Dr. Amy Miner, PhD

Dr. Amy Miner, PhD

Coming to Terms with the Term “Well-Being”

Moving Beyond SEL

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines social and emotional learning (SEL) as an integral part of education and human development.

SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions. [1]

CASEL identifies five core competencies of social and emotional learning: self awareness, self management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

Most refer to these important life skills as social and emotional learning, which includes practical knowledge that students need to communicate effectively, interact with peers, resolve conflicts, and manage their emotional responses to stressful situations. [2]

Educational research and various SEL frameworks emphasize different skills in an attempt to communicate a comprehensive coverage and multifaceted approach to social and emotional learning. The Harvard SeCURE framework organizes these skills around three main “buckets.” The buckets are labeled Cognitive Regulation Skills, Emotion Skills, and Interpersonal Skills. [3] The RULER approach from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence teaches students to: Recognize emotion, Understand emotion, Label emotion, Express emotion, and Regulate emotions. [4] Martin Seligman’s PERMA theory of psychological well-being and happiness includes positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishments. [5]

Education experts Fisher and Frey further suggest that all learning is social emotional learning, and include in their integrated SEL framework instruction and intervention the areas of identity and agency, emotional regulation, cognitive regulation, social skills, and public spirit. [6] The term “contributive learning,” based on the work of Joanne McEachen and the Learner First organization in various countries suggests that “students learn to contribute by developing self-understanding, connections with others and the world, and the knowledge and competency to respond well to challenges and live in ways that improve people’s lives.” [7] This interconnected nature of the various aspects of well-being has gained further momentum with the deep learning work of Fullan, M; Quinn, J; and McEachen, J. [8] as they suggest that students need more than academics to thrive.

Through our research and work with various districts, we asked students, teachers, and administrators from all over the world to identify these important life skills. They suggested phrases such as:

  • Balanced and peaceful
  • Healthy relationships
  • Stability that enables one to thrive and contribute to society in meaningful and impactful ways
  • Ability to navigate the ups and downs of life
  • Knowing you are loved, needed and valued
  • Feeling safe, connected, hopeful, and confident in all aspects of your life
  • A healthy and positive state of mind that impacts your emotions, interactions, and relationships with others

Although the list of topics and skills quickly becomes exhaustive and overwhelming, when limited to just social and emotional learning, this narrow approach excludes other critical life skills needed in navigating today’s world.

At In Focus Education, well-being is the overarching, comprehensive representation of the all-encompassing, holistic, and interactive nature of this work.


  1. Fundamentals of SEL. Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). https://casel.org/fundamentals-of-sel.
  2. Hanover, 2017. Best Practices in Social and Emotional Learning.
  3. Harvard SECURe: This Shafer, L. (2016 July 15). What Makes SEL Work.
  4. Brackett, M. (2019) Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and our Society Thrive. New York, New York: Celadon Books.
  5. PERMA/EPOCH: Pascha, M (2017 February 24). The PERMA Model: Your Scientific Model of Happiness.
  6. Frey, N., and Fisher, D. (2019). All Learning is Social and Emotional. ASCD. Virginia: USA.
  7. Contributive Learning. The Learner First.
  8. Fullan, M, Quinn, J. & McEachen, J. (2018)Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.


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Curriculum Connections - Coming to Terms with the Term “Well-Being”