The Research is Clear: Social Emotional Learning is the Foundation of Education


Written by Founder and CEO, Sara Potler LaHayne

The Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development recently released a report detailing the critical importance of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) plays in preparing students to be successful in the world. Beyond the ability to study, meet deadlines, or achieve academically, a wide range of skills are necessary for people to keep a job, start a business, work in teams, and have healthy relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.

These critical skills have been overlooked during an era that has focused almost entirely on grades and standardized testing. This not only puts an unfair burden on educators, and leads to high numbers of turnover, it dramatically limits the scope of what students need to thrive outside of the education system.

The report had a number of key findings and was signed on by leaders in education, business, and government. Here are some of the high-level takeaways:

“…children require a broad array of skills, attitudes, and values to succeed in school, careers, and in life. They require skills such as paying attention, setting goals, collaboration and planning for the future. They require attitudes such as internal motivation, perseverance, and a sense of purpose. They require values such as responsibility, honesty, and integrity. They require the abilities to think critically, consider different views, and problem solve. And these social, emotional, and academic capacities are increasingly demanded in the American workplace, which puts a premium on the ability to work in diverse teams, to grapple with difficult problems, and to adjust to rapid change.

Helping children to learn these traits and skills may sound ambitious. But it is—and has always been—central to the educational enterprise. It is the reason that education begins with concerned and involved parents, who provide emotional support and set high expectations. It is the reason that community institutions that mentor children and encourage self-respect are essential allies of parents and schools. It is the reason that good teachers can change lives, helping students find unsuspected gifts and inner purpose. And it is the reason that everyone involved in education shares an amazing calling: to foster in children the knowledge, skills, and character that enable children to make better lives in a better country.

This calling is an honor, but not an elective. Since all education involves social, emotional, and academic learning, we have but two choices: We can either ignore that fact and accept disappointing results, or address these needs intentionally and well.”

At Move This World, we are excited SEL is finally becoming a point of focus in education. For the past 12 years, we’ve been working to strengthen mental, emotional and social wellbeing for students and teachers in ways that are accessible and engaging. We stand ready to support any school system looking to incorporate SEL into their daily routine.

Studies show practicing SEL on a daily basis dramatically increases the benefits this type of education provides — even as little as ten minutes per day can improve grades and test scores, as well as improve relationships, increase empathy, and build trust.

Thanks to The Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development for releasing this groundbreaking report. Now we must take responsibility to take action, and we look to others to do the same.

While this report presented more in-depth data, confirmed our beliefs, and added more context to an already nationwide conversation, the benefits of social emotional learning are not new. At Move This World, we are using the report to recommit ourselves to our mission of providing social emotional learning tools that will best meet the needs of teachers and students to create safe and supportive learning environments. We call on other individuals and organizations to do the same.

We invite legislators to push forward bills that prioritize mental health education in schools, like New York and Virginia already have. We call on government officials to prioritize funding so schools are able to put needed supports in place.

Finally, we call on educators to keep this conversation in the spotlight, to keep advocating for your needs and the needs of your students. We hear you and we are honored to continue our work together.


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