What is SEL?

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

  • A Systemic Framework

    For a growing number of schools and districts, SEL has become a coordinating framework for how educators, families, and communities partner to promote students’ social, emotional, and academic learning.

    SEL is embedded in their strategic plans, staffing, professional learning, and budgets. It guides their curriculum choices and classroom instruction — both direct practice in SEL as well as integrated instruction with reading, math, history, and other core subjects.

    It drives many of their schoolwide practices and policies. It informs how adults and students relate with each other at all levels of the system, creating a welcoming, participatory, and caring climate for learning.

    It shapes their partnerships with families and community members, highlighting engagement, trust, and collaboration.

    And it works. Check out the research.

    SEL in Action

    Our partner districts are developing tools to help districts conduct needs assessments, align resources, select programs, assess progress, and more.

    Through our partnerships with leaders in our Collaborating States Initiative we’ve developed resources to integrate SEL with English Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, and general teaching approaches. View page with links to these resources.

  • 5 Core Competencies Taught Across Diverse Settings

    Our widely used Framework for Systemic Social and Emotional Learning identifies five core competencies that educate hearts, inspire minds, and help people navigate the world more effectively.

    Just as important as the SEL competencies are the contexts for teaching them, the overall educational environment. SEL is not a single program or teaching method. It involves coordinated strategies across classrooms, schools, homes and communities, and districts.

    Print the Wheel

    Print the Wheel and Competencies

    Edutopia Video on Keys to Successful SEL



  • Self-management

    The ability to successfully regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations.



    The ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions and thoughts and how these influence behavior.


    Social awareness

    The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

Relationship skills

The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups.

Responsible decision-making

The ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms.