Guide To Teaching and Learning

Social and Emotional Learning

Current students, who have grown up with smartphones and social media, have been shown to have under-developed social skills because most of their interpersonal interactions have literally been mediated, whether through texting, Instagram, TikTok, or some other app. Often, rather than speaking with friends when they meet, they are actually texting each other. As a result, they may have more difficulty reading facial, vocal and body cues, may have a diminished capacity for empathy, are conflict averse, and may have difficulty in social interactions. More than in the past, faculty need to pay attention to and develop students’ social and emotional learning. This is especially true with fully online learning.

As the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, CASEL, defines it: ‘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.’ Modeling social and emotional learning offers students positive examples of how to navigate stress and frustration and cultivate healthy relationships. Social and emotional learning comprises the following core competencies:


  • Identifying emotions
  • Self-perception/Identity
  • Recognizing strengths
  • Sense of self-confidence
  • Self-efficacy


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

Social Awareness

  • Perspective-taking
  • Empathy
  • Appreciating diversity
  • Respect for others




Relationship Skills

  • Communication
  • Social engagement
  • Buildings relationships
  • Working cooperatively
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Helping/Seeking help

Responsible Decision Making

  • Identifying problems
  • Analyzing situations
  • Solving problems
  • Evaluating
  • Reflecting
  • Ethical responsibility


These skills are teachable. Active learning strategies such as role play, group work, and problem-based learning all foster social and emotional learning. Those faculty wishing to promote social and emotional learning are encouraged to work on their own social and emotional development. CASEL provides many resources for personal assessment and reflection such as this self assessment tool and could be adapted for use with students in explicitly addressing social and emotional learning. This classroom assessment tool enables you to assess how well you approach social and emotional learning in your own classes. (While the CASEL organization is focused on K-12 education, the principles are appropriate for our current college students.)

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