- Social and emotional learning (SEL) has for some time been a priority for K-12 schools, but advocates are recommending that higher education explore it further to reduce stress among students and faculty members, improve the campus climate, raise student performance and prepare graduates for jobs where employers say these qualities are badly needed.
- The topic was the subject of a recent conference for SEL experts from 12 countries, according to a report in Diverse Issues in Higher Education. Speakers recommended more exposure to SEL at all levels as a critical part of educational structures.
- Experts also said that employers hope graduates have these skills – and that students will need them as they increasingly change jobs and have to adapt nimbly to shifting roles within their jobs.
Employers repeatedly say they need more workers with communication, adaptability, decision-making, and problem-solving abilities, and have trouble finding recent graduates with those skills, according to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), a leading advocate for SEL.
Another report on employability skills indicated that a set of five SEL competencies help make young people better students and better employees: self awareness, self management, responsible decision making, relationship skills and social awareness.
CASEL reports that the Council of Distinguished Scientists supports of SEL initiatives, noting that they can be taught in K-12, but also throughout a person's life, pointing to a cost-benefit ratio that proves their value.
A 2015 national study published by the American Journal of Public Health showed a connection between SEL skills in relation to good outcomes in education, employment, avoiding criminal activity and substance use and better mental health.
Prioritizing these skills, one study showed, also could improve the campus climate by reducing stress among staff and students and helping learners build a sense of community, even among those learning online. It also might help with student retention, experts say.