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Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

This is an excerpt from Physical Best 4th Edition PDF With Web Resource by Jackie Conkle.

There is a growing national approach to improving education for every student. This approach focuses on what is known as social-emotional learning (SEL), which is defined as “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions” (Education Week, 2016). SEL can be an important part of physical education because each portion of its definition can be applied to make all students' physical education experiences more positive.


Much of SEL relates to emotional safety and positive social interactions. Your physical education students must know that your classes are safe places for them to engage in activity without judgment or negative consequence from teachers or peers. This sense of safety can develop when you create a culture of acceptance and mutual respect. Students may not naturally have these skills; in some cases, they must be taught. You can do so by setting clear expectations for class engagement, role-modeling for students, providing guidance to correct nonsupportive words and actions, promoting behaviors such as collaboration and encouragement of others, facilitating inclusion of all types during activity, and meeting individual student needs.


Setting SEL objectives in addition to other lesson objectives can go a long way toward enhancing your students' physical education experience and therefore their learning. Gains in SEL can lead to gains in academic growth, better relationships at school, and reduced discipline problems (Dusenbury & Weissberg, 2017).