Social and emotional learning

Social and emotional learning (SEL) can help students learn the competencies and skills they need to build resilience and effectively manage their emotions, behaviour and relationships with others.

About social and emotional learning

Social and emotional learning involves students having opportunities to learn and practice social skills such as:

  • cooperation
  • managing conflict
  • making friends
  • coping
  • being resilient
  • recognising and managing their own feelings.

SEL programs set out to explicitly promote these skills in children and young people.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) identifies five broad headings under which SEL falls:


Identifying and recognising emotions; recognising personal interests and strengths; maintaining a well-grounded sense of self-confidence.


Regulating emotions to handle stress, control impulses, and motivating oneself to persevere in overcoming obstacles, setting and monitoring progress toward the achievement of personal and academic goals; expressing emotions appropriately.

Social awareness

Being able to take the perspective of and empathise with others; recognising and appreciating individual and group similarities and differences.

Relationship skills

Establishing and maintaining healthy and rewarding relationships based on cooperation and resistance to inappropriate social pressure, preventing, managing, and constructively resolving interpersonal conflict; seeking help when needed.

Responsible decision-making

Making decisions based on a consideration of all relevant factors, including applicable ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms; the likely consequences of taking alternative courses of action; evaluation and reflection.

For more information, see: Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL)

Why it's important to teach SEL at school

Positive outcomes for a student's future

As students graduate towards higher levels of schooling, training and employment, social and emotional skills become increasingly important. Social and emotional competencies can help students in managing stress, deciding on goals and planning for the future.

Positive outcomes for student acheivement

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) quality teaching of SEL promotes student satisfaction, success and academic engagement, outcomes and achievement.

Postive outcomes for student mental health

The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth notes that schools who ensure that SEL is part of their teaching and learning can give students the opportunity to build the resilience to deal with change and unpredictability. This is an essential skill for positive mental health.

How schools can implement effective social and emotional learning

Schools can play a pivotal role in providing students with the opportunity to gain greater social and emotional awareness and to practice interpersonal skills as they learn and grow.

SEL programs use an evidence based approach that can be taught explicitly in the classroom. Strategies may include:

Timetabling the explicit teaching of SEL for all classes on a regular basis.

This may be weekly or fortnightly and may be as short as 10-15 minutes.

Building teacher capacity to promote and explicitly teach SEL.

This may include exploring literature around SEL, attending professional learning about SEL or team teaching with a staff member who is comfortable and already explicitly teaching SEL.

Students construct a ‘Getting to know me’ book at the beginning of the school year.

This book will help children and young people identify and recognise their emotions and their origins. This activity allows students to practice the language of social and emotional awareness; and should be integrated into the explicit teaching of SEL.

Encouraging children and young people to consider the social and emotional wellbeing of others

through concepts such as ‘Checking on others in our school…’ or ‘Talking it out…’ Students will be able to practice responses to realistic scenarios using role plays or story writing as an opportunity to discuss, debate, and negotiate class agreement as to the ‘right’ decision in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of others.

SEL programs

Resilience, rights and respectful relationships

The Resilience, rights and respectful relationships learning materials have been designed for teachers in primary and secondary schools to develop students’ social, emotional and positive relationship skills.

Efforts to promote social and emotional skills and positive gender norms in children and young people has been shown to improve health related outcomes and subjective wellbeing. It also reduces antisocial behaviours including engagement in gender-related violence.

The resilience, rights and respectful relationships (RRRR) learning materials cover eight topics of social and emotional learning across all levels of primary and secondary education:

  • emotional literacy
  • personal strengths
  • positive coping
  • problem solving
  • stress management
  • help seeking
  • gender and identity
  • positive gender relationships.

For more information, see:

Building resilience: a model to support children and young people

Resilience is the ability to cope and thrive in the face of negative events, challenges or adversity. Key attributes of resilience in children and young people include:

  • social competence
  • a sense of agency or responsibility
  • optimism
  • a sense of purpose or hope for the future
  • attachment to family, to school and to learning
  • problem solving skills
  • effective coping style
  • pro-social values
  • a sense of self-efficacy
  • positive self-regard

New SEL materials have been developed to support schools to foster the learning resilience and wellbeing of children and young people. For more information, see: building resilience

Professional learning resources

The University of Melbourne has developed a range of self-directed learning materials for school staff to deliver effective SEL activities and build resilience across the whole school community.

These presentations can be utilised in staff meetings, team meetings or by individuals at any time to support school staff to implement Building Resilience.

Building resilience
Social and emotional learning
Social and emotional learning activities

More information