By Vicki Zakrzewski, Ph.D.
Education Director, Greater Good Science Center (GGSC)
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is spreading like wildfire — and not just in the United States. Countries such as the U.K., Singapore, and China are starting to implement SEL in their schools as well.
Why now? Why all of a sudden are schools all over the world taking notice of SEL?
Many reasons exist why a school might adopt SEL, all of which have been validated by research: to increase academic success and, somewhat ironically, to lower the stress-levels of students as they strive towards that success; to prevent negative behaviors such as drug use, violence, and bullying; to equip students with the “soft skills” they will need in today’s work environment; and to promote positive relationships and attitudes about school.
No one would disagree that these are all really great reasons for teaching students social and emotional skills.
Yet a closer examination of the science behind SEL reveals a story of human development that suggests an even deeper reason for implementing it — one that goes beyond teaching these skills solely to remedy our social ills or to enhance academic success. Rather, the science of SEL has the potential to alter how we view ourselves as human beings and hence, our purpose of education.