SEL and Civic Learning

Today’s dynamic and multicultural society will call on the next generation of civically-engaged citizens to use a wide range of social and emotional skills—including deep levels of self-awareness, collaborative problem-solving and cultural competence.

By integrating social and emotional learning (SEL) and civic learning, students have opportunities to develop skills and relationships needed to participate as caring and engaged community members. 

Through civic learning, students analyze how issues in the world around them affect their lives, develop an understanding of how they can make a difference, and learn how to work with others to create solutions. SEL helps cultivate critical social and emotional knowledge, beliefs, and skills needed to achieve civic learning goals. For example, young people use their:

  • Self-awareness and social awareness to analyze and reflect on issues they care about in their schools and communities.
  • Self-management to demonstrate agency and identify how to make a positive difference.
  • Relationship skills and responsible decision-making to work with others to take actions to address important issues.

We’re also continuing to learn from research about the impact of SEL on civic life: A 2017 study suggests that social and emotional skills developed in childhood can support long-term civic participation. Additionally, ongoing research from the University of Michigan is continuing to examine relationships between SEL practices and student civic engagement aimed at just and equitable schools and communities. Read the 2017 study.

Together, SEL and civic learning empower young people to work together toward solutions for a more just, inclusive, and equitable world.

How is CASEL advancing this work?

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2021 SEL Exchange

Hosted by CASEL, the SEL Exchange is a national forum on SEL. The SEL Exchange is a unique and timely opportunity for those who are committed to creating caring, productive, and equitable schools and communities that ensure that all students can thrive. The theme of our event on October 14, 2021 was: Beyond Talk: Building Tomorrow Together/SEL and Civic Learning for Empowered Youth. Learn more

Transformative SEL (TSEL)

TSEL is a form of SEL implementation toward the aim of concentrating SEL practice on transforming inequitable settings and systems and promoting justice-oriented civic engagement. One of its core features is enhancing and foregrounding social and emotional competencies needed for civic engagement and social change. These include reflecting on personal and social identities, examining prejudices and biases, interrogating social norms, disrupting and resisting inequities, and co-constructing equitable and just solutions. Learn more about Transformative SEL.

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Ready to Engage
Reports & Guidance Ready to Engage Civic
July 1, 2021
Same Old Civics Ed. Won’t Save Us
Articles & Briefs Same Old Civics Ed. Won’t Save Us EdWeek
January 19, 2021
Countering Truth Decay
Articles & Briefs Countering Truth Decay RAND Corporation
January 1, 2018
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