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Teaching SEL skills in online education

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process that helps kids and adults alike to understand and manage their emotions so that they can develop positive and meaningful social relationships.

When socialization alone is not enough to develop those skills, educators should step in and offer support, as social and emotional skills are essential for each individual.

When we cannot identify and process our emotions, there is a potential risk of serious psychological imbalances, such as uncontrolled anger, low frustration tolerance, depression, etc.

The social outcomes may also be negative: difficulty in making and maintaining social relationships, isolation, and loneliness.

Bringing SEL in the classroom is not the latest fad, but an essential core component of any educational system that wants to help students have well-balanced social and emotional lives.

Read more: Can edtech enable Social Emotional Learning (SEL)?

Teaching SEL skills in online education

CASEL’s framework identifies five core SEL competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision-making. Let’s see how we can approach them in online education!

  1. Self-awareness

    It is the ability to recognize personal emotions and how they influence our thoughts and behavior. It includes the skills of accurate self-analysis and self-assessment. In other words, self-awareness is being able to identify personal limitations and personal strengths.

    In online learning, discussion groups can be very effective and can help students share their thoughts and feelings. Some might feel more insecure in the classroom, as it may not be perceived as a safe space and might not be willing to share with others what they feel.

    However, from the comfort of a private room, without the pressure of immediate face to face reaction of colleagues and teachers, some introvert personalities might actually be more aware e more open. It’s not a sure thing, but it’s worth trying.

    Read more: 5 Reasons e-learning is perfect for introverted students

  2. Self-management

    It is the ability to regulate personal emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in a wide range of contexts and situations. Schools have a socialization role, which helps students be exposed to a wide range of social interactions and find tools to handle them.

    Emotions and emotional management play an important part in this case as well. For instance, motivation is essential for achieving personal and academic goals.

    It’s easier to stay motivated in an online environment, as an LMS has many features to track progress and keep learners on track.

    Read more: How to motivate students for lifelong learning

  3. Social awareness

    Social awareness is the ability to empathize with people from different social, cultural, and educational backgrounds. A socially aware person will understand and apply social and ethical norms of behavior and value the people around them (family, friends, colleagues, teachers, etc.).

    Online learning can create a unique opportunity for many students to interact with colleagues from very different backgrounds. A study abroad program is not accessible to everyone. Some families simply cannot afford to pay for one year overseas. But a school with a good international relations department can create partnerships with foreign institutions and create mixed classrooms.

    Read more: Transforming our schools through empathy

  4. Relationship skills

    Strong relationship skills allow us to establish and maintain healthy relationships with different individuals and groups. We need to have good communication skills, such as active listening, cooperation, negotiation, reaching a compromise, etc. Working in groups or in pairs is an excellent incubator for boosting relationship skills.

    Sometimes very competitive learners tend to approach learning as a very personal journey, with personal gains. However, people have achieved amazing things while working together. So use an LMS, for instance, to create group works and help students be better at working with their colleagues.

    Read more: Focus in the new school year: Building relationships

  5. Responsible decision-making

    It is the ability to make constructive choices while respecting social norms, ethical and moral norms agreed upon by the community or the society. To win at any cost might be interesting to see in movies, but in real life, it doesn’t work in the long run.

    In Project-Based Learning (PBL), especially when students have to carry out long term projects (one semester or even an entire academic year), the responsible decision-making skill is very important. Many platforms or LMS solutions offer project-based learning options; make sure you use them in your teaching.

    Read more: 10 DOs and DON’Ts in Project-Based Learning

To sum up

There is no catch-all solution when it comes to SEL skills. However, we know from research that there is an adequate approach: rather than teach them as a separate discipline, they should be infused throughout the curriculum. Keep in mind what Aristotle said: “educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”.

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