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The Importance of SEL Certification for Teachers

July 7, 2023

Modern classrooms require teachers to equip students with strong academic knowledge and skills to navigate life’s complexities. Social emotional learning (SEL) is a way to teach students those essential skills, including empathy development, maintaining positive personal relationships, and the importance of self-awareness.

Effective implementation of social emotional learning requires SEL training for teachers. Toward that end, educators can earn an online SEL certificate providing them with the knowledge, skills, and best practices for implementing SEL in the classroom.

It’s an important step to consider because research has repeatedly demonstrated the effectiveness of SEL. In a survey of more than 100 studies on using SEL in education, the Chicago-based nonprofit Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) found that SEL has consistently improved student academic outcomes.

“When students have supportive relationships and opportunities to develop and practice social, emotional, and cognitive skills across many different contexts, academic learning accelerates,” the CASEL website reported.

What Is Social Emotional Learning?

SEL refers to how children and adults understand and manage their emotions and develop empathy for others. A 2022 study on SEL published in Psychological Bulletin defined SEL this way:

“A 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.”

The study found that training for teachers and administrators is key to successfully implementing SEL. The researchers wrote that while extensive and consistent data show multiple benefits connected with school-based SEL programs, “it is important to understand the conditions and mechanisms by which these programs are most effective.”

Teachers apply SEL at all grade levels, including making it a part of early childhood education.

The Benefits of SEL for Students

Students reap numerous and far-reaching rewards when teachers apply SEL as part of their effective teaching strategy. One of the most critical is improved academic performance, as students who learn to understand and regulate their emotions typically perform better at setting and achieving academic goals.

The Committee for Children, a nonprofit educational organization focusing on SEL, reports that well-implemented SEL programs also teach students skills that last a lifetime, including problem-solving, self-regulation, impulse control, and empathy. Applied in the classroom, these skills can create a more positive environment, including reducing “negative social behaviors” such as bullying.

The nonprofit noted that social-emotional skills also “help kids successfully manage everyday life” by teaching them how to focus, make good decisions, and become supportive members of their community well beyond school.

The CASEL survey of SEL research found that the positive impact on academics lasts long-term. One study cited by the nonprofit agency found that years after students participated in SEL, they had an academic performance 13 percentile points higher than students who didn’t participate.

How SEL Benefits Teachers

SEL training for teachers also benefits the well-being of educators. Lisa Currie is the founder and program manager of the Ripple Kindness Project, a “community kindness project” and outreach program for needy families in schools. In a column in Medium, she wrote that SEL could improve teachers’ lives just as much as their students.

Currie wrote that teaching SEL helps teachers improve self-awareness, allowing them to better understand and manage the issues that cause them stress. They also enjoy the benefits of students performing better academically, which reduces anxiety over achieving academic benchmarks.

She also noted that practicing SEL helps teachers, who typically put the needs of students ahead of their own, practice better self-care. “They understand that there must be a happy work-life balance and appreciate that taking time out to rest and rejuvenate or to connect with a friend or loved one is a healthy choice,” Currie wrote.

The Merrimack College SEL Certificate for Teachers

The online SEL Certificate from Merrimack College provides teachers with the training they need to create a safe and supportive classroom for their students. Others who can benefit from the program include administrators, school district leaders, and mental health professionals who work as school counselors, therapists, and social workers. 

The Merrimack College program uses evidence-based strategies to help professionals develop the skills needed to implement SEL that promotes mental wellness across diverse populations.

The SEL certificate includes four courses: SEL for Educators; Developing Emotional Competency and Social Maturity in Youth; Mental Health First Aid – Youth and Adult, and an elective of the student’s choice. Elective topics in diversity and social justice, conflict analysis and resolution, critical issues in education, and more.

Students who complete all four courses can apply them toward earning a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction.