Lexington High School

Reducing Stress and Developing Resiliency


What is Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)?

(Much of this information is taken from the website of the Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning - www.casel.org).

The emotional and social life skills that are needed to respond in a positive, resilient manner to life's challenges -- such as stress -- can be taught. Just as students are taught math and history to help them develop the intellectual skills and knowledge they need for their work as adults, they can also be taught the critical "human" skills they need for success in life and relationships, such as emotional balance, self-awareness, empathy, respect, and compassion for themselves and others. To be successful in adulthood, they need to learn how to be good communicators, cooperative members of a team, effective leaders, and caring, concerned members of their communities. They need to know how to set and achieve goals and how to persist in the face of challenges. These are skills that today’s employers consider important for the workforce of the future.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) teaches these skills. And these skills in turn enhance our emotional intelligence (EQ), which has been found to be a better predictor than IQ of good health and, among elite professionals, better leadership and performance (see Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ) .

Strategies such as mindfulness, resiliency, open circle and anti-bullying can be considered forms of Social and Emotional Learning.

The specific skills taught by SEL include:

These are skills that allow children to calm themselves when angry, make friends, resolve conflicts respectfully, and make ethical and safe choices. (See www.casel.org/basics/skills.php for more details about the skills and competencies taught by SEL).

Benefits of Social and Emotional Learning

Many of the programs that teach SEL skills have been rigorously evaluated and found to have positive impacts. A large body of scientific research has determined that effective SEL in schools significantly improves students’:


SEL is associated with significant improvements in students’ academic performance and attitudes toward school. A landmark review -- www.casel.org/sel/meta.php -- found that students who receive SEL instruction had more positive attitudes about school and improved an average of 11 percentile points on standardized achievement tests compared to students who did not receive such instruction. According to reliable research, schools are a highly effective setting for teaching SEL skills. (See www.casel.org/sel/impacts.php).

The most beneficial SEL programs provide sequential and developmentally appropriate instruction in SEL skills. They are implemented in a coordinated manner, schoolwide, from preschool through high school with educators receiving ongoing professional development in SEL. (The Needham Public Schools have developed a K-12 SEL curriculum -- see pdf file).

And families and schools work together to promote children’s social, emotional, and academic success. Lessons are reinforced in the classroom, during out-of-school activities, and at home.

For more information about SEL, go to the CASEL website - casel.org. To learn more about how the Needham Public Schools are implementing SEL, go to www.needham.k12.ma.us/sel/what_is.htm