Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

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What is SEL?

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.

SEL advances educational equity and excellence through authentic school-family-community partnerships to establish learning environments and experiences that feature trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation. SEL can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities. See how OSD utilizes SEL.



Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and Washington State SEL Standards Core Competencies

The CASEL 5 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.



Washington State SEL Standards, Benchmarks and Indicators

Similar to the CASEL Core Competencies, Washington State has created SEL Standards, Benchmarks and Indicators. They provide a guide as we continue to emphasize social emotional wellness and build on systems for whole child education in the district.



How is SEL valuable?

Over twenty-five years of research has shown the value of SEL programming in schools. Outcomes from studies illustrate how SEL can be a strong lever for equity in our schools and communities. Some highlights:


  • SEL interventions that address CASEL’s five core competencies increased students’ academic performance by 11 percentile points, compared to students who did not participate in such SEL programs. Students participating in SEL programs also showed improved classroom behavior, an increased ability to manage stress and depression, and better attitudes about themselves, others, and school.

  • SEL programming can have a positive impact up to 18 years later on academics, conduct problems, emotional distress, and drug use.

  • The average return on investment for six evidence-based programs is 11 to 1, meaning for every dollar invested there is an $11 return. 

  • There are statistically significant associations between SEL skills in kindergarten and key outcomes for young adults years later. SEL decreased the likelihood of living in or being on a waiting list for public housing, receiving public assistance, having any involvement with police before adulthood, and ever spending time in a detention facility.

  • Six of the Top 10 skills identified by the World Economic Forum involve social and emotional competence. In another survey, 92% of surveyed executives say skills such as problem-solving and communicating clearly are equal to or more important than technical skills. Companies such as Allstate, Bank of America, and Google are prioritizing SEL.



How can we contribute to social and emotional wellness?


Families can....

  • Participate in SEL curriculum activities such a Second Step Home Links.

  • Learn about, practice and model SEL tools and strategies.

  • Partner with your student’s school in supporting your student’s social/emotional development by sharing your family’s background, culture, developmental needs of your child. etc.

Educators can...

  • Learn about and practice S/E wellness for yourself!

  • Think of SEL Standards as just as you think of math, ELA and science standards.

  • Explicitly teach social emotional skills with an evidence based curriculum.

  • Integrate S/E tools with academic content when possible. Posting the standards and benchmarks in your classroom will help! 

  • Utilize teaching strategies like project based learning, cooperative learning etc.

  • Prioritize relationships and belonging in the classroom and among colleagues.

Community Members can...

  • Partner with schools to provide community service opportunities for children and youth.

  • Demonstrate inclusion, respectful discourse, collaboration  and equity within and across the community.

  • If you are a child care provider or a community based program like the YMCA, find out about the SEL tools students are learning in the schools and apply them in your setting.