Social Emotional Learning (SEL) was an emerging philosophy in schools prior to COVID-19, but has taken a much greater role in schools since March 2020 when schools needed to truly connect with students with even more barriers in place. Educators were challenged with the barriers of no in-person interaction, lack of technological resources, student isolation, meal scarcity and so much more that was exacerbated with the arrival of the pandemic to the U.S.
To best understand what SEL is, we will use the definition from a leading non-profit organization called CASEL that is working alongside schools to build SEL into their school cultures.
CASEL’s Definition of SEL (2020 Update)
“Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.
SEL advances educational equity and excellence through authentic school-family-community partnerships to establish learning environments and experiences that feature trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation. SEL can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities.”
To reference the AFS Mission: “AFS-USA empowers people to become globally engaged citizens by delivering meaningful intercultural experiences that provide the knowledge and skills needed to help create a more just and peaceful world.” Our mission aligns in that we are all focused on creating a more just world and that in order to do that we need to empower others to deepen their self-awareness and awareness of others along with many other soft skills related to appropriate human-to-human interaction.
Consider the CASEL model with five key areas for SEL: Relationship Skills, Social Awareness, Self-Awareness, Self-Management and Responsible Decision-Making. Now, consider the big ideas in the AFS Intercultural Learning (ICL) frameworks: Self-Awareness, Awareness about Others, Mindful Emotional Responses, Bridges Across Differences, Global Perspectives and Application. There is a noticeable overlap in these skills!
|CASEL’s Social Awareness
|AFS’s Awareness about Others
|CASEL’s Relationship Skills
|AFS’s Mindful Emotional Responses & Bridges Across Differences
|CASEL’s Responsible Decision-Making
CASEL’s Model for Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
AFS’s Model for Global Competence Certificate Training
CASEL’s framework includes Self-Management and AFS’s model includes Global Perspectives, but there is overlap among the other areas of these two frameworks. The AFS ICL model can help teachers and staff members bridge previous training they’ve had with SEL through their schools. Additionally, the AFS ICL model helps educators see how to create a more inclusive classroom setting through understanding more about their own culture and that of others. These new understandings of culture and different values and belief systems along with how to manage one’s emotional response to difference can make a tremendous difference in a school setting.
In conversations with schools, it is important that we understand what they are talking about when they reference certain terms like SEL. Also, please note that the idea of teaching Social-Emotional Learning has become some politicized in recent years and may be considered a form of indoctrination by some groups, so it is beneficial at time to reference the themes taught in SEL and ICL rather than using the term SEL. The more you know about these things AND you know about what AFS-USA has to offer, the more successful you can be in connecting the school to an AFS offering.
For example, if a school says that they are focused primarily on SEL initiatives for the next year or two for their staff and student body, you can easily ask if they’ve considered how their SEL program bridges the gap with diversity and global competence. Then, you can describe what has been outlined above with the connections between SEL & ICL.
If a teacher is looking for classroom activities or ideas to engage their students in learning more, please direct them to the Classroom Resources section of our website. If schools are interested in training for their staff members, using AFS content in their curriculum or more, please direct them to Jill Woerner, Director of Educational Outreach, at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your Regional Field Specialist.