November 1, 2021

Here's how one expert describes social emotional learning and its effect on students


Social emotional learning helps kids develop their own identity and recognize their values – it doesn't teach them which values to have. - (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

Social emotional learning helps kids develop their own identity and recognize their values – it doesn't teach them which values to have.

(Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

As some parents and other activist groups campaign against the use of social emotional learning – or SEL – concepts in schools, experts say that’s contributing to the spread of misinformation. 

Some criticism of SEL suggests it's a tool for educators to sneak critical race theory into classrooms, or designed to make kids "feel bad." 

But Sandy Washburn said those concerns are rooted in misinformation. She's a research scholar at Indiana University and former middle and high school teacher. Instead, she said social emotional learning helps kids develop their own identity and recognize their values – it doesn't teach them which values to have.

"Also identifying and managing emotions and strategies to deal with stress," Washburn said.

Washburn said SEL also helps kids learn how to work better with their peers and better understand how their bodies affect their ability to learn.

"Eyes are open, ears are listening – those are some of the social emotional skills, like I'm aware of how when my body moves sometimes that helps me pay attention, sometimes it helps me not pay attention," Washburn said.

Washburn said if parents worry about SEL, it's vital for teachers to explain what it looks like and how it benefits students in their classrooms.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.

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