Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is Critical to Child Development


As children grow, they become more adept at understanding how to communicate in new and exciting ways.  To excel at communicating at the next level, children must be able to master controlling the emotional side of their communication style.  Through programs such as Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), children can positively change and develop well-rounded communication skills that give them the best chances to succeed as adults.  Critical communication skills such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and decision-making all comprise the underlying structure of Social Emotional Learning (SEL).  The positive results of SEL have not yet been verified in studies, but parents have seen its developmental benefits firsthand after integrating the components in their day-to-day with their child. With more positive testimonials being shared amongst parents and educators alike, there has been an increased push to integrate the major components of SEL in the classroom.  Let’s look into how ESSA has allowed SEL to flourish and become a possible avenue for future emotional communication development in and outside the classroom.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Signed into effect on December 10, 2015 by President Barack Obama, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is technically the revised and updated version of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act that was enacted by President George W. Bush in 2002.  ESSA is also an update on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) which was a Civil Rights era law enacted by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. All share a similar goal of creating nationalized education for all individuals. ESSA is focused on getting all students to succeed via the latest innovative learning techniques.  Under ESSA, school districts are help to higher standards for accountability in their quest to improve the educational system. This act allows for the prioritization of social and emotional learning techniques that help students to develop the critical thinking and emotional skills that they need to be successful in the workforce.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

With ESSA now fully enacted, teachers have their work cut out of them to integrate key innovative components into their daily routine.  Historically, U.S. school systems have been geared towards having students focus on repetition and memorization. Although these routines are popular and moderately successful, they do not provide students with life skills that they need to be successful as adults.  This is where Social Emotional Learning (SEL) comes in handy when integrated into ESSA-era classroom activities.


SEL is built on the backbone of five components: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and decision-making.  These competencies can be integrated into any lesson either through the teacher or a school-appointed associate such as a counselor. These components allow students to expand their cognitive functioning skills that can be utilized in everyday situations (i.e. conflict resolution, mindfulness, emotional awareness, etc.).  A 2011 report found that SEL instruction allowed students to achieve scores more than 11 percentile points higher than non-SEL instructed students.  Since the focus of SEL instruction is on supporting social and emotional development that students can focus and recall important details quicker and better than via memorization practices.


Closing Thoughts

As children reach prominent milestones in their development, they need proper classroom instruction that features Social-Emotional Learning (SEL).  Implementing SEL in the classroom allows schools to meet and exceed expectations set by Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and set children up for success through all major communication and developmental stage of their life.