Definition & Competencies of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

Definition of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.

When these skills are applied in social contexts, they promote successful self-management, communication, collaboration, and meaningful, high-trust relationships. When applied in educational settings, social and emotional skills strengthen effective learning by developing vital skills such as responsibility, resilience, focus, goal-setting, prioritization, empathy, communication, collaboration, and motivation.

SEL emerged from a meeting in 1994 hosted by the Fetzer Institute. Meeting attendees included researchers, educators, and child advocates involved in various education-based efforts to promote positive development in children. These SEL pioneers came together to address a concern about ineffective school programming and a lack of coordination among programs at the school level. SEL was introduced as a framework that addresses the needs of young people and helps to align and coordinate school programs and programming.

Competencies of Social and Emotional Learning

Under CASEL’s leadership, the model has evolved over the years to become more systematic, emphasizing school-wide models and encouraging working with families, schools, and communities. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is a renowned authority on promoting and practicing social and emotional skills. In particular, their work promotes the integration of academics, social, and emotional learning for students from pre-K through grade 12.

Further, CASEL Framework can be seen below:

CASEL (2020)

Through their collaborative work with researchers and educators, CASEL (2018) has identified five core social-emotional learning competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. The core of SEL implementation is promoting students’ social and emotional learning throughout the school day and in partnership with families and communities. 


The first Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) competency is self-awareness. It is about how we think about ourselves and who we are. This competency include understanding our culture, thoughts and feelings, and what we believe we can. It is also about understanding how these things can influence our behaviors and beliefs (CASEL Workbook, 2022).

Self-awareness includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Identifying emotions
  • Identifying personal, cultural, and linguistic
  • Recognizing strengths
  • Self-confidence
  • Self-efficacy
  • Linking feelings, values, and thoughts
  • Demonstrating honesty and integrity
  • Having a growth mindset
  • Developing interests and a sense of purpose       


The second is self-management. It is about managing our emotions, thoughts, and actions as we work toward goals. It includes coping with stress and anxiety, persevering through challenges, and developing a sense of personal agency (a willingness and ability to take action to make a difference) (CASEL Workbook, 2022).

Moreover, self-management includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Impulse control
  • Stress management
  • Self-discipline
  • Self-motivation
  • Goal-setting
  • Organizational skills

Responsible Decision Making

The third competency of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is responsible decision-making. It is how we make positive and informed choices. It includes thinking about the consequences of our actions, being curious and open-minded to new perspectives and information, and identifying solutions that benefit the community and us (CASEL Workbook, 2022). Responsible Decision-Making includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Identifying problems
  • Analyzing situations
  • Solving problems
  • Evaluating
  • Reflecting
  • Ethical responsibility
  • Demonstrating curiosity and open-mindedness   
  • Learning to make a reasoned
  • judgment after analyzing information, data, facts
  • Identifying solutions for personal and social problems   
  • Recognizing how critical thinking skills are useful both inside & outside of school
  • Anticipating & evaluating the consequences       
  • Reflecting on one’s role in promoting personal, family, and community well-being.

Relationship Skills

Another Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) competency is relationship skill. It is how we get along with others and form lasting friendships and connections. It includes communicating clearly, solving problems together, managing conflicts and disagreements, and standing up for ourselves and others (CASEL Workbook, 2022). This competency include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Relationship building
  • Teamwork
  • Seeking or offering support and help when needed        
  • Communicating effectively         
  • Developing positive relationships
  • Practicing teamwork and collaborative problem-solving 
  • Demonstrating cultural competency        
  • Resolving conflicts constructively
  • Standing up for the rights of others         
  • Resisting negative social pressure
  • Showing leadership in groups

Social Awareness 

The last competency is social awareness. It is how we understand others, how we learn to take on different perspectives and empathize with people, even those who are different. It also includes understanding how what is happening can influence us and how we create and feel a sense of belonging (CASEL Workbook, 2022). Social awareness includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Recognizing situational demands and opportunities
  • Identifying diverse social norms, including unjust ones
  • Appreciating diversity
  • Understanding and expressing gratitude
  • Taking others’ perspectives
  • Recognizing strengths in others
  • Demonstrating empathy and compassion
  • Respect for others
  • Showing concern for the feelings of others
  • Understanding the influences of organizations/systems on behavior

Pdf version could be downloaded below:

References and Recommended Reading

Tenry Colle
Tenry Colle

Hi! My name is A. Tenry Lawangen Aspat Colle. I am a motivated and resourceful English educator. In addition, as the owner of @rymari.translation17 has shaped me to be a punctual and dependable translator of Indonesian to English and vice versa.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *