Benefits of Social Emotional Learning (SEL)


Social emotional learning (SEL) is key to healthy human development and lifelong success, including academic success. Everyday interactions with others shape the development of social and emotional skills.

Social and emotional skills include understanding and managing oneself, relating to others, and making responsible choices. Social and emotional skills are associated with improved behavior, lower levels of emotional distress, enhanced wellbeing, improved academic outcomes, and more stable employment. Social and emotional skills can be taught, practiced, and strengthened in everyday interactions.



Increase in Academic Achievement

Studies show students who attend schools with SEL increase their academic performance by an average of 11 to 17 percentile points, compared to other students. Many schools have adopted SEL into their academic and student support systems to maximize the academic outcomes of all students and support the elevated needs of student groups.

Decrease in Behavioral Health Concerns

SEL has been shown to help students better manage stress and reduce feelings of depression and these positive effects on behavioral health tend to carry over into adulthood. The skills gained through school-based SEL also protects against substance use in teens and reduces the risk of substance dependency in adulthood.

Increase in Teacher Retention

Teacher wellbeing is an essential part of teacher retention; School-based SEL offers many benefits and teachers who work in schools that implement school-wide SEL report lower levels of job-related burnout. Some of the specific benefits of SEL that contribute to both student and teacher wellness include:

  • Supportive classroom climate: SEL assists in the development of a safe, caring learning environment that benefits teachers and students.
  • Supportive learning environment: Studies show teachers who work at school with SEL report higher levels of efficacy and students increase their academic performance.
  • Better classroom management: SEL helps reduce stress and behavioral health concerns in both students and adults resulting in better classroom management and fewer discipline referrals.
  • Positive relationships: Positive relationships among teachers and between teachers and students increase in schools with school-based SEL.
  • Better stress management: SEL builds stress management skills in teachers which can contribute to overall stress reduction.

Increase in School Attendance and Graduation

SEL is an effective strategy for preventing student dropout and increasing school attendance and graduation by improving a student’s attitude towards school and helping build the skills necessary to complete school such as self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and maintaining a positive attitude.

Increase in Workforce and College Readiness

SEL skills for students and adults are vital to creative and productive outcomes in our global society. SEL builds collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity, all which map to attributes such as problem-solving skills, the ability to work as part of a team, a strong work ethic, analytical skills and the ability to communicate. These are the traits that many employers value in addition to job-specific skills (National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2020). Even with increased usage of technology within our society, social and emotional skills are valued and critical for professional success as they ensure the workforce has knowledge in both the technical skills related to the specific job role and the social and emotional skills in order to be successful in project and people management. Schools and communities that implement SEL have opportunities to prepare students and adults for post-secondary success.

High Return on Investment and Sustained Positive Impacts

The positive effects of school-based SEL are long-lasting. Youth who attend schools with SEL tend to have a more positive view of themselves and others and are able to develop positive relationships with family members and coworkers at a higher frequency as adults; these youth also tend to perform better occupationally and are less likely to need public assistance10 in their lifetime (Jones, Greenberg, Crowley, 2015). These benefits are especially present in children whose families live below the poverty line (Bohn, 2020). SEL pays for itself as the average return on investment for school-based SEL is $11 for every $1 spent.

Benefits of School-Based Social Emotional Learning