8 Key Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Skills to Develop

Social emotional learning (SEL) is defined as the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

What specific social and emotional competencies are addressed by widespread SEL programs and measurable with evidence-based assessment tools?  

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Social and Emotional Skills and Competencies

The Devereux Students Strengths Assessment (DESSA) includes these eight social and emotional competencies.


A child’s realistic understanding of her/his strengths and limitations and consistent desire for improvement.


A child’s success in controlling his or her emotions and behaviors, to complete a task or succeed in a new or challenging situation.


A child’s capacity to interact with others in a way that shows respect for their ideas & behaviors, recognizes her/his impact on them, and uses cooperation and tolerance in social situations.

Relationship Skills

A child’s consistent performance of socially acceptable actions that promote and maintain positive connections with others.

Goal-Directed Behavior

A child’s initiation of, and persistence in completing tasks of varying difficulty.

Personal Responsibility

A child’s tendency to be careful and reliable in her/his actions and in contributing to group efforts.


A child’s approach to problem solving that involves learning from others and her/his own previous experiences, using her/his values to guide her/his action, and accepting responsibility for her/his decisions.

Optimistic Thinking

A child’s attitude of confidence, hopefulness, and positive thinking regarding herself/ himself and her/his life situations in the past, present, and future.


Measuring Social and Emotional Skill Development

Measure these competencies with our partner, Aperture Education’s the DESSA System. The DESSA System provides a comprehensive, cloud-based system for assessing, informing and improving these social and emotional skills of children both in-school and out-of-school. For daily recording of social emotional learning competencies, use the DESSA SEL Inventory, available through Kickboard, which provides a set of student behaviors for real-time monitoring that is linked to these eight social and emotional competencies.

The Devereux Students Strengths Assessment (DESSA) is a nationally standardized (n=2,494), norm-referenced, strength-based measure of eight social and emotional competencies of children in kindergarten through 8th grade. Published by Aperture Education and completed by teachers, parents and out-of-school-time staff, the DESSA is also aligned to leading SEL curricula such as Second Step and Open Circle.


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