HELP: Introductory Video on Social/Emotional Learning


When asked what they want for their children’s future, parents and teachers "first responses often include social and emotional skills rather than traditional academic skills. Educators and parents alike repeatedly assert their hope that children will be happy, have caring and supportive interpersonal relationships, demonstrate empathy and care for others, make responsible decisions, and desist from risky and health-compromising behaviours. In essence, parents and educators identify those skills on the social emotional side of learning rather than those on the academic side."–Educating the Heart as Well as the Mind, K. Schonert-Reichl & S. Hymel (2007)

Social emotional learning (SEL), is the process of acquiring the competencies to recognize and manage emotions, develop caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and handle challenging situations effectively. SEL is sometimes referred to as ‘the missing piece’ in education, intricately linked to academic and career success, but, until recently, not identified as a learnable skill. Recent research and testing has demonstrated that these skills are, in fact, trainable and are not simply an inherited character ‘gift’.

The five identified competency areas of SEL are:

  • Self-Awareness: Recognizing one’s emotions and values as well as one’s strengths and limitations; sense of self-confidence
  • Social Awareness: Showing understanding and empathy for others. Ability to take others’ perspectives; appreciating and interacting with diverse groups.
  • Self-Management: Managing emotions and behaviours to achieve one’s goals. Being able to regulate one’s own emotions; conscientiousness; perseverance.
  • Relationship Skills: Forming and maintaining positive relationships, working in teams, negotiating conflict; seeking help when needed.
  • Responsible Decision-Making: Assessing risks and making good decisions; respecting others; taking personal responsibility for one’s decisions.

Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl assumed the position of Director of the Human Early Learning Partnership in September 2015. She is the Principal Investigator of the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) and a Professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education at the University of British Columbia. She began her professional career first as a middle school teacher and then as a high school teacher for adolescents identified as “at risk.” For more than 20 years, Kim’s research has focused on the social and emotional learning (SEL) and development of children and adolescents with a particular emphasis on identifying the processes and mechanisms that foster children’s positive human qualities such as empathy, altruism, and resiliency. She has investigated the effectiveness of classroom-based universal SEL programs, including the Roots of Empathy and MindUp, a program that integrates social and emotional learning and mindfulness-based education, and she is currently conducting a scan of the amount and type of training that pre-service teacher education students receive related to SEL in the US and Canada.

Most recently Kim, in partnership with colleagues at the Human Early Learning Partnership at UBC and the United Way of the Lower Mainland, has been involved in the development and implementation of a population-based measure to assess child social and emotional well-being and assets: the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI). In BC, almost 34,000 grade 4 and grade 7 students have completed the MDI and the measure is has been piloted in both Australia and in Peru.

In this recent short video, Kim provides an introduction to SEL and Social and Emotional Fitness. She talks about the switch from an intervention to a prevention approach and uses the analogy of increasing physical fitness to show that regular training in measurable skills can improve mental and emotional resilience and strength.