facebook icon
Yellow Paper Plane going in circles

No products in the cart.

Adult SEL

SEL Skills Development

SEL Skills Development

When it comes to acquiring a new skill set, whether it’s playing chess or practicing assertiveness, there is both a natural learning cycle to understand and four stages of skill development before a skill is considered learned.

To follow the “natural learning cycle” simply means letting students learn how they are naturally inclined to learn: exploration, gathering, and testing (Dewey, 1938/63; Piaget, 1923/59). To put this into practice, teachers can set meaningful goals for their students; invite them to actively explore raw material and gather information that interests them; and observe students and help them reflect on what they’ve found. This cycle can be reimagined and repeated in different contexts, allowing students to practice and solidify their skills beyond the classroom environments (Center for Responsive Schools, 2016).

The four stages of skill development, which move from unconscious ignorance to unconscious ability, begins when students are unaware of a skill and unaware that they lack it. For example, we can look at the skill “Can apologize without prompting when a mistake or poor decision has been made,” which is an aspect of Responsibility. Teachers can identify apologizing as a skill and clearly outline why it is important. As students become aware of their lack of the skill and understand why they need to learn it, they enter the stage of “conscious inability.” Teachers can then provide students with explicit instruction about how to apologize and hold themselves accountable for their actions. At first, students will likely need prompting to apologize, which is the “conscious ability” stage. After enough practice the student will identify when they’ve made a poor choice and apologize on their own. That particular aspect of Responsibility has been learned, and they are at the final stage of “unconscious ability.”

SEL Skills Development

The path to unconscious ability is neither linear nor smooth. Students will make progress then face periods of regression and frustration—learning from their mistakes and setbacks is part of the process and can be invaluable to creating a persistent learner of social and emotional skills who grows over time into a socially and emotionally competent adult.

Works Cited:
Center for Responsive Schools. (2016). The Joyful Classroom: Practical Ways to Engage and Challenge Elementary Students. Turners Falls, MA: Author.

Dewey, J. (1938/1963). Experience and Education. New York: Collier MacMillan.

Piaget, J. (1923/1959). The Language and Thought of the Child. New York: Humanities Press.


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This