The term social-emotional learning (SEL) emerged in the mid-1990s to describe many disparate programs supporting character education. It is sometimes referred to as a different way of being smart.

A significant player in this effort was the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL.) The organisation has identified the following five core competencies:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Responsible Decision-Making
  • Relationship Skills

CASEL created the acronym SAFE to describe their philosophy of education:

  • Sequenced: connected and coordinated activities to foster skills development
  • Active – active forms of learning to help students master new skills & attitudes
  • Focused – a component that emphasises developing personal & social skills
  • Explicit – targeting specific social & emotional skills.


What Is SEL?


It would be fair to say that there is not one clear definition of what SEL or social-emotional learning is. CASEL defines SEL as…

… 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.

These skills and competencies are specifically featured and developed in the context of well-designed and facilitated adventure and experiential-based learning programs, particularly those involving the use of playmeo’s database of group games and activities.

When explored more deeply, these skills and competencies include:

  • Cognitive skills including executive functions such as working memory, attention control and flexibility, inhibition, and planning, as well as beliefs and attitudes that guide one’s sense of self and approaches to learning and growth.
  • Emotional competencies that enable one to cope with frustration, recognise and manage emotions, and understand others’ emotions and perspectives.
  • Social and interpersonal skills that enable one to read social cues, navigate social situations, resolve interpersonal conflicts, cooperate with others and work effectively in a team, and demonstrate compassion and empathy toward others.

You can learn more about CASEL here.


With thanks to authors Dr Richard Maizell, Jim Schoel, and John Grund in their book The Full Value School from which this content has been inspired.