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The Difference Between Social Competence and Emotional Competence

The Difference Between Social Competence and Emotional Competence

Social and Emotional Learning is the process of developing and promoting the social and emotional growth of students with the same intentionality and focus given to academic growth. SEL is an ongoing exploration and practice of skills, knowledge, and behaviors through explicit, developmentally appropriate instruction in SEL competencies.

It is an ongoing practice where students learn developmentally appropriate skills that they can demonstrate with increasing frequency and regularity over time. SEL requires the same allocation of time, attention, and resources as an academic curriculum and is of equal importance for a productive, high-quality education. Social Learning and Emotional Learning have distinct, stand-alone meanings, and unite to create the framework for the SEL Competencies and Standards.

The Difference Between Social Competence and Emotional Competence

And while Social and Emotional Learning, or SEL, rolls off the tongue as a succinct acronym, social learning and emotional learning are actually two distinct but related concepts. It’s critical to understand the complexity embedded within those three letters. Social learning and emotional learning create the umbrella for the SEL Competencies and Standards.

Social competence encompasses one’s ability to make positive contributions to their community and society, as well as their ability to work and play well with others. Social competence refers to the self and its relationship to others—how someone views themselves and their role in the world and to what extent they maintain an awareness of others and desire to contribute in a positive manner.

Emotional competence refers to one’s ability to identify and understand their emotions and corresponding expression and how that expression affects their thoughts, behaviors, interactions, decisions, and dispositions. Emotional competence refers to the understanding that emotions can be managed, which is a teachable skill, and that students can be given tools to practice that skill. It encompasses the ability to remain calm and focused while displaying good-will toward others, even in the face of negative feelings. Students should understand that management is not suppressing or ignoring feelings but rather acknowledging their existence and their potential to influence social and academic engagement and success.

Both the distinction between and intersection of social and emotional competence serves as a foundation for other major aspects of developing Social and Emotional Learning. Social and emotional competence is developmental and grows over time and with practice, and when strengthened together offers students a holistic skillset to set them up for success in learning and in life.


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