Embracing Social and Emotional Learning in K-12 Schools and Higher Education during the COVID-19 pandemic

Abstract views: 229 / PDF downloads: 98


  • Yetkin Yildirim Rice University
  • Emine Tunc Harmony School of Endeavor
  • Nausheen Hossain
  • Ambreeen Haq
  • Arkasama Bandyopadhyay




social and emotional learning, student performance, communication, digital divide


In the spring of 2020, educational institutions in the United States switched to online education due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This learning transition has hampered education productivity and negatively impacted social and emotional learning (SEL) in the classroom. Social and emotional learning typically refers to five areas of competence: self-confidence, relationship skills, social awareness, self-management, and responsible decision-making. Lack of SEL is likely to impede student social and emotional development, which can lead to poor performance both inside and outside the classroom. To prevent this, many classrooms are trying to increase student SEL in a variety of ways, including interactive workspaces and online discussion forums. This shift to SEL learning within the virtual learning environment has placed great amounts of stress upon educators as they learn to adapt to this atmosphere. Promoting SEL should be a matter of importance even within remote learning as disruptions brought by COVID-19 can prove damaging to the emotional and mental health of both students and teachers. Providing teachers with professional SEL training and forming organizations within school districts that are solely responsible for effective SEL implementation can aid this purpose. Finally, SEL is not only beneficial in K-12 education but also in higher education. Through SEL, college students are provided with a variety of life skills that prove to be imperative as they progress through their educational journeys.


Biber, D. (2020). Social Emotional Learning for a College Classroom. College Teaching, 68(1). p. 49-52.

Carnoy, M. & Garcia, E. (2017). Five key trends in U.S. student performance: Progress by blacks and Hispanics, the takeoff of Asians, the stall of non-English speakers, the persistence of socioeconomic gaps, and the damaging effect of highly segregated schools. Economic Policy Institute. https://www.epi.org/publication/five-key-trends-in-u-s-student-performance-progress-by-blacks-and-hispanics-the-takeoff-of-asians-the-stall-of-non-english-speakers-the-persistence-of-socioeconomic-gaps-and-the-damaging-effect/

Dolan, E. W. (2020, January 11). First-generation university students are more likely to struggle with imposter syndrome. Social Psychology. https://www.psypost.org

Duzhyk, N. (2019). Films as a means of social and emotional learning in higher education. DOI https://doi.org/10.32838/2663-6069/2019.2-1/15.

Elmi, C. (2020). Integrating social emotional learning strategies in higher education. European Journal of Investigation in Health, Psychology and Education, 10(3). p. 848-858.

Frezza, Diana. (2018). Four Reasons Why Students-and Teachers-Need Sel Embedded into School All Day, Every Day. EdSurge. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2018-09-04-four-reasons-why-students-and-teachers-need-sel-embedded-into-school-all-day-every-day.

Gallagher, K. M., & Stocker, S. L. (2018). A guide to incorporating social?emotional learning in the college classroom: Busting anxiety, boosting ability. Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology.https://teachpsych.org

García, E., & Weiss, E. (2020, September 10). COVID-19 and student performance, equity, and U.S. education policy: Lessons from pre-pandemic research to inform relief, recovery, and rebuilding. Economic Policy Institute. https://www.epi.org.

García, S. (n.d.). How SEL Helps You as a Teacher. Understood.org Retrieved July 21, 2021, from https://www.understood.org/articles/en/how-sel-helps-you-as-a-teacher

Hurtado, I. L. (2020). Social-emotional learning in higher education: Examining the relationship between social-emotional skills and students’ academic success. Dissertation submitted to University of Minnesota. https://conservancy.umn.edu

Initiative on Social-Emotional Learning and Civic Engagement. (n.d.). Tufts. https://tischcollege.tufts.edu

Millett, C.M. (2020). Perspectives on Social and Emotional Learning in Tertiary Education. ETS Research Report Series, 2020: 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1002/ets2.12303.

Reinert, P. M. (2019). Social-emotional learning: a model for higher education. Journal of Research in Innovative Teaching & Learning. Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 114-115. https://doi.org/10.1108/JRIT-02-2019-0039

Schroeder, R. (2020, October 1). Wellness and Mental Health in 2020 Online Learning. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/online-trending-now/wellness-and-mental-health-2020-online-learning

Schwartz, S. (2019, July 17). Teachers Support Social-Emotional Learning, But Say Students in Distress Strain Their Skills. Education Week. https://www.edweek.org/leadership/teachers-support-social-emotional-learning-but-say-students-in-distress-strain-their-skills/2019/07

Research Implications for the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Core Elements. (n.d.). Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Student Benefits. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED505369.pdf

Socas, J. (2017). Infusing Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) into the Community College Curriculum. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 41(12), p. 901-904.

Son, C., Hegde, S., Smith, A., Wang, X., & Sasangohar, F. (2020). Effects of COVID-19 on College Students' Mental Health in the United States: Interview Survey Study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 22(9), e21279. https://doi.org/10.2196/21279.

Stringer, H. (2021). Zoom school’s mental health toll on kids. Apa.org. https://www.apa.org/news/apa/2020/online-learning-mental-health

Walker, T. (2020, April 15). Social-Emotional Learning Should Be Priority During COVID-19 Crisis. NEA. https://www.nea.org

Wang, N., Wilhite, S. C., Wyatt, J., Young, T., Bloemker, G., & Wilhite, E. (2012). Impact of a college freshman social and emotional learning curriculum on student learning outcomes: An exploratory study. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 9(2), 8.

Wilcher, T. (2020). Supporting the “Whole” Student: Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and the Flipped Classroom. Center for Faculty Development News. https://www.odu.edu/facultydevelopment/news/2020/2/supporting_the_whole




How to Cite

Yildirim, Y., Tunc, E., Hossain, N. ., Haq , A. ., & Bandyopadhyay, A. (2021). Embracing Social and Emotional Learning in K-12 Schools and Higher Education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eurasian Journal of Higher Education, (5), 54–62. https://doi.org/10.31039/ejohe.2021.5.58