“Human beings are inherently social.” (Huitt & Dawson, 2011, p1) This statement exemplifies the reasoning behind much of the recent debate over the inclusion of social and emotional learning (SEL) in the standard school curriculum. Argument has predominantly centred on the understanding that the explicit teaching of SEL skills throughout a child’s school years will enhance their ability to “…cope with difficulties and help to prevent mental health problems and (children will)…find it easier to manage themselves, relate to others, resolve conflict, and feel positive about themselves and the world around them.” (KidsMatter, 2011, p1) The focus of SEL is on providing children with practical skills in social and emotional learning through explicit instruction as the foundation for the children’s later success and well-being. (Ashdown & Bernard, 2012, p1; KidsMatter, 2011, p2)
The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has identified five key teachable competencies to be taught, practised, and reinforced through SEL curriculum programming (CASEL, 2003), thus providing a foundation for effective personal development. These key competencies are: self awareness, self management, social awareness, responsible decision making, and relationship skills.
The integration of CASEL’s competencies into the school curriculum is supported by researchers including Huitt & Dawson, (2011, p1) who state that, “Developing competencies in this domain enhance a person’s ability to succeed in school as well as (resulting in) improved mental health, success in work, and the ability to be a citizen in a democracy.”
The importance of SEL and CASEL’s competencies has been so widely accepted that, “Australia’s national educational goals for the 21st century, as well as curriculum frameworks for each State and Territory, recognise the importance of children achieving positive outcomes that relate directly to the skills of SEL.” (KidsMatter, 2011, p1) This...