The Benefits of SEL
The benefits of a SEL curriculum are well documented by researchers in education. Educators report increased academic success, more pro-social behavior and less anti-social behaviors, and a greater readiness for success in the adult workplace.
The core skills of SEL (self-awareness, social-awareness, self-regulation, relationship skills, and relationship management ) are fundamental skills for classroom learning. While tasks like learning multiplication tables may seem straight-forward, they depend on a student’s ability to perform ancillary tasks, such as turn-taking or impulse control. A child who is less skilled at these ancillary tasks must expend more energy and therefore will have less energy to put towards learning. It is not surprising that, once SEL skills increase, academic performance increases. As the authors of a landmark report stated, “...students receiving school-based SEL scored 11 percentile points higher on academic achievement tests than their peers who did not receive SEL." (Durlak, Weissberg, Taylor, & Dymnicki, pending).
Secondly, schools with SEL programs report a higher degree of pro-social behavior. For example, teachers report an increase in students self-initiating empathetic acts. Similarly, teachers report that students are more able to manage conflict amongst themselves for longer before involving an adult. Correspondingly, researchers have found that children at primary and secondary schools with a SEL curriculum have fewer behavioral problems, less truancy, less violence, and a lower incident of drug use. School districts have documented that, after implementing SEL curricula into schools, they saw a significant reduction in behavior interventions.
Thirdly, the core skills taught in a SEL curriculum prepare kids for the adult workplace more effectively than a school that only emphasizes academics. Researchers exploring excellence in the 21st century workplace have found that the academic preparation of individuals did not predict excellence as directly as did SEL Skills. The ability to read another’s emotions, along with turn taking, relationship management, and perspective taking are skills that differentiate individuals who excel at working in groups from those whose group work is mediocre. As columnist and social commentator David Brooks has written:
“Most people work in groups. We do this because groups are much more efficient at solving problems than individuals.… Participating in a well-functioning group is really hard. It requires the ability to trust people outside your kinship circle, read intonations and moods, understand how the psychological pieces each person brings to the room can and cannot fit together.”
Schools that have school-wide SEL curricula better prepare their students to work in groups.