What is SEL?

Social and Emotional Learning has evolved over the past decade. What does it include today and why is it a trending topic?

Genevieve Adams
Classroom Champions
4 min readMar 15, 2021


Social and emotional learning is being used more and more in the education world — but what does it actually mean? And why is it so important?

CASEL first introduced the term social and emotional learning around 26 years ago and since then it has grown tremendously. SO much so that in 2020 they updated their definition of SEL to pay close attention to how it affirms the identities, strengths and experiences of all children. Here is the latest definition …

“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.”

SEL advances educational equity and excellence through authentic school-family-community partnerships to establish learning environments and experiences that feature trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation. SEL can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities.” — Casel, 2020

Kids have what it takes…

Social and emotional learning is foundational for success in school and in life. Establishing these skills at a young age is proven to be one of the best ways to set kids up for future personal, academic, and professional success.

CASEL has stated that decades of research studies demonstrate the following benefits of SEL:

  • Improvement in students’ social and emotional skills, attitudes, relationships, academic performance, and perceptions of classroom and school climate
  • Decline in students’ anxiety, behavior problems, and substance use
  • Long-term improvements in students’ skills, attitudes, prosocial behavior, and academic performance

Alongside this, our own evidence-based research [see Classroom Champions Impact Report] has shown us that high-quality SEL programming leads to improved academic performance, decreases in anxiety and behavior issues, among other benefits.

SEL benefits adults too!

Teachers who possess strong social and emotional competencies are more likely to stay in the classroom longer [CASEL]. They’re able to partner more effectively with students and address challenging behaviors, one of the main causes of burnout.

Teachers are the cornerstone of any SEL curriculum. They are the individuals who, day in and day out, are working with kids in the classroom, implementing the program and serving as daily role models. Their engagement, mindset, and healthy practices deeply influence their students; happy and healthy teachers support happy, healthy, and successful students.

Why does this matter? When individuals are engaged in their work, they simply do it better. For teachers, whose job is to manage a classroom and navigate the often-unpredictable lives and challenges their students face, having enthusiasm for their work is incredibly important for student success. However, for many teachers, the job can be especially challenging. We’ve heard from teachers like Brent Nycz in New York City and Ella Maya in Phoenix, Arizona, that becoming a Classroom Champions teacher “saved” their teaching career by helping them re-engage with their work.

Our data from all our teachers tells us that they’re not alone in feeling that Classroom Champions reignited their passion for teaching. 93% of Classroom Champions teachers reported that participating in the program made them more engaged in their work and 86% of Classroom Champions teachers reported the program improved their job performance.

At Classroom Champions, our goal is to make students, classrooms, mentors, and families better and better in order to build strong communities today — and in the future.

We have spent some time putting together a page to explain just that. Including what SEL is, why it matters, key words, stats, and resources. Check it out here. This can be your go-to place for information and resources. If you think we missed something, please let us know — this is YOUR resource!



Genevieve Adams
Classroom Champions

Genevieve manages Classroom Champions Communications and Marketing.