Social and Emotional Learning Core Competencies

By November 28, 2017Parkland Players

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is one of those phrases that gets mentioned a lot in Early Childhood Education, but not everyone knows exactly what it means or involves. For today’s post we are going to unpack this concept and explain why SEL is an important aspect of childhood development.

Firstly, it is important to begin with a definition. Social and emotional learning (SEL) “involves the processes through which children and adults acquire and effectively 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” (CASEL, 2013, full source at bottom).

SEL can be broken down into five core competencies, which can be understood as five areas within programming that are to be focused on. These competencies are cognitive, affective (mood, emotionality), and behavioural in nature. The core competencies are

  1. Self-awareness: the ability to reflect inward and recognize one’s own emotional state or train of thought.
  2. Self-management: this concept is also sometimes referred to as self-regulation. It is the ability to regulate and modify or manage one’s emotion, and behaviours in stress inducing situations. This also involves self-motivation and goal setting patterns.
  3. Social awareness: this refers to sympathy and empathy. Social awareness means be able to understand other people’s perspectives and emotional states, even if they are different from your own.
  4. Relationship skills: this is the set of skills associated with maintenance of long term and healthy relationships. These skills include communication, cooperation, and constructive problem solving.
  5. Responsible decision-making: This involves making good choices in behaviour and social interaction based on the other skills acquired through social emotional learning. Basically, responsible decision-making brings everything together into an observable result.

When SEL is promoted in the learning environment, with focus on these five core competencies, research shows that certain outcomes can be expected. Specifically, those outcomes include:

  • Improved attitudes about self, others, and school
  • Positive social behaviour
  • Fewer behavioural problems
  • Less emotional turmoil
  • Academic success

This information, including the above photo was adapted from (source): 2013 CASEL Guide: Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs, Preschool and Elementary School Edition. Link to website:


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