Social-Emotional Learning and Its Impact on Life

In your profession working with children, you may be hearing people around you talk about evaluating children for effective “social-emotional” skills. In 2006, researchers Cheryl Brauner and Cheryll Stephens suggested using a range for such evaluations, rather than an exact cut-off, to catch children’s need for additional support early and to account for demographic variance. They compiled data from several studies, concluding that the range among children ages 0 to 5 who are affected by social-emotional challenges is 9.5 percent to 14.2 percent, up to one in seven children. As demonstrated by these statistics, professionals can better serve the children they work with when they have a greater understanding of the topic and learn to screen for concerns.

What is Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)?

The history of SEL stretches back a long way, with conceptual roots as old as Plato and beginning to branch toward a more mainstream idea in the 1960s through the 1980s. By the mid-1990s, “the term, social–emotional learning was making its way into the lexicon.”

As stated by the renowned organization CASEL, SEL is an approach to educational advancement that seeks to reinforce “the social, emotional, and academic development of all children” by focusing on the “whole child” in school. The nonprofit group, founded in 1994, coined the term “the CASEL 5,” which “addresses five broad and interrelated areas of competence and highlights examples for each: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.” Nourishing these qualities forms the basis for SEL.

Does SEL Affect School, Relationships, and Later Life?

Joan Duffell, retired Executive Director of the Committee for Children, reported growing awareness that “non-cognitive skills and attributes such as teamwork, emotional maturity, empathy, and other interpersonal skills are as important as proficiency in English and mathematics.” Moreover, she writes, “smart educators know that these social-emotional skills” are “fundamental to a well-educated 21st-century child’s future well-being.”

Strengthening these areas help children to form deeper and healthier bonds with peers through a better understanding of each others’ perspectives. These skills also enable students, and later employees, to tackle projects with better control of their emotions, limiting interference that stress, frustration, anger, and interpersonal conflict can have in accomplishing goals.

Why Does SEL Impact a Child’s Adulthood Prospects?

Reed Koch, along with the Committee for Children, wrote that “an emotionally intelligent workforce” is essential to “increased productivity, innovation, and growth.” Companies that foster excellent SEL competencies are more apt to enjoy efficient, cooperative task and project management, forming a foundation for a more profitable business.

When a person doesn’t understand how to live by the tenets of SEL, unproductive emotions may emerge and surge unchecked. That person may contribute to a rise in workplace conflict and a decline in effective communication. In a professional environment, where interpersonal dysfunction can lead to lost revenue, such a person may fail to hold onto jobs long-term.

By taking a proactive approach to addressing social-emotional challenges, you can give the children you work with the tools they need to flourish now and in the future. WPS is here to help you achieve that goal, offering assessment tools to gauge where the children you work with are currently.