Equity Connections to SEL Competencies

Equity Connections to SEL Competencies

Through an equity lens, the CASEL 5 SEL competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making can support the development of justice-oriented, global citizens.

The CASEL 5 SEL competencies promote intrapersonal, interpersonal, and cognitive knowledge, skills, and attitudes that support lifelong success. When used as part of a systemic districtwide effort to promote SEL and equity, this framework can further support the development of personal and collective values and positive ethnic-racial identity. Particularly for youth whose cultures and racial-ethnic groups are historically marginalized, this can help minimize the negative impacts of internalized, interpersonal, and institutional oppression and provide ways for students and adults to co-construct solutions to injustices and issues of inequity.

SEL competencies can also promote greater understanding of different cultures and power dynamics, and support students and adults in building relationships and interacting with others across diverse backgrounds. In this way, SEL competencies can be leveraged to develop justice-oriented, global citizens, and nurture inclusive school and district communities.

Below, we elaborate on each of the 5 SEL competencies through an equity lens:



Self-awareness is foundational for equity. It involves understanding your emotions, personal identity based on self-definition and others’ perceptions, goals, and values. This includes accurately assessing your strengths and limitations, having positive mindsets, possessing a well-grounded sense of self-efficacy and optimism.

Developing self-awareness with an equity lens can help students and adults:

  • Understand the links between personal and sociocultural identities that are defined by cultural and/or family values, societal norms, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, gender and other factors.
  • Examine what it means to belong to a group or community, including how ethnicity and race impacts one’s sense of self and beliefs. (A healthy sense of ethnic-racial identity is important for psychological, academic, and social well-being.)
  • Recognize biases and understanding how thoughts, feelings, and actions are interconnected.
  • Ground oneself in and affirm one’s cultural heritage(s) or communities (This can be especially important for students of color, and reduce psychological distress and risky behaviors, protect against the negative health impacts of racial discrimination, and promote a range of positive social and emotional outcomes, including school engagement and prosocial behaviors.)


Self-management includes managing your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations and working toward achieving personal and collective goals.

It’s important to examine an individual’s self-management in relationship to a larger context. Schools, like most other U.S. social institutions, can often prioritize middle-class American cultural values, norms, and practices. For students, such as low-income or immigrant youth, who experience a cultural mismatch between school and home life, this can often lead to a type of stress associated with health and behavioral problems. Additionally, experiences of discrimination and microaggressions can also lead to negative social and emotional outcomes and behaviors.

When leveraged to promote equity, self-management can help students and adults:

  • Cope with the stress of adapting to school culture.
  • Cope with discrimination and prejudice.
  • Demonstrate agency, identify societal challenges and pursue personal and collective solutions.


Social awareness involves the ability to understand the perspectives of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and contexts.

Fostering social-awareness through an equity lens can help adults and students to:

  • Understand broader historical and social norms for behavior in different settings.
  • Recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.
  • Recognize and examine potentially competing cultural and race-related messages and expectations.
  • Explore the importance of different types of diversity in classrooms, school, and community settings.
  • Recognize cultural demands and opportunities across different settings.
  • Recognize issues of race and class across different settings.
  • Assess power dynamics and how these dynamics can disadvantage others.
  • Envision ways to co-create safe and constructive learning environments.

Relationship Skills

Relationship skills involve the abilities to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse individuals and groups.  This includes the capacities to communicate clearly, listen actively, cooperate, work collaboratively to problem solve and negotiate conflict constructively, provide leadership, and seek or offer help when needed.

When cultivated with an equity lens, relationship skills can help students and adults:

  • Develop cultural competency skills, which includes building relationships with those from different backgrounds in a way that values their culture and history.
  • Navigate settings with differing social and cultural demands and opportunities.
  • Collaboratively problem solve across differences in race, culture, gender, and social roles.

Responsible Decision-making

Responsible decision-making involves making caring and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across diverse situations.  This includes the capacities to consider ethical standards and safety concerns, and to evaluate the benefits and consequences of various actions for personal, social, and collective well-being.

By fostering equity through SEL, developing responsible decision-making skills can position adults and students to:

  • Engage in initiatives and to co-create solutions that are inclusive, equitable, and mutually supportive.
  • Develop an understanding of systemic or structural explanations for different treatment and outcomes.
  • Assess the impact of personal beliefs and biases.
  • Reflect on how actions taken by individuals, group and institutions impact equity.


Read more about how SEL competencies can support equity in Equity & Social and Emotional Learning: A Cultural Analysis.

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