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Importance of SEL

Why is Social Emotional Learning important?

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) helps youth acquire and apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. Social and emotional skill building can have a positive impact on school climate, help students become good learners, and prevent or reduce many risky behaviors, including drug use, violence, bullying and dropping out.

Durlak, Weissberg et al.'s 2011 analysis of 213 studies that focused on SEL in schools indicates that students receiving quality SEL instruction demonstrated:

  • Better academic performance: Achievement scores an average of 11 percentile points higher than students who did not receive SEL instruction;
  • Improved attitudes and behaviors: Greater motivation to learn, deeper commitment to school, increased time devoted to schoolwork, and better classroom behavior;
  • Fewer negative behaviors: Decreased disruptive class behavior, noncompliance, aggression, delinquent acts, and disciplinary referrals; and
  • Reduced emotional distress: Fewer reports of student depression, anxiety, stress, and social withdrawal.

Taylor, Rebecca D. et al.’s “Promoting Positive Youth Development Through School-Based Social and Emotional Learning Interventions: A Meta-Analysis of Follow-Up Effects” indicates that the benefits of SEL last after the intervention has ended.

  • Increased test scores: 3.5 years after the last SEL intervention, students who received the SEL support scored on average 13 percentile points higher than their peers who did not receive the intervention.
  • Student well-being: Students who received the intervention had fewer conduct problems, including drug use, as well as increased emotional wellness.
  • Monetary benefits: Student who participated in the SEL programming are less likely be arrested, be diagnosed with a clinical mental health disorder, and have lower rates of sexually transmitted disease and teenage pregnancy.

American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution 2015 analysis on three domains of life that impact poverty in America; family, work and education. Recommendations to improve education include educating the whole child to promote social-emotional and character development as well as academic skills.

  • Increasingly economists, employers and corporate leaders are recognizing how vital “soft-skills” are to success in the labor market: These include workplace skills such as the ability to follow directions, cooperate with coworkers, focus on tasks and complete them on time. Also included are personal skills like managing one’s own feelings, and making responsible decisions about one’s own life.
  • A 2011 study reviewed over 200 studies that involved more than 200,000 children: Found that school-based SEL programs, implemented by teachers in elementary, middle and secondary schools not only improved children’s SEL skills, but also improved their mental health/behavioral problems and their standardized achievement test scores.
  • As students adjust to school demands such as established order, clear academic standards, and high expectations from teachers, they learn how they are supposed to behave: Thus, social-emotional learning occurs, and then academic learning occurs. This combination allows schools to produce students who score well on standardized tests and have high graduation rates.

Jones, Damon E. et al.’s 2015 study focused on the Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness.

  • Early Intervention Models: Early social competence at least serves as a marker for important long-term outcomes and at most is instrumental in influencing other developmental factors that collectively affect the life course.
  • Cognitive Ability vs. Noncognitive Skills: For future success in the workplace, levels of cognitive ability measured through IQ or test scores alone are less predictive than measures of educational attainment, which require not just cognitive ability but also non cognitive characteristics such as self-discipline, academic motivation, and interpersonal skills. Future likelihood of committing crimes is greatly influenced by noncognitive processes in development, such as externalizing behavior, social empathy, and effectively regulating emotions.
  • Teacher Measured Social Competence: Teacher-rated prosocial skills in kindergarten were a consistently significant predictor across all outcome domains studied. Findings suggest significant associations between measured social-emotional skills in kindergarten and key young adult outcomes across multiple domains of education, employment, criminal activity, substance use, and mental health.

Belfield, Clive et al.’s 2015 analysis of the economic returns to investment for social emotional learning reveal:

  • Measurable benefits that exceed costs: With an average benefit-cost ratio of 11 to 1, meaning for every dollar spent there is a return of eleven dollars;
  • Most SEL interventions have multiple goals and benefits: Attempts to reduce aggression may also improve impulse control and may raise academic achievement;
  • Return on these educational investments do offer high economic returns: SEL interventions can be measured through benefit-cost analysis.
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