Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only T&Cs apply

Find out more

Viewpoint of a teacher

Watch this video in which Lisa Watson, a middle years teacher, shares her perspective on adolescent social and emotional wellbeing.
So in what ways do you think students can demonstrate social and emotional wellbeing? In my classroom, I would say it’s the children that come to school and are generally happy about being at school. They enjoy being in the classroom. They enjoy their friends. They make friends quite easily. Also, children who get along with their peers well so I can put them into individual work or small groups or large groups and they get along really well with others and they cooperate. Also, children who actually listen to one another. They’re not all about talking their own ideas through. They actually want to hear what their friends have to say and understand what their friends have to say.
Also, look at children who cope quite well with change or cope quite well with the general ups and downs of the day. So not the child that constantly needs mum at the door doing things for them. It’s not mum emailing me. It’s the children who can cope with that and know that yes, change happens and that they can get on with things and actually just move on with the day and recover quite quickly when something doesn’t go their way. In what ways do you think students can develop or enhance their own social and emotional wellbeing?
I think it’s important that children try and join in as many things as they can in the school so they have the opportunity to develop some good relationships and meet new friends and form new bonds within the school. Also important that they communicate with their own parents about enabling them to be more responsible for what it is that they do and to take consequences when things go wrong. We tend to have a school environment where if a child forgets an item, that the parents will race home to collect that for them. So there’s no consequences suffered by that child as a result of being unprepared.
So they need to be given that opportunity to stand up for themselves and actually realise that the consequences really probably aren’t that bad and that I can deal with that, overcome that, and learn to move forward from that small upheaval in a day-to-day routine. Also, just learning some important skills like their goal setting, and reflecting upon what they’re doing so they’re aware of their own learning and their own emotional needs while they’re at school. OK, so and following on from that then, what specific things do you think that a teacher can do to help develop students’ social and emotional wellbeing?
Also like to make sure that there’s lots of higher order thinking and problem solving in everything that the children do so that they’re pushed out of the comfort zone, and getting them to share those ideas as well when they’re doing some of that higher order thinking so they can realise the potential that they have to develop ideas. Also important to let children actually experience failure in a positive setting so that they learn from their mistakes. So in my science classroom, I designed an activity whereby the children didn’t have a procedure for their experiment, which meant they went straight to the equipment list and instantly saw a thermometer and started measuring temperature.
The experiment was actually to do with rates of evaporation and none of the children had actually honed in on that idea. So every single group in the class did the wrong experiment that day. But I allowed that to happen and at the end of the lesson we had a big discussion about what the actual aim of the experiment was and realised that they’d made a mistake, and we came back the next day and then the children redid that experiment, realising that they can learn from those mistakes, which is a really important thing for them. Thank you.
And so finally, from a whole school perspective, what sorts of things do you think the school can do to support and enhance young people’s social and emotional wellbeing? From a whole school perspective, it needs to be everybody working together. So in the school I’m at, the school values strongly the relationships that children have with their teachers, and that’s probably the one thing that is the most significant part of that school culture. So having this great climate where children feel really safe and feel comfortable working with the adults that they’re with. The school values the community involvement in all of the activities at the school. So they promote things like the grandparents and special friends day.
We’ll have in excess of several hundred parents and grandparents at the school. They also embed some social and emotional skill learning into curriculum areas, particularly at that school in the arts and in the HPE programme, but also teachers undergo quite a lot of professional development and are aware of lots of middle college issues in classrooms. So they try to embed those sorts of skills. We also have things like word of the month, and they tend to be typical adolescent-type words, like resilience and persistence. And those are focused upon. We have activities like random acts of kindness that are acknowledged. The children get plenty of awards and acknowledgment for things that they do.
So the school really encourages that strong connection and strong relationships with people in the school.

Before you watch the interview with Lisa Watson, a middle years teacher, first read about the categorisation of social and emotional skills into sets of competencies.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) 1 has categorised social and emotional skills, into five interrelated sets of competencies. A brief definition and the key skills that make up each set are outlined below.


Being self-aware means having the ability to reflect on and to accurately identify one’s emotions and thoughts and to recognise how these emotions and thoughts can influence behaviour. It is also recognising personal growth (physical, cognitive, social, and emotional) and change and making adjustments to ensure continued connectedness with others.

Key self-awareness skills

  • self-reliance
  • self-esteem
  • self-efficacy
  • self-belief
  • the ability to shape your own life and the world around you


Self management means being able to recognise and regulate emotions, thoughts, and behaviours appropriately in a range of different contexts. It also includes being able to manage stress, being able to set and achieve a range of personal and academic goals, and being persistent.

Key self-management skills

  • self-discipline
  • self-management
  • self-motivation
  • concentration
  • having a sense of purpose
  • persistence
  • self-control

Social awareness

Social awareness encompasses having empathy and considering the feelings and perspectives of others, being non-judgemental of others, and being assertive when necessary.

Key social awareness skills

  • self-awareness
  • reflecting
  • self-regulating
  • self-accepting
  • good communication—explaining, expressing, presenting, listening, questioning, using different ways of communicating

Relationship skills

Having good relationship skills means being able to initiate, establish, and maintain positive relationships with others, including those from diverse backgrounds. Relationship skills also include communication skills, negotiation skills, conflict management skills, as well as being able to seek and offer help when needed.

Key relationship and leadership skills

  • motivating others
  • valuing and contributing to teams
  • negotiating
  • establishing positive relationships
  • interpreting the emotions of others
  • managing conflicts
  • empathising

Responsible decision making

Responsible decision making is about being able to make flexible and responsible decisions, and problem solve through a process of weighing options and considering the consequences.

Key responsible decision making skills

  • imagining alternative ways of doing things
  • applying learning in new contexts
  • enterprising and innovating
  • remaining open to new ideas
  • good planning and problem solving—navigating resources, organising, setting and achieving goals, decision making, researching, analysing, critical thinking, questioning and challenging, evaluating risks, reliability

Your task

Watch the video and then reflect on Lisa’s perspective.

What key skills from the CASEL list does Lisa touch on when asked about social and emotional wellbeing in young adolescents?

Share your reflections in the comments.


  1. Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). 2013 CASEL guide: Effective social and emotional learning programs—Preschool and elementary school edition [internet]. Chicago: CASEL; 2012 [cited 2018 Aug 12]. 75 p. Available from: 

This article is from the free online

Supporting Adolescent Learners: Social and Emotional Wellbeing

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now