Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) refers to the process of acquiring and applying the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that help individuals understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. SEL encompasses both intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies that are essential for success in school, work, and life.1

Importance of Social-Emotional Learning

SEL has gained recognition as a critical component of education because it has been shown to have a positive impact on academic achievement, mental health, and overall well-being. Research suggests that students who participate in SEL programs demonstrate improved academic performance, fewer behavior problems, and better social and emotional skills.2 SEL also helps students to develop resilience, coping mechanisms, and problem-solving skills that are valuable throughout their lives.3

Brief History and Evolution of Social-Emotional Learning

SEL has its roots in humanistic psychology and the work of theorists like Maslow, Rogers, and Erikson, who emphasized the importance of emotional and social development in shaping individuals’ behavior.4 However, the formalization of SEL as a field of study and practice began in the 1990s, with the publication of influential reports such as “The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) Framework”5 and “Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators”6.

Since then, SEL has evolved from a relatively niche field to a mainstream educational approach, with a growing number of schools and districts implementing SEL programs and curricula. SEL has also become an area of research, with studies examining the effectiveness of various SEL interventions and identifying best practices for implementation.7

Core Components of Social-Emotional Learning

CASEL’s Framework identifies five core competencies that form the foundation of SEL:

  1. Self-Awareness: The ability to recognize one’s emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior.
  2. Self-Management: The ability to regulate emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations.
  3. Social Awareness: The ability to understand and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds.
  4. Relationship Skills: The ability to communicate, cooperate, and solve problems with others in healthy ways.
  5. Responsible Decision-Making: The ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms.8

By incorporating these competencies into education, SEL aims to foster the development of the whole child, preparing them for success in school and in life.


  1. Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). What is SEL? Retrieved from 

  2. Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405–432. 

  3. Jones, S. M., Brush, K., Bailey, R., Brion-Meisels, G., McIntyre, J., Kahn, J., Nelson, B., Stickle, L., & Easterling, L. (2020). Navigating SEL from the inside out: Looking inside & across 25 leading SEL programs: A practical resource for schools and OST providers. Harvard Graduate School of Education, EASEL Lab. 

  4. Elias, M. J., Zins, J. E., Weissberg, R. P., Frey, K. S., Greenberg, M. T., Haynes, N. M., & Shriver, T. P. (1997). Promoting social and emotional learning: Guidelines for educators. ASCD. 

  5. Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). (2003). Safe and sound: An educational leader’s guide to evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) programs. Retrieved from 

  6. Dusenbury, L., Weissberg, R. P., Goren, P., & Domitrovich, C. (2015). Advancing educational excellence through social and emotional learning: Research, policy and practice. Springer. 

  7. Greenberg, M. T., Weissberg, R. P., O’Brien, M. U., Zins, J. E., Fredericks, L., Resnik, H., & Elias, M. J. (2003). Enhancing school-based prevention and youth development through coordinated social, emotional, and academic learning. American Psychologist, 58(6-7), 466–474. 

  8. Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). Core SEL competencies. Retrieved from