The Link Between SEL And Positive Student Behaviour

Author: Antoinette Morris

Posted: 05 Jun 2023

Estimated time to read: 3 mins

Have you ever questioned the behaviour management system at your school? Students behave badly, reactively receive a detention or other punishment and then (more times than not) still repeat the same kind of bad behaviour. Social emotional learning or SEL is a way to break this destructive cycle. 

Social emotional learning (SEL) is a process through which students learn to manage their emotions, set goals, establish positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. SEL is increasingly being recognised as an essential component of education, and for good reason, with one of the most significant benefits being the positive impact on student behaviour.


Positive and negative student behaviour definitions 

Positive student behaviour refers to actions and attitudes that promote a safe, supportive, and inclusive school environment. Positive student behaviour includes showing respect for others, following school rules, participating in class, and being responsible for your own actions. 

Negative student behaviour wastes valuable time for both teachers and students, covering everything from not doing homework to bullying and verbal abuse of staff. A study has shown that low level disruption costs individual pupils up to 38 days of learning per year, as well as that the more serious kinds of bad behaviour significantly decrease teacher retention. 

Want to keep learning about the effects of negative student behaviour in schools? Check out our free infographic for more interesting statistics. 


How does SEL impact student behaviour?

So how does SEL actually make a difference to student behaviour? SEL programmes proactively address the causes of negative behaviour, giving students the skills and understanding they need to behave better. 

In other words, instead of telling students off for past bad behaviour, SEL teaches students to manage their emotions, communicate effectively, and work collaboratively with others to improve their future behaviour. Many students don’t actually know how to behave well, or why behaving well is important beyond avoiding short term consequences. SEL addresses that problem with a proactive, holistic approach. 

SEL also helps students develop important social skills, such as empathy and communication, essential for building positive relationships with peers, teachers, and family members. Students who have strong social skills are better able to navigate social situations, resolve conflicts, and work collaboratively with others - consequently reducing negative behavioural incidents.

Overall, SEL is all about teaching students how to behave well in the first place, rather than simply punishing them when they don’t. 

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What are the core competencies of SEL?

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has defined five core competencies of SEL:

  1. Self-awareness: the ability to recognise and understand one's own emotions, thoughts, and values.
  2. Self-management: the ability to regulate one's own emotions, thoughts, and behaviours.
  3. Social awareness: the ability to understand and empathise with others' emotions, thoughts, and perspectives.
  4. Relationship skills: the ability to establish and maintain positive relationships with others.
  5. Responsible decision-making: the ability to make ethical and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions.

These competencies are the foundation of SEL, 5 key life skill areas that educators can focus on to improve the lives of their students.

This framework is highly effective, approved by the Education Endowment Foundation for use in UK schools because of the phenomenal results it can produce.  

SEL programmes teach these core competencies through classroom instruction, group activities, and individual counselling. Teachers and staff can also model SEL skills in their everyday behaviours, creating a supportive and inclusive school environment.


Not sure where to start implementing SEL? 

Implementing SEL in your school can feel like a daunting task, with many wanting to introduce it but having no idea where to start. 

Satchel Pulse’s new Skills tool is an all-in-one, cost effective solution to negative student behaviour, poor academic performance and low wellbeing that’s quick and easy to implement.

Book a no-strings-attached demo today to see how Skills could help your school, or find out more about the tool here