skills that support wellbeing and positive mental health. Social and emotional skills promote children’s ability to cope with difficulties and help to prevent mental health problems. Children who have developed social and emotional skills find it easier to manage themselves, relate to others, resolve conflict, and feel positive about themselves and the world around them. Social and emotional learning provides practical skills that all children can learn and apply to everyday situations. Learning skills such as self-awareness, effective communication and conflict resolution can also help to prevent the development of mental health difficulties in children who might otherwise be vulnerable.In this way teaching children social and emotional skills helps to promote resilience – the capacity to cope and stay healthy in spite of the negative things that happen through life.

What does social and emotional learning have to do with learning?

Research has shown that children’s learning is influenced by a range of social and emotional factors. How well children do at school is affected by things such as:

  • how confident children feel about their abilities
  •  how effectively they are able to manage their own behaviour
  •  how well they can concentrate and organise themselves
  •  how effectively they can solve problems
  •  how positively they are able to get on with teaching staff and with peers
  •  how effectively they take into account others’ needs
  •  how well they can understand and accept responsibilities.

How social and emotional learning is taught

A number of programs for school-based teaching of social and emotional skills have been developed in Australia and internationally. For the implementation of KidsMatter Primary, schools select the program (or programs) that best suit their particular needs. Social and emotional learning programs that have been shown through research to improve children’s social and emotional competence are more likely to achieve goals related to improving students’ mental health. KidsMatter Primary provides schools with detailed information about programs and the research evidence for their effectiveness.

School-wide classroom teaching of social and emotional learning allows staff and tudents to share a common understanding of what it is all about. Importantly, the emphasis of its teaching needs to be not just on learning about emotions and relationships, but on practical skills that children can apply across a range of situations at school, at home and in the broader community. Classroom teaching which is offered regularly will maximise the benefits. Opportunities for learning can be coordinated across the school so that children can continue to develop their skills with age and experience. Children learn social and emotional skills most effectively when they are also reinforced at home. Many social and emotional learning programs include components for involving the family and community in promoting the teaching. This gives parents and carers the chance to learn about the particular approach schools take and what they can do to support children’s social and emotional learning. In this way, school-based social and emotional learning offers gains all round – for students, for schools and for families.