What is a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Specialist?

What is a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Specialist?

In addition to academic demands, students today must acquire an ever-growing list of life skills. They learn to cooperate effectively with peers, make social decisions responsibly, make constructive contributions to their families and communities, and attain the skills necessary to become valuable and productive members of society. An educator who specializes in social emotional learning (SEL) can help foster the attitudes and values needed to help students acquire these life skills and become more thoughtful human beings, helping set them up for future success.

All students – both children and adults – need to learn proficiencies for success beyond long division and diagramming sentences. It is the role of an SEL specialist to take on the responsibility for schools to become cohesive learning communities to accomplish these goals that go beyond standard academics. When students have the language to describe their feelings and needs, they are better equipped to help themselves and each other. Understand the steps needed to become a successful SEL specialist and the skills to implement the methodology in the classroom. 

How to Become a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Specialist

While social emotional learning isn’t a defined subject like science or social studies, it can be intertwined into the fiber of a school’s curriculum. Educators can specialize in SEL and create academic lessons more personal and relatable to students. Research shows that students are more inclined to participate in discussions and are less likely to act out or disrupt the class during lessons. SEL learning environments can also reduce bullying in schools. 

There are a variety of approaches available for educators to specialize in SEL. In order to become a social emotional learning specialist, an educator must first be self-actualized and understand the importance of the SEL methodology and its principles. Applied research shows that educators’ own social and emotional competencies play an important role in the quality of the educational experiences they offer their students.

Once that personal drive is established, teachers and other educators can dive deeper into the field through research, participation in the SEL educational community, and furthering their education with various SEL degrees, certifications, and programs. 

Some educators may integrate SEL into the overall theme of their classroom teaching style. Others may establish SEL activities throughout the day, such as journaling and other forms of student expression. Teachers can also blend SEL-related lessons into more concrete subjects like math, English, and science. One example of utilizing SEL in more defined subjects is to create open-ended project assignments that allow students to present themselves through creativity and self-expression, such as role-play. Educators can also use evidence-based instructional materials, practices, and resources that directly teach social, emotional, and cognitive skills. 

Read on to learn more about the different social emotional learning programs and how you can integrate this learning philosophy into your classroom. 

Social Emotional Learning Programs

There are many types of programs and degrees available for aspiring social emotional learning specialists. The mission of social emotional learning programs is to prepare educators with the skills required to implement a wide range of social-emotional and character-based programs to students with diverse learning needs. SEL courses and certification programs are designed to prepare educators for that responsibility. 

It’s important for teachers and SEL specialists alike to continuously educate and challenge themselves with new ideas, creative thought processes and problem-solving skills toward a common practice and philosophy.  It’s important for educators to be welcomed into the SEL learning community of mutual support, understanding, and innovative thinking. After all, the overall goal is improving the lives and futures of all students!  

Master’s Degree in Social Emotional Learning

National University offers master’s degree programs that focus on social emotional learning needs for students across various ages and learning environments. Through a master’s degree in social emotional learning, future educators can gain the knowledge and skills needed to make subject matter engaging and understandable for students of all ages. These lessons are impactful by emphasizing social emotional thriving, meaningful academic achievement, and equitable and inclusive learning communities.

Social Emotional Intelligence Certification

Educators may wish to expand their level of expertise by pursuing an SEL certificate. Through furthering their own education, teachers and school leaders can develop strategies and processes to bring coherence and integration to the classroom. Whether you’re an academic administrator or a kindergarten teacher, earning a certificate in social emotional intelligence is a surefire way to enhance your career trajectory.

SEL Internships

More than ever, schools across the country are encouraging students of all majors to participate in internships. Many have added them as requirements for graduation. An internship can set a student apart from their peers and can be an integral step in finding meaningful employment. An internship focused on social emotional learning provides interns with the training and professional experience applying a holistic approach to supporting the students’ emotional needs in a classroom environment.

National University offers a Master of Education program with an internship option that focuses on social emotional learning. This Internship option requires the successful completion of the internship clinical practice experience. The CA Commission on Teacher Credentialing requires an intern-candidate holding a valid University Internship Credential to be continuously enrolled in clinical practice support and supervision. 

Social Emotional Learning: Skills and Outcomes

In order to facilitate students’ social and emotional learning, an educator must see the student as a human being. Teachers must also strive to know and understand themselves. In order to encourage students to achieve a sense of well-being, teachers are required to be aware of their own well-being. 

Through proper training, social emotional learning specialists will learn a wide variety of skills to assist students in finding a stronger sense of self-worth. Notable social emotional learning skills include:

  • Evaluating the impact of social emotional learning competencies on student success across all age and development levels.
  • Creating an action research project based on SEL research, theory, and practice that will create inclusive environments for students as a whole.
  • Developing social and emotional leadership skills to support educators, administrators, and families in a transformative school culture.
  • Distinguishing the intersectionality between social emotional learning, equity, and cultural responsiveness in educational communities.
  • Reflecting critically about professional beliefs and practices in the application and implementation of educating.
  • Learning the principles required not only to inspire others, but also being an inspired educator.
  • Creating and maintaining effective learning environments for students.
  • Making subject matter cohesive and understandable for students of varying development levels.

By developing these skills through education and applying them in the classroom, students become better, more productive, self-aware, and socially-aware citizens outside of the classroom. 

Specialize in Social Emotional Learning at National University 

Social emotional learning is a philosophy and a methodology that helps students of all ages to better comprehend their emotions, to feel those emotions fully, and demonstrate empathy for those around them. It’s up to the educators and the SEL specialists to teach these learned behaviors. It’s important for teachers to embrace SEL and help students learn to make responsible life decisions and build positive relationships in their lives. 

At National University, SEL is a cornerstone of our teaching program, offering many programs to train educators in social emotional learning in the classroom. Recognizing the importance of weaving SEL into the curriculum can help foster positive attitudes in the classroom. An education career enhanced with SEL is a rewarding way to help set students up for future success.

The Sanford Harmony Scholars Program in Social Emotional Learning will reward outstanding students who have demonstrated the potential for academic excellence with a full-tuition scholarship to promote teacher leadership in social emotional learning in their future schools and districts. Visit our program page to learn how National University’s Sanford College of Education can help you achieve your goal. Learn more about our on-campus and online degrees and programs. You can also hear more from our students and faculty on our education resources pages