Social-Emotional Learning: What Is It and Why Does it Matter?


When it comes to K–12 education, you may feel like you’re sifting through a batch of alphabet soup. New abbreviations are often tossed into the mix of things you need to remember as part of your child's learning and development.

While we may not have blogs dedicated to all of the newest lingo (yet!), there is an important term that this blog will guide you through SEL. What on earth does it mean, where did it come from, and what should you know about it?

Social-emotional learning: A rundown

SEL stands for—you guessed it—social-emotional learning. This type of learning, while not necessarily a curriculum of textbooks and equations, is as crucial in a student’s development as, for example, STEM-focused lessons.

Academic learning turns students into knowledgeable young adults. Adding SEL programming increases students’ self-awareness, academic achievement, and positive behavior.

Dr. John Thompson, an award-winning retired inner-city teacher and historian, recently described the goal of SEL in the Sustainable Journalism Foundation nonprofit news publication, NonDoc.

“Social-emotional learning seeks to build empathetic bonds so educators can help students manage emotions, reach positive goals, build trusting relationships, develop self-control and make responsible decisions,” Thompson wrote.

Research backs social-emotional learning

Social-emotional learning helps students learn to navigate and manage their emotions, develop empathy, set and achieve personal goals, explore healthy self-awareness and identities, and become aware of responsible decision-making.

It involves obtaining new knowledge, but more importantly, it helps foster new attitudes. These more evolved outlooks are shown to have an impact on students’ mental wellness, academic performance, and relationships with their peers, teachers, and family.

Studies and analyses show social-emotional learning to be a valuable asset, helping students to improve their outcomes as adults later

In 2021, McGraw Hill commissioned a survey following a study they led in 2018 and the findings were compiled into a report published in 2021. McGraw Hill found that “62 percent of parents feel teaching SEL is very important compared to 55 percent three years ago.” The survey also found 81 percent of parents surveyed believe SEL is not emphasized as much as it should be, that it has become even more important since the beginning of the pandemic (82 percent), and SEL is helpful for children learning online (80 percent).”

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and Civic published a report in 2018 that found students, “see the benefits of attending schools that emphasize social and emotional learning (SEL), especially in terms of improving relationships, reducing bullying, and preparing them for postsecondary education, work, and life.”

How is social-emotional learning implemented in The Academy at Laurel Springs?

We are committed to helping students develop and progress in all ways. Each student enrolled in The Academy at Laurel Springs, a rigorous academic program for driven and gifted scholars in grades 6–12, participates in a Seminar course featuring an embedded SEL curriculum. Monthly opportunities are also provided for students to join their peers and counselors in live virtual settings to discuss SEL-related topics.

The Academy’s SEL curriculum includes materials and resources provided by Mosaic by ACT, Mindprint Learning, and Project Wayfinder

Learn more about The Academy and how we’re empowering students to take charge of their academic and personal success during an upcoming Virtual Open House.