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Social/emotional Learning


Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) through Cedar School Physical Education



“The most important attitude that can be formed is that of the desire to go on learning.”


John Dewey


The feelings and emotions that result from achieving a personal best on a one mile run, receiving a compliment from a coach or teammate after a game, performing a dance for an appreciative audience, or hitting a curve ball for a two base hit make physical activity enjoyable and motivate students to participate regularly in physical activity.  The feelings and emotions that result from being made fun of for dropping or being hit by a ball, failing to do a pull up while others watch and tease, or being the last person picked for a sport prohibit participation in physical activity. 


Students have an inside self and an outside self.  We observe some social/emotional behaviors such as: students showing respect for others, positively experiencing content, being actively involved in learning, and supporting and helping others.  Other behaviors cannot be observed as clearly: feelings, dispositions, values, attitudes, and self-perceptions. 


Educators use the affective domain of learning as an umbrella term that can include student feelings, interests, emotions, desires, attitudes, appreciations, commitment, will power, dispositions, morals and values. These emotions and feelings are complex, hard to measure and difficult to teach. Affective behaviors all influence how learners respond to themselves, the teacher, each other and  learning experiences.  Affective learning is also known as social/emotional learning (SEL).


The social and emotional learning that schools often desire cannot be passed from teacher to learner in the way information is transmitted. Nor can students achieve them in the manner in which they achieve cognitive learning targets.  Feelings and emotions are almost always the consequence of success, failure, tasks accomplished or not accomplished and so forth.


Organizing Social/Emotional Learning Targets


Educators often describe social/emotional learning with terms such as rules, discipline, behavior and so forth.  Social and emotional learning is more than having students follow classroom procedures.  It helps students assume more responsibility for learning, their well being and the well being of others.  Psychologists and educational theorists (see reference list below) have organized social/emotional behaviors into the following frameworks 

  • Personal and Social Responsibility – respect, involvement, responsibility and caring
  • Character - trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship
  • Intrapersonal intelligence -  to use self knowledge  for accessing, identifying and drawing upon feelings to guide behavior
  • Interpersonal intelligence – to identify and respond appropriately to temperaments and desires of others
  • Emotional intelligence - recognizing one’s emotional responses, and those of others, and using this knowledge in effective ways 
  • Social/Emotional learning - developing self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision making, and relationship management.


Employers look for social and emotional behaviors such as dependability, punctuality, reliability, the ability to work productively in groups, and to contribute with ideas and sustained effort.  All of these behaviors can be developed in schools.


When students are learning these behaviors it usually occurs in the following sequence: reception, response, valuation, organization and internalization.  Reception is defined as being willing to attend to an idea or stimulus such as listening to instructions.  A learner who chooses to follow instructions or act in accordance with rules describes response or responding.  Valuation is when a student assumes responsibility for behaving in a prescribed manner.  Organization occurs when the learner puts together several values together and integrates behavior.  Finally, internalizations is when a student maintains harmony between values and behavior independently.   


The social/emotional learning goal for physical education is:

Students will become more responsible for learning.

They will have achieved this goal when they:

  1. Show respect for themselves, others and the learning environment
  2. Are actively involved in learning throughout each lesson
  3. Assume responsibility for continual self-improvement
  4. Show concern and support for others

This goal is measured a checklist (rubric).


A time for reflection allows students to evaluate how personally and socially responsible they were for a given physical education lesson. Here, students reflect on and evaluate their attitudes, intentions and behaviors in regard to social and emotional levels on the rubric below.   Students use a rubric (similar to the one below) to see how far they need to go and to describe how well they respected the rights and feelings of others, their involvement in learning experiences, and their level of commitment to improving themselves and others. 


Rubric for Measuring Social and Emotional Behavior in Physical Activity Settings

We are learning to assume responsibility for learning.  We will achieve this when we reach level four for self-control, involvement, responsibility and caring.

Instructions: Observe a student participating in a lesson.  Identify a score for each of the four aspects of responsible personal and social behavior.



Involvement in the lesson




1. Quickly shed anxiety, anger, sadness or feelings of failure

2. Cooperated, shared, took turns, and interacted smoothly and positively with all others

3. Used and volunteered to put away equipment safely and properly


1. Tried to improve a new skill and/or achieved a personal best on a previously learned skill


2. Maintained focus and commitment to movement tasks throughout the lesson without reminders


3. Listened attentively with continual eye contact on all speakers


4. Interacted cooperatively and productively with partner and all others



1. Came to class: on time, dressed for physical activity, prepared to learn and put forth best effort


2. Accepted responsibility for what she/he did and failed to do


3. Continually adjusted and improved performance after receiving corrective feedback


4. Held self and others responsible for following rules/procedures

1. Gave verbal and nonverbal encouragement to others


2. Resolved a conflict respectfully so that both groups benefited from the solution


3.Acknowledged strong performances of others by giving compliments


4. Showed responsiveness, concern and support for another person(s)


1. Did not allow anxiety, anger, sadness, or feelings to have a negative effect on performance


2. Cooperated with partners/group members


3. Used and helped put away equipment safely and properly


1.Tried a new skill or attempted to achieve a personal best


2. Maintained focus and on task behavior through most of the lesson


3. Listened to others with some eye contact


4. Interacted cooperatively with others

1. Came to class on time, dressed for physical activity and prepared to learn.


2. Accepted responsibility for what he/she did or failed to do


3. Adjusted performance after receiving feedback


4. Held self or others responsible for following rules/procedures

1. Gave verbal or nonverbal encouragement to others


2. Participated positively in conflict resolution


3. Gave compliments to others


4. Helped another person


1. Did not allow emotions to negatively affect performance


2. Cooperated with some classmates


3. Used equipment safely and properly

1. Attempted to improve skills


2. Maintained on task behavior through most of the lesson


3. Listened to others with no eye contact


4. Interacted respectfully with others

1. Came to class on time, dressed for physical activity but unprepared to put forth best effort


2. Accepted some responsibility for what he/she did or failed to do


3. Made some performance modifications in light of feedback


4. Followed some rules/procedures

1. Encouraged someone


2. Participated in conflict resolution


3. Gave a compliment


4. Showed some concern for others


1. Emotions had a negative affect on performance


2. Bothered others or used a put down


3. Did not use equipment/resources appropriately

1. Needed to be reminded to become involved in the lesson


2. Needed to be reminded to listen to others



1. Did not come to class and/or came to class dressed inappropriately


2. Did not accept responsibility for what she/he did or failed to do


3. Did not make any performance adjustments based on feedback


4. Did not follow rules/procedures

1. Did not encourage anyone


2. Refused to participate in conflict resolution


3. Did not compliment others


4. Did not provide help/support to another when she/he could have





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