The Importance of Social-Emotional Learning

Social-Emotional Learning, or SEL, is a term we are hearing more about as we continue to learn about its importance and recognize its impact on student success. Mason Prep places a high priority on building character, and our SEL program is fundamental to that endeavor.

What is social-emotional learning? 

“SEL is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success.” ( “[Through SEL], 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.” (

Hundreds of studies involving more than 1 million students worldwide across PreK-12 offer consistent evidence that SEL has a positive impact on students’ academic achievement.
  • Students participating in SEL at school have higher levels of “school functioning,” as reflected by their grades, test scores, attendance, and homework completion.
  • SEL builds social and emotional skills that increase student engagement and lead to improved academic performance.
  • SEL interventions that addressed the five core competencies increased students’ academic performance by 11 percentile points, compared to students who did not participate.
  • The positive impact on academics lasts long-term: Years after students participated in SEL, their academic performance was an average of 13 percentile points higher than students who didn’t participate. (

What does SEL look like at Mason Prep?
At Mason Prep, we strive to develop curious, lifelong learners who understand the importance of being thoughtfully involved citizens in their communities. Character development is not simply reinforcing good manners or doing community service projects (although those are both things we do at MPS!). Mason Prep has a cohesive, school-wide Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program whose curriculum flows from year to year, building on the lessons learned in the previous grade. By the eighth grade, students have been taught the social and emotional skills they will need for success in the classroom and for life.

Mason Prep’s SEL program is overseen by Dean of Students and School and Clinical Child Psychologist, Dr. Jessica Anderson. Says Dr. Anderson, “Having a comprehensive SEL program is so important for the success of our students. As a faculty, we are aware of the needs of our students, and we have built a solid program to address those.” 

Mason Prep uses two proven SEL programs to teach real-world lessons.

Grades K-2: Social Thinking
The Social Thinking Methodology “provides evidence-based strategies to help students develop their social competencies, flexible thinking, and social problem solving and improve conversation and social connection, executive functioning, friendship and relationship development, perspective taking, and self-regulation.” (

Important to the Mason Prep program are the lessons around communication and connection. We all know that conversations – from small talk to discussions – can be difficult. Social Thinking “teaches social learners the why and how of developing meaningful connection with others through face-to-face conversations.” (

What does this look like put into practice in the classroom? Students in grades K-2 learn:
  • How to listen. We teach students that they cannot be successful unless they listen to the teacher and understand what they are being asked to do.
  • How to keep their body “in the group” - maintaining a comfortable physical presence around others and physically showing interest in the group.
  • How to recognize when they are becoming frustrated and use tools they learn in class to alleviate feelings of frustration.
  • How to determine when they should say what they are thinking and what thoughts to keep to themselves.

Grades 3-8: The Social Institute 
Mason Prep partners with a program called The Social Institute (TSI). TSI is a national leader in curriculum designed to equip students to navigate the complex intersection of well-being, social media, and technology. Its comprehensive program reinforces strengths like character, empathy, and teamwork and inspires students to make positive, healthy, and high-character choices.

The program also places importance on involving parents and provides resources for families so that lessons learned at school can be discussed at home.

Students participate in lessons that use real-life scenarios to learn about:
  • the balance between online and in-person communication,
  • limiting the distractions of devices so that they can be focused and attentive participants,
  • how to communicate their thoughts, needs, and opinions in a responsible way, and
  • how to respect the opinions of others.

Come and see how Mason Prep’s SEL program impacts our students and our community by scheduling a tour. We would love to share more with you about this important part of the Mason Prep experience.
Mason Preparatory School is committed to the education of the whole child in preparation for secondary education through the cultivation of respect, integrity, and personal responsibility within a nurturing environment that results in a productive citizen of a global community.