History of SEL


History of SEL

The term social and emotional learning is relatively new; however, the concepts of SEL have been used in education for a long time. For example, in the early 20th century, John Dewey promoted a student-centered approach to schooling that focused on the development of the whole child, and many others have adopted similar philosophies in various forms. SEL was formed when scholars from multiple fields—such as emotional intelligence, child development, prevention science, bullying prevention, and public health—came together in 1994 to identify key skills and competencies students need to successfully navigate school and life. These scholars developed SEL as an umbrella framework in an attempt to end a piecemeal approach to social and emotional issues that students face and create a common understanding and goal for student development. To support the connection between research, policy, and practice for student social and emotional development, they formed the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning or CASEL.

Since the conception of SEL, thousands of schools have implemented SEL programs, and researchers have conducted more than 500 evaluations of the various types of SEL programs. School districts are opening offices of SEL, there are SEL coaches within schools, SEL is being incorporated in teacher preparation programs, and multiple national and state initiatives have been developed to support student social, emotional, and academic development. SEL is a movement that has a long history rooted in multiple disciplines and is now being recognized as a critical ingredient for student success in school, work, and life.



  • What about the history or beginnings of SEL did you find most interesting or surprising?  What has or hasn’t changed today?
  • How has SEL influenced your own educational experience?