Social-emotional learning makes connections to career success

For the latest in ACTE and Xello’s student career development series, read Connecting Social-emotional Learning to Career Success. This brief was written by Angela Smith, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Education at North Carolina State University.

What is social-emotional learning?

Social-emotional learning (SEL), first introduced 26 years ago, is defined as “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes to:

  • Develop healthy identities
  • Manage emotions
  • Achieve personal and collective goals
  • Feel and show empathy for others
  • Establish and maintain supportive relationships
  • Make responsible and caring decisions”

Exposure to SEL activities in career and technical education (CTE) may lead to an increase in overall well-being among students. A landmark study from 2011 identified significant benefits, including “improved attitudes about self” and “positive classroom behavior.” Additionally, employers consistently rank social-emotional skills as of highest importance when hiring.

The modern economy necessitates that its employees — our CTE students — demonstrate proficiency in the social-emotional domain.

How do I incorporate SEL in the CTE classroom?

Review resources developed by education stakeholders for best practices in advancing social-emotional learning. These include Xello’s “An Educator’s Guide to Developing Social-emotional Learning Skills in K–12 Students” and implementation tools from the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

As more CTE programs begin to incorporate SEL, consider the following example from the health occupations program at Newburgh Enlarged City School District in New York:

Mindful Mondays offer a check-in with students to prepare for the week. In breakout sessions, students conduct activities, such as yoga and breathing exercises, and discuss their feelings. Self-reflection and positive affirmation are part of the program, and students have been encouraged to keep reflection journals. Simple activities such as these, time spent on students’ emotional states, can have a significant impact on learning.

Get started.

Start with self-awareness. For ACTE and Xello, Smith wrote:

“Self-awareness is a core competency. As career development facilitators and others introduce SEL principles, it is essential to pause and reflect upon one’s own SEL core competencies and the ways each facilitator demonstrates the SEL skills in practice within the community. Facilitators serve as role models and guides to learning SEL skills. CTE professionals can play a pivotal role in the school and community by teaching and practicing SEL skills in staff meetings, trainings and curriculum enhancements.”

  1. Conduct surveys among students. What access do they feel they have to SEL activities? Gauge student abilities related to motivation, self-efficacy, resilience, etc.
  2. Collaborate to develop individualized learning plans. Get students, family members, teachers and other stakeholders involved. Goals should be multifaceted, with identifiable, cross-disciplinary learning objectives.
  3. Practice. Students benefit from opportunities to present their work to peers, giving and receiving feedback.
  4. Emphasize progress over perfection. Encourage students to track their own progress related to SEL and give them space to make mistakes. These experiences build resilience.
  5. Empower student voices. CTE students have important things to say. As educators, we must equip them with the skills and the stage to share their unique worldview.

Teachers, administrators and social-emotional learning interventionists play a key role in modeling SEL skills in the learning community. Integrating SEL within the CTE curriculum supports the development of skills necessary for college and career success.

Read the full brief sponsored by Xello — Connecting Social-emotional Learning to Career Success.