The basics of the CASEL competencies

Janna Nobleza
SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) is the set of competencies people of all ages work to develop in order to recognize their own emotions, manage their emotions and stress, work towards goals, establish and maintain healthy relationships, show empathy and respect for others, and make constructive choices. In general, integrating SEL into your classroom, school, and community has many positive benefits including lower student stress, higher academic achievement in students, and better attitudes towards the learning environment.
CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) has defined five interrelated areas of competencies that can be taught at all grade levels, as well as used by adults. The competencies address academic success, as well as health and wellness.

CASEL's SEL framework fosters knowledge, skills, and attitudes across five areas of competence and multiple key settings to establish equitable learning environments that advance students' learning and development. (

The five core competencies are:
  • Self-Awareness: The abilities to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts.
  • Self-Management: The abilities to manage one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations and to achieve goals and aspirations.
  • Responsible Decision-Making: The abilities to make caring and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across diverse situations.
  • Relationship Skills: The abilities to establish and maintain healthy and supporting relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse individuals and groups.
  • Social Awareness: The abilities to understand the perspectives of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and contexts.

The Relationship Between Each Competency

The five competencies are represented on a wheel since the skills are cyclical and continual -- each competency merges into the other four. Most often, we always begin with self-awareness which is a foundational skill that all the other competencies can rest on.  When we are able to understand ourselves (our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors) we are better able to work on self-management, relationship skills, social awareness, and making responsible decisions.

Students who understand themselves and their emotional competencies are better able to have positive relationships with their peers and teachers. As they develop these relationships, they are able to build their cultural competency and empathy in others, which in turn helps them make more caring decisions.

In the same way, teachers who develop better emotional skills are better able to handle stress and create more balance in their lives, they are able to model positive, healthy relationships for their students, and create more educational equity in their classrooms. Teachers can change the school community and the relationships between school staff members to help their school thrive.


The first skill for both teachers and students to focus on, though, is self-awareness. When we don't fully understand ourselves, we can't understand others. To begin teaching self-awareness with your younger students, teach your students words for different emotions. When our students have a larger emotional vocabulary than just mad, sad, and happy, they are better able to learn about the intricacies of emotions. Next work on having students stop and think about what emotion they may be feeling. When they are able to do that, you can begin talking about mixed emotions (having more than one emotion at the same time). For middle and high school students, begin having students think more closely about the locus of control (you can find more information about this in the Seltrove student planners or digital classroom packs).