What Is Social-Emotional Learning?


Social-Emotional Learning, Social-Emotional Skills, and Social-Emotional Well-being… No wonder if you don’t feel 100% fluent with your SEL vocabulary – yet, as we are here to change that.


SEL is an integral part of today’s school slang, but what does it really mean? Surely something interesting and crucial for the student well-being, but rather than parading around with fancy words, we want to break down the true meaning and importance of Social and Emotional Learning.

Group of children studying reading and counting during a school day

The difference between well-being and SEL

Well-being covers the diverse spheres of wellness and health: the physical, mental, and social. These areas overlap and intertwine continuously. Affect one and others will follow. Boosting one’s well-being stretches from physical exercises and games at recess to solving puzzles, making a play or a presentation as a class, maintaining a healthy diet, and securing a good night’s sleep.


SEL is where it all starts. It describes the process of obtaining skills to reflect and deal with different emotions, form, and nurture balanced relationships, manage tasks, and take responsibility in social situations and decision-making. SEL happens when students strengthen their social and emotional skills. As SEL easily stays a touch too abstract, talking about the actual skills helps us define and set concrete goals. Develop your class' SEL by strengthening the following 4 areas:

Social and Emotional Skills are at the very core of learning and well-being. They vary from task performance to emotional, collaboration, and social skills, as well as open-mindedness.

Social Relationships cover all the different relationships in the school community. Communication and interaction between teachers, peers, parents, and guardians, as well as student services. Furthermore, the area helps acknowledge the different communities we are all part of, and the support and resources they provide us with.

Learning consists of all those factors contributing to one’s capability of absorbing and applying new information, connecting causes and effects, and learning how to learn.

Wellness involves the diverse spheres of physical, mental, and social health. These areas overlap and intertwine continuously. All the skills listed above promote wellness. Boosting wellness stretches from physical exercises and games at recess to solving puzzles, making a play or a presentation as a class, maintaining a healthy diet, and securing a good night’s sleep.

Why is SEL important?


Social and emotional learning doesn’t stop at adulthood, but early foundations help children gain a deeper understanding of their emotions, health, and relationships. Strong social and emotional skills drive students to strive, imagine, and experiment.

Knowing the practices that work best for self, as well as being aware of one’s own typical reactions and behavior patterns reduces stress and prevents conflicts, as well as boosts innovativeness, effectiveness, and inspiration – for students and teachers alike. As this development furthers, so too the competence for academic performance increases.

An individual equipped with well-implemented social and emotional skills also contributes more to their community, nourishing their personal relationships, but also spilling that love to the larger circle of fellow human beings. Showing empathy and interest in other people generally reciprocates, easily snowballing into a greater avalanche of kindness.

The importance of SEL is acknowledged by researchers and educational experts around the world. Read more about the OECD survey on Social and Emotional Skills and the Fundamentals of SEL by CASEL.

School Day girl giving an reminder
increase in academic achievement with SEL *
5-12% decrease in school dropout rates associated with SEL
of teachers say SEL is one of their highest priorities in 2021

How to develop SEL in your school

So much of social and emotional learning happens organically through play and interaction with other people. What teachers, school staff, and guardians can do, is to gently guide the children and young people in their lives to reflect different forms of well-being, and how different actions and behavior affect them.

Learning together about well-being, its various stages, and the means to obtain it is a splendid way of supporting social and emotional learning. Even when the goal is to implement social and emotional skills so that they come as second nature, it’s beneficial to have the knowledge up one’s sleeve. 

Two students, a boy and a girl, studying at school

Here is how School Day can help


Unsure about what to do next? Dive into the resources listed in this article and find the right ones for you.
The School Day Well-being Model is just one version of how SEL can be introduced and measured in schools.

Get acquainted with SEL together with your students with our SEL-dedicated lesson plan!