There is a lot of buzz about implementing social emotional learning in the classroom. We constantly hear that SEL is important for development and that the benefits are endless. These statements are very true! But what is the meaning of social emotional learning, especially for adolescents? The definition provided above applies to SEL for everyone, as a whole. However, understanding how to implement SEL in a secondary classroom, requires a further breakdown of the meaning to grasp the full scope of how to make it effective and see the importance and benefits of SEL for teens.

Casel – Social emotional learning 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.

What is Social Emotional Learning?

Social emotional learning is an essential part of education and human development. The skills acquired through SEL are vital for success in life. The knowledge and skills mentioned in definitions for SEL can be broken down into five core competencies making it is easy to see how social emotional learning benefits everyone, young or old.

SEL: Five Core Competencies


This is the ability to recognize your own thoughts, feelings, actions, strengths, and limitations. This realization gives you the capacity to build confidence and purpose. Developing self-awareness allows you to focus on building self-efficacy and an accurate self-perception.


Managing emotions, stress, and behavior is a very important skill for people to develop. The skill of self-management could arguably be the basis for all other SEL skills. Being able to manage impulses, stress, and motivation is essential to achieving success in anything you do. Self-management serves as a regulator for setting and achieving goals as well as self-discipline.

Social Awareness:

We have always been taught to treat others the way we want to be treated, but developing social awareness goes far beyond this. Social awareness focuses on seeing things from other people’s perspectives to develop empathy and furthermore provides an opportunity to develop a growth mindset by actively listening to others with an open mind. This leads to an appreciation of diversity and respect for others as a result.

Relationship Skills:

Being able to communicate effectively, listen actively, cooperate, and work collaboratively is essential to building problem-solving skills and negotiating conflict. Honing the skills associated with establishing and maintaining relationships builds confidence to be able to ask for help when needed, moreover, this provides leadership to others. Social engagements cannot be avoided whether it is for school, work, or everyday life. Rising to the top as a leader in any field requires appropriate relationship skills.

Responsible Decision Making:

The development of SEL skills allows us to realistically evaluate decisions and actions. In every stage of life, we are required to identify problems and analyze situations to discover solutions. We discover solutions by evaluating possible options, then reflecting on how each would help the situation.

The Benefits of Social Emotional Learning in the Classroom

With a closer look at the five core competencies of SEL, it is very apparent that these skills are necessary for all people. When thinking about how to aid in the development of children, especially teens, teachers are often left searching for answers. Teachers are required to cover large amounts of academic content and consequently feel like there is little time to add anything else to their curriculum. However, the integration and implementation of SEL into daily classroom practices, procedures, routines, and content makes their job (and their students’ job) much easier and more enjoyable. Past studies have highlight the benefits of SEL competence for students.

  1. SEL leads to improved academic outcomes among students. Students improve their academic performance by understanding how to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, manage stress, listen to others’ ideas, ask for help, as well as assess their actions.
  2. SEL improves students’ attitudes. For instance, adolescent’s motivation to succeed academically becomes intrinsic because he or she can effectively navigate the experiences of everyday life.
  3. SEL leads to fewer conduct problems (every teacher’s dream…am I right?). Many disruptions in classrooms happen because students lack the confidence and skills to tackle academic tasks. By acquiring SEL skills, students develop the capacity to thrive in an academic environment.
  4. Students are more likely to graduate from high school, complete a college degree, and secure a stable job in adulthood as a result of SEL competence. Finally, sustainable success!

Why Teach Social Emotional Learning?

Social emotional learning is a necessary part of whole child development. It encompasses skills that are required to reach the pinnacle of success. SEL classroom integration leads to a stronger teacher-student connection, higher academic performance, reduced bullying, decreased disruptive behavior, and increased ability to relate to your students. Finally, the most appealing part for teachers is that it can be done with little to no preparation or addition to your already full plate!