How to implement social and emotional learning in your school

All schools in the world must address, at one point or another, the character and socio-emotional development of the students who walk through their doors. And it is impossible to bring adults and children together for long periods of time and not influence the abilities of children and the type of people they will become by using those skills.

These processes, for many years, have been informal and random, and the fact that for many schools the social and emotional learning programs are disconnected and uncoordinated is not a novelty, which can be associated with negative effects and fragmentation in staff morale as well as in student participation and learning. However, the ideal is for social and emotional learning to be comprehensive, coordinated and linked to academic programs, with the help of parents, teachers, and with the participation of other members of the educational community.



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Doing programming in this way helps students understand that they need academic as well as social and emotional competencies to achieve worthy goals in life and to strive to be people of good character and better health. Consequently, the educators of those schools that already understand that combining the academic with the social and emotional is necessary for students to develop their skills, not only coordinate what happens within that school, but also connect with the efforts of other schools and / or parents after school with community programs and activities.


Five skills and competencies of social and emotional learning in the classroom


  • Self-awareness : Recognizing and labeling feelings and accurately assessing strengths and limitations.
  • Self-management : regulating emotions, managing stress, motivating oneself, and setting and working towards goals.
  • Social awareness : showing empathy, taking the perspectives of others, and recognizing and mobilizing diverse and available supports.
  • Relationship skills : clear communication, accurate listening, cooperation, non-violent and constructive conflict resolution, and knowing when and how to be a good team player and leader.
  • Responsible decision-making : making ethical decisions based on consideration of feelings, goals, alternatives, and outcomes, and planning and implementing solutions with possible anticipated obstacles.


To support this type of learning in your school, you can start with a series of interrelated activities, which will be better organized within the planning cycles. There is no plan for the order in which these activities should be carried out, so there is no need to worry. Factors such as the history and current status of programming, staff knowledge of the subject, school climate, or sociodemographic factors will determine the timing and sequence of these activities.



Activities to implement social and emotional learning


  • Build a school infrastructure

Building an appropriate infrastructure in the school can begin with the creation of a committee or team that has the responsibility to implement these actions and activities more related to the social and emotional in the long term. This committee should start with achievable objectives, using planning cycles that identify a main objective and an action plan to achieve it, in successive periods of about eight weeks in which to structure activities, keep efforts focused and promote responsibility. Infrastructure consolidation can also be very helpful.


  • Evaluate good coordination between programs

Education exists in an environment that is often characterized by adding new programs and initiatives without explicit articulation with what already exists previously. Teachers and other educators often experience frustration with “daily” programming changes, which are rarely fully aligned with the overall goals of the schools. Ultimately, to achieve that necessary coordination there must be harmony between the programs and approaches used in the school using the social and emotional as the integrating glue.





  • Assess the culture and climate of the school

There are a variety of tools that can be used to assess the culture and climate of a school, such as taking into account the perspective of students, staff, or parents themselves. These systems can include surveys, walkthroughs, or situation and concern analysis. The reports generated from the culture and climate assessment can be shared with school leaders or other staff members and through them the necessary priorities can be established to address the deficiencies of the schools. Data should be presented by groups, ages, and grade levels within the school, as well as by the position of the participating staff. Thanks to this dynamic, the differential perceptions existing in a school and fundamental to implement social and emotional learning in classrooms with success can be discovered.



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