Social-Emotional Learning for Young Learners

How to develop well-rounded learners.

David Weller


There are so many approaches to teaching, it can feel overwhelming.

Which methodology do you use? Do you go with present, practice, produce, or task-based learning? But once you’ve decided on how to teach, and develop proficiency, you start to wonder if there’s more to learning and teaching.

For the first few years I taught, I only focused on the basics — classroom and behaviour management and making sure learners met the ‘can do’ statements.

As I developed more tools for teaching, it allowed me to spend more time focusing on individuals in the classroom, build rapport, and allow to differentiate my teaching to personalise support.

Finally, I reached a point where I started asking questions about how I could help my students develop, not just linguistically, but holistically.

This is where socio-emotional learning comes in.

What is Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)?

SEL focuses on five core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Acquiring these skills can help your students develop as people, not just as learners. A 2017 meta-analysis by CASEL (the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) showed that SEL led to better classroom behaviour, improved stress management, and thirteen percent gains in learner outcomes.

Why is SEL Important in a TEFL Classroom?

Integrating SEL into a TEFL classroom allows for the development of well-rounded language learners, and well-rounded characters. By promoting these competencies, you’re setting up students not just for success in their language acquisition journey, but for life.

Panorama research from over 100,000 students around 200 schools showed correlations between SEL and attendance, behaviour, and coursework (the ‘ABCs’). Children with high SEL are twice as likely to have above-average grades, sixty per cent less likely to have behaviour incidents and half as likely to be absent.



David Weller

Lessons, stories and visuals to develop your language teaching and learning. 20 years in education, 3 books, and a twice-monthly newsletter.