Social and Emotional Learning


Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) describes the process all students go through to discover who they are and how they fit with the world around them. Teachers are in a position to guide this process towards healthy and positive ends by including SEL-related activities in their educational programs.

SEL Development Stages

Preschool and early elementary grades (ages 3-7)

SEL in the beginning grades looks like turn-taking, sharing, being kind to others, and working and playing well with classmates. Students are in Erik Erikson’s third stage of psychosocial development, the Stage of Initiative, so named because they begin to ‘initiate’ play and social interaction.

Elementary (ages 7-10)

In the next stage, the Stage of Industry, students begin to identify with different groups, which can lead to a strong interest in a hobby or extra-curricular activity. They feel proud when they do well in competitions or demonstrate competence in their school subjects. Cooperating in groups and teams, expressing themselves creatively, and working through problems are essential at this stage.

Middle School (ages 10-14)

All of that industry naturally gives rise to the Stage of Identity, where students begin to focus on who they are in comparison to their peers. Indeed, students begin asking and seeking answers to the question “Who am I?” at this stage. Cognitively, there is more emphasis placed on Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS), specifically the skills of analysis, evaluation, and synthesis from Bloom’s Taxonomy. Students bring HOTS into their social and emotional lives as well, using their increasing capacity for reflection to make sense of their past experiences and form an identity.   

High School (ages 15-18)

The Stage of Identity continues through high school, where students begin thinking less about the past and more about the future. Students inner lives continue to expand and awaken, causing many to become interested in religious or spiritual activities. Without proper guidance and strong social and emotional support, however, students are in danger of falling into the trap of drugs, cults, gangs, and other destructive behaviors. SEL for high school students means feeling a certain amount of control, exercising good judgement to avoid negative situations, and thinking about different outcomes before acting.   

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