Responsible Decision Making: Applying Social and Emotional Learning in Your Classroom
Inside the Classroom

Applying Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in Your Classroom: SEL and Responsible Decision-Making

One of the most important aspects of  social and emotional learning (SEL) that educators must keep in mind is that these skills can be taught. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL programming is most effective when it begins in preschool and continues through high school. And the short-term goals of SEL to promote self-awareness, social awareness, relationship, and responsible decision-making skills have been proven to have a positive impact on student behavior and academic outcomes.

In this fifth and final installment of our five-part series on the SEL competencies, we’re going to take a look at how you can incorporate SEL and responsible decision-making into your classroom.

SEL and Responsible Decision-Making in Your Classroom

While it’s important for students to develop good interpersonal skills and the ability to collaborate with their peers and communicate effectively with adults, it’s also vital that students learn how to make good decisions autonomously. There are a number of ways to develop good decision-making in the classroom, but the best way to foster this skill is to present students with choices in a variety of contexts.

Give students a range of options for completing and submitting assignments. For example, rather than having the whole class write an essay about the book they’ve just finished reading, give them the opportunity to, alternatively, propose a different way to show or explain what they’re learned—such as giving a class presentation, creating a video, or building a website. When teaching a new concept, ask students to think of other methods they can use to complete the same task. Avoid giving directives, and instead, encourage exploration of the rationale and value behind different strategies.

In addition, try to create a student-centered atmosphere where students feel their thoughts and opinions can be expressed and valued. For example, when students express dissatisfaction with a lesson, try to rethink the activity. Help students understand how classroom activities relate to achieving their personal goals, and allow students to choose activities that align with their goals or interests.

Interested in learning more? Be sure to check out our posts on SEL and self-awareness, SEL and self-management, SEL and social awareness, and SEL and relationship skills.


Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. (n.d.). Core SEL competencies. CASEL. Retrieved from

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. (n.d.). What is SEL? CASEL. Retrieved from

Stefanou, C. R., Perencevich, K. C., DiCintio, M., & Turner, J. C. (2004). Supporting autonomy in the classroom: Ways teachers encourage student decision making and ownership. Educational Psychologist, 39(2), 97–110. Retrieved from

About the Author


Debbie Malone

Debbie is an Arizona native and longtime resident of the Phoenix area. She has always had a passion for telling a good story and decided to study journalism and mass communication at Arizona State University where she earned her BA in 2009. Following graduation, she spent four years working as a web content writer before joining the Edgenuity family in 2014. Debbie is proud to be able to share the story of her time at Edgenuity and the company's efforts to propel students everywhere toward academic success and achievement. In addition to writing (both professionally and for fun), Debbie also enjoys reading, gaming, archery, and avoiding sunlight.