Key takeaways

  • There are many acronyms related to SEL (social emotional learning) that may confuse those new to it.
  • Keep reading to find out what SEL, CASEL, ACE, CC, SEAD, MTSS/RTI, and ESL/ELL/ESOL mean.

Do you know what SEAD stands for? What about CC or ACE? This blog aims to answer any questions you may have about the many acronyms associated with social emotional learning.

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ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experience. An adverse childhood experience is a home environment or personal life that negatively affects a young learner’s development. A person can have one or multiple ACEs. These ACE situations can include:

  • having one or more family members struggle with substance abuse and addiction
  • having one or more incarcerated family members
  • having a family that struggles financially meaning they may not have access to necessities such as food
  • having one or more family members that are physically/mentally/sexually abusive
  • being neglected by their caregivers

Find out more about ACEs: How can you help the ACEs in your classroom?


CASEL stands for The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. CASEL is highly respected among educators, parents, and other supporters of SEL. They developed a framework, often called the CASEL framework or the 5 CASEL competencies, that outlines the five main, interloping skills around which SEL curriculums and practices are often based. The five core competencies are:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Responsible decision-making
  4. Social awareness
  5. Relationship skills

Find out more about CASEL and the 5 core competencies: SEL series - the 5 CASEL competencies


CC is not often used when speaking but you may see it written to mean Culture and Climate. Culture and Climate are closely related but not the same. School culture influences the atmosphere in a school and affects everything that goes on inside it. School climate, on the other hand, is the school’s impact and effects on school community relationships. It also includes any student, parent, and staff beliefs, teachings, learning, and structural features of the school.

Find out more about school culture and climate: What is culture and climate? Why now is the time to measure it


ESL stands for English as a second language, ELL stands for English language learners, and ESOL stands for English to Speakers of Other Languages. As can be expected from the names, these refer to people, often young learners, who are either learning English or who use English as a second language. This could mean that these students use another language outside of school with their families.

Whether they’re fully bilingual or learning English as a second language, these students will require support and acknowledgment in school given that they are likely studying in a language that is not their first or strongest. This may require school districts to have district-home communications translated into other languages to increase inclusivity and understanding throughout the school community.

Find out more about the benefit of school communication translations: Multilingual Survey Translations


MTSS means Multi-Tiered System of Support and RTI stands for Response to Intervention. While these are not SEL-specific acronyms and can be found across most areas of K12 education, they are both often used when discussing social emotional learning strategies. This is because the most effective SEL support and targeted teachings assess students’ competencies before grouping them into tiers. These tiers should reflect the CASEL competency areas in which students need extra support.

Then, targeted interventions (ideally from an expert-made SEL content library) can be put into place for learners in lower tiers, such as Tiers 2 and 3, so they can get help in the areas they need help most.

Find out more about MTSS & RTI: SEL and MTSS/RTI


SEAD stands for Social, Emotional, and Academic Development. Closely associated with social emotional learning, usage of this acronym is growing in popularity, largely by those who feel the link between academic achievement and development should be strongly linked to social emotional skills development. This is because social, emotional, and academic skills in the school environment are inextricable, and developing all three as a holistic process is the most effective method to get students future-ready and set for success.

Find out more about using SEL & SEAD to improve students’ life-readiness: SEL & Life-Readiness


SEL stands for social emotional learning. It is sometimes also written as social-emotional learning or social and emotional learning. But what does SEL mean? In a nutshell social emotional learning is the process of helping young learners learn the required social emotional life skills and attitudes:

  • to be able to create and maintain healthy, strong interpersonal relationships,
  • to develop healthy personal identities,
  • to be able to manage, recognize, and regulate their emotions,
  • to have the best chances to achieve their personal and professional goals,
  • to know how to and the benefits of making responsible decisions, and
  • to be able to feel and express empathy with others.

Find out more about SEL: My child’s learning SEL - what does SEL mean?


Author: Fern Dinsdale

Posted: 01 Aug 2022

Estimated time to read: 5 mins

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