SEL and IRL Identity




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Mar 13, 2019
by Louise Hallman
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SEL and IRL Identity

Participants at Social and Emotional Learning: Time for Action reflect on SEL being used to define identity Picture by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

Developing a sense of identity is an important part of growing up – and continues long beyond childhood. As the world becomes increasingly connected and globalized, with mass movements of people across countries and continents, how the next generation develop their sense of personal, societal and national identity, empathy, respect for others, resilience in adverse situations, and willingness and ability to communicate and collaborate with others, will greatly impact the shape and cohesion of future workplaces and indeed societies-at-large.

As one panelist urged: “Follow the SEL breadcrumbs.” The jobs of the future will require good collaborators. Collaboration needs self-regulation. Self-regulation needs self-awareness. Self-awareness needs emotional understanding and vocabulary. Thus, “emotional intelligence is key to success.”

Our societies are becoming more diverse. Academic subjects such as history and literature can be exclusionary for those who do not belong to the majority population. SEL can help foster the critical thinking of those who belong to the social majority in order to question the narratives they are being presented with. It can also help those outside of that majority to process and address the emotions of being excluded. SEL can help all students to better process, understand and empathize when learning about traumatic historical events in both shared and other communities’ histories.

The digital space is formative in shaping youth identity. “Generation Z is leaving our classrooms and entering our staffrooms,” while Generation Alpha are now starting school. They are the first “phygital” generation – drawing no distinction between the physical and digital world.

Online spaces give people the chance to find and “try on” new identities, seeking out communities of like-minded other people not present IRL (in real life). Many young people thus now have multiple identities. Ensuring our young people have the emotional intelligence and positive values to successfully and safely navigate both these IRL and online spaces is key.

Building on discussions on SEL and identity, Fellows were treated to a screening of the moving documentary Back to the Fatherland. Directors Kat Rohrer and Gil Levanon took questions from the floor, exploring their own journey in making the deeply personal movie and how their own SEL and national narratives had helped or hindered them.

You can find out more about the movie and watch extra footage online:

Upcoming screenings include six dates in London next week. If you would like to bring the film to your city, contact Kat:

Read more in Issue 2 of the program newsletter:

Download as PDF

The program Social and Emotional Learning: Time for Action is part of Salzburg Global’s long-running multi-year series Education for Tomorrow’s World. The program is held in partnership with ETS, Microsoft, Porticus, Qatar Foundation International and USAID’s Education in Crisis and Conflict Network.