• Jonas Munson

Social and Emotional Learning

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

In past blogs, we’ve explored the history and importance of emotional intelligence -- the ability to perceive, monitor, and articulate your own emotions while helping others do the same. EQ is an essential component of strong interpersonal relationships and can greatly improve quality of life. Lucky for us, there’s a tried and true method for developing it: social and emotional learning.

Social and emotional learning, or SEL, was first pioneered in the late 1960s at two elementary schools in New Haven, Connecticut. James Comer, a researcher at the Yale School of Medicine’s Child Study Center, worked with a team of parents and staff to reform academic and extracurricular programs in order to better serve students and prepare them for life outside the classroom (1). Rather than treating education as a business where the sole goal is improving graduation rates, the new systems focused on developing problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills in students as well as better preparing parents and teachers to assist in the emotional growth process. The results of the New Haven program, and others like it, were astonishing: test scores, attendance, and self-esteem among students all drastically improved, while behavioral problems declined (2).

In the 1990s, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) was formed and quickly took the lead in advocating and coordinating SEL programs in schools (1). CASEL identified five core competencies -- self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making -- that measure social-emotional development, similar to Daniel Goleman’s five aspects of emotional intelligence. These elements can be explored in schools and classrooms as well as homes and communities.

Now more than ever, the implementation of social and emotional learning programs in schools and communities is vital in order to better prepare students for present and future challenges. While modern media platforms have increased overall connectivity, they have stunted the development of interpersonal skills in youth and created a disconnect between reality and the online world. Furthermore, a bleak economic forecast and limited job market will likely make emotional intelligence an even more indispensable skill for recent graduates looking to enter the workforce. SEL instruction gives students the opportunity to better understand both their own and others’ emotions, and ensures that the next generation is set up for success.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3117408/

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