Education Depends on Social Emotional Learning

Social and emotional abilities are said to be indicators of how well a person adjusts to his or her environment, adapts to change and, ultimately, how successful she or he will be in life. In fact, core development abilities such as conscientiousness, emotional stability, openness and agreeableness can be as or even more important than cognitive intelligence in determining future employment. Despite these competencies being related to consequential life outcomes, it can be challenging for educators to find effective ways to prioritize, teach and assess social and emotional skills.

Developing these core life abilities through social and emotional learning (SEL) is critical to a child’s development, as it directly correlates to success and happiness as an adult. For many children, school is the only place where any deficiencies in these abilities can be addressed before they become active members of society.Developing these core life abilities through social and emotional learning (SEL) is critical to a child’s development, as it directly correlates to success and happiness as an adult.

Combining these skills with academic development creates high-quality learning experiences and environments that empower students to be more effective contributors in their classrooms today and in their workplaces and communities tomorrow.

However, the benefits of SEL do not end at graduation. A recent study from The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)looked at five primary social and emotional skills—open-mindedness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, extraversion and agreeableness—to determine which are the strongest indicators of success. The study revealed a lack of SEL regularly correlated with unfavorable outcomes such as an increased chance of unemployment, divorce, poor health, criminal behavior and imprisonment.

To further justify the advantages of SEL, the report shared that advances in neuroscience imply developing SEL skills in kindergarten “can have long-term academic benefits on students’ reading and vocabulary, including in high poverty schools, suggesting that SEL may assist in closing achievement gaps.” It also stated, “researchers at Columbia University concluded that for every dollar a school spends on social-emotional learning programs, it sees an eleven dollar return on its investment,” indicating the investment in SEL is worthwhile.

The development of these skills has shown overall positive results, including better academic performance, improved attitudes, behaviors and relationships with peers, as well as deeper connection to school, fewer delinquent acts and reduced emotional distress (student depression, anxiety, stress and social withdrawal).

When it comes to translating those skills beyond the classroom, the OECD explains that subjective well-being can be defined as having a positive mental state; when reviewing the impact of SEL on adolescents, the results—which mirror findings from adult samples—indicate more ties between SEL skills and life satisfaction than between cognitive skills and life satisfaction by nearly 10 percent. Emotional stability appears to be the most relevant of the top SEL skills that correlate to life satisfaction, with consciousness and extraversion showing relevance in job and life satisfaction.

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