Social Emotional Learning (SEL)


Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

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

Growth Mindset

Learners with a with a fixed mindset believe that their own intelligence and talent are innate traits that don’t change. For example, they might say, “I just can’t learn math.” These learners typically worry about not looking smart, get upset by mistakes, and give up sooner on tough tasks. Learners with a growth mindset believe that ability can change as a result of effort, perseverance, and practice. They frequently say, “Math is hard, but if I keep trying, I can get better at it.” Learners with a growth mindset see mistakes as ways to learn, embrace challenges, and persist in the face of setbacks.

Why this is important

Whether or not learners are aware of their mindset, a broad body of research has shown that what they believe about their own intelligence can affect their effort, engagement, motivation, and achievement as measured by test scores, school grades, passing rate in post-secondary education, and other metrics.

Sample growth mindset survey questions:

How true are the following about you:

  • My intelligence is something that I can’t change very much (reverse coded)
  • Challenging myself won’t make me any smarter (reverse coded)
  • There are some things I am not capable of learning (reverse coded)
  • If I am not naturally smart in a subject, I will never do well in it (reverse coded)


Self-management, which is also referred to as “self-control” or “self-regulation,” is the ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviours’ effectively in different situations. This includes managing stress, delaying gratification, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward personal and academic goals. Learners with strong self-management skills arrive to class prepared, pay attention, follow directions, allow others to speak without interruption, and work independently with focus.

Why this is important

Self-control in children as young as age 5 can predict important life outcomes such as high school completion, physical health, income, single parenthood, substance dependence, and criminal involvement.

Sample self-management survey questions:

Please answer how often you did the following. During this grading period…

  • I came to class prepared.
  • I remembered and followed directions.
  • I allowed others to speak without interruption.
  • I worked independently with focus.


Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s ability to succeed in achieving an outcome or reaching a goal. An internal belief, self-efficacy is related to whether a learner believes that s/he has sufficient control over his/her environment in order to succeed. High self-efficacy reflects confidence in the ability to exert control over one’s own motivation, behaviour, and environment and allows learners to become advocates for their own needs and supports.

Why this is important

Decades of research show that self-efficacy is a valid predictor of learners’ motivation and learning. Learners with high levels of self-efficacy participate more in class, work harder, persist longer, and have fewer adverse emotional reactions when encountering difficulties than learners with lower self-efficacy.  High self-efficacy can also motivate learners to use specific learning strategies and to engage in self-directed learning.

Sample self-efficacy survey questions:

How confident are you about the following at school:

  • I can earn an A in my classes
  • I can do well on all my tests, even when they’re difficult
  • I can master the hardest topics in my classes
  • I can meet all the learning goals my teachers set

Social Awareness

Social Awareness is the ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures, to understand social and ethical norms for behavior, and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.

Why this is important

Social awareness is a crucial component of appropriate classroom behavior, which contributes to an environment conducive to learning. Social awareness is also widely established as an important factor in workforce success. One recent employer survey conducted by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills demonstrates that four of the five most important skills for high school graduates entering the work force are linked to social awareness: professionalism, collaboration, communication, and social responsibility.

Sample social awareness survey questions:

  • When others disagree with you, how respectful are you of their views?
  • When people are already talking together, how easy is it for you to join the group?
  • When you have problems at school, how easily can you find ways to solve them?
  • To what extent are you able to stand up for yourself without putting others down?

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