Learn the 5 Core Competencies of Social Emotional Learning

Explore the 5 core competencies of SEL and effective strategies to introduce SEL into your community.

Social emotional learning (SEL) has become increasingly important across the education community as a way to help develop and foster the whole child. In order to ensure all school districts have the opportunity to enact social emotional learning, five SEL pillars were created.

At Naviance, SEL is a key capability in our CCLR framework. Below, we’ll share more about the five SEL competencies and how you can incorporate them at your school.

What are the 5 Core Competencies of SEL?

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-management
  3. Responsible decision-making
  4. Social awareness
  5. Relationship skills

Each of these competencies is vital to a successful social emotional learning plan. To learn more about the steps your school community can take to promote SEL during times of transition, here’s a visual guide. Discover how we use the five core competencies to teach high school students about SEL.


In order for students to be able to empathize with others, they need a solid sense of self-awareness. This means they need to be able to identify their own emotions, and be able to recognize their own strengths and limitations. In the classroom setting, self-awareness can translate to students having a deeper understanding of how their behavior affects and influences others, and can help foster a healthy sense of self-confidence and self-esteem. Encourage students to ask themselves, “How am I feeling right now? Why am I feeling this way?”


Especially in settings like classrooms, where there may be a diverse range of individual needs, it is important for students to be able to manage their emotions, goals, and time. They need to know how to prioritize, as well as how to wait, and how to motivate themselves in order to function independently and within a group. Encourage your students to ask for help when they don’t understand something, or to ask for space when they’re feeling overwhelmed.

Responsible decision-making

To deepen students’ abilities to realize that the world does not revolve around them, they need to learn to make responsible decisions. This includes decisions that will impact not just their own lives but also the lives of others. Thinking through a challenge and being able to weigh, evaluate, and reflect on solutions is a necessary skill if a student is to become compassionate and equitable in their thinking and actions. Encourage students to ask, “How will my choice affect other people?” and “Why am I making this choice?”

Social awareness

A key part of social emotional learning is teaching students to be aware of others’ needs and time. Becoming curious and interested in others’ experiences, cultures, backgrounds, and interests is how students build empathy and sensitivity. To be socially aware is to be a good listener and to always have an open mind and an interest in other people’s perspectives. Encourage your students to look around and notice how others might be feeling, and to ask someone, “What do you need right now?”

Relationship skills

Communication is key. That may be a cliché but it’s a critical component of SEL. When students become comfortable listening to their peers in conversation and asking thoughtful questions or raising concerns, they develop interpersonal skills that will serve them across all areas of their lives now and in the future. This is the domain of learning how to respectfully navigate and resolve conflicts, work as a team, and form meaningful relationships. Encourage students to ask, “What did you mean when you said that?” and to say, “I disagree and here is why.”

The five social emotional learning competencies are vital to properly teaching and understanding SEL in school. See how Naviance provides SEL solutions for schools across America.

Topics SEL

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