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The Long-term economic benefits of Social and Emotional learning

/The Long-term economic benefits of Social and Emotional learning
The Long-term economic benefits of Social and Emotional learning

The Long-term economic benefits of Social and Emotional learning

What is Social/Emotional Learning (SEL)?

SEL is a process wherein individuals learn to acquire the tools, knowledge, and skill sets so that they can:

  • Understand and manage their emotions
  • Set and achieve positive goals
  • Feel and show empathy for others
  • Establish and maintain positive relationships
  • Make responsible decisions

An SEL approach helps students process and integrate their social and emotional skills in school.

According to research, social/emotional learning offers the following benefits:

Academic success.

Developing stronger social/emotional skills improves the academic performance of students. The ‘soft skills’ that students develop through SEL are shown to improve their attitudes towards school and as a result, increase their performance in the classroom. When a student knows that his or her feelings will be heard and respected, it’ll be easier for that student to relax and focus at school.

Fewer behavioral problems.

Students engaged in SEL are less aggressive and disruptive in school. Studies have shown these benefits are long-term as SEL students still have 10% fewer psychological, behavioral, or substance abuse problems when they reach the age of 25.

Less emotional distress.

SEL students also have fewer occurrences of depression, anxiety, stress and social withdraw as evidenced by measures like the Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale. Research suggests that SEL programs actually affect central executive cognitive functions which improve students’ inhibitory control, planning, and ability to switch attention from one task to the other. Essentially, as students practice the new behaviours that they learn in SEL programs, they develop stronger self-regulation skills.

Positive social behaviour.

Social interaction skills and self-knowledge— essential for students to develop and maintain positive, productive relationships with peers, parents and teachers— are hallmarks of SEL. SEL outcomes may seem quite straightforward or even intuitive; however, they actually need to be learned—mostly through observation, experience, and direct guidance. SEL is a process, and therefore requires time, patience, and especially educators that are committed to providing a safe and caring learning environment.

5 Keys to Successful SEL


Chart like a wheel with Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning as the hub with Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision-Making branching out.

Effective social and emotional learning help students develop the following five key skills:


Self-awareness involves understanding one’s own emotions, personal goals, and values. This includes accurately assessing one’s strengths and limitations, having positive mindsets, and possessing a well-grounded sense of self-efficacy and optimism. High levels of self-awareness require the ability to recognize how thoughts, feelings, and actions are interconnected.


Self-management requires skills and attitudes that facilitate the ability to regulate one’s own emotions and behaviours. This includes the ability to delay gratification, manage stress, control impulses, and persevere through challenges in order to achieve personal and educational goals.

Social Awareness

Social awareness involves the ability to understand, empathize, and feel compassion for those with different backgrounds or cultures. It also involves understanding social norms for behaviour and recognizing family, school, and community resources and supports.

Relationship Skills

Relationship skills help students establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships, and to act in accordance with social norms. These skills involve communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict constructively, and seeking help when it is needed.

Responsible Decision Making

Responsible decision-making involves learning how to make constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across diverse settings. It requires the ability to consider ethical standards, safety concerns, accurate behavioral norms for risky behaviours, the health and well-being of self and others, and to make a realistic evaluation of various actions’ consequences.

School is one of the primary places where students learn social and emotional skills.