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Social-Emotional Learning Is Important. But What Do All Those SEL Terms, Actually Mean for the Classroom?

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is on the map. There is solid evidence that SEL matters a great deal for important life outcomes including success in school. Yet, amid a wide array of effective programs and approaches to draw upon, challenges still remain. One major area of ongoing concern is that SEL goes by many names, and the terminology can be confusing and misleading, ultimately impeding efforts to achieve meaningful results. Throughout its history, the field of social and emotional learning (SEL) has been defined or characterized in a variety of ways. In some respects, the term SEL serves as an umbrella for many subfields with which many educators, researchers, and policy-makers are familiar (e.g., bullying prevention, civic and character education and development, conflict resolution, social skills training, life skills, “soft” or “non-cognitive” skills, 21st century skills). However, discussion of this broad non-academic domain lacks clarity about what we mean and is beset by dilemmas about how best to measure and promote skills in this area. Underlying this challenge, and in some ways compounding it, is the fact that the field more generally is structured around a large number of organizational systems or frameworks that often use different or even conflicting terminology to talk about a similar set of skills.

This tool called Explore SEL, created by the EASEL Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is designed to show relationships among different SEL skills, terminology and frameworks. It's a very clever navigator for the field of social and emotional learning. The tools and resources on this site support exploring, connecting, and comparing SEL and non-academic frameworks and skills to build a broader and deeper understanding of SEL and related fields, to grow clarity and transparency, and to enable users to select a framework to guide their SEL work, and much more.

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