Latest articles from the Innovate My School community.

This June, we'll be delving into how schools are Assessing Assessment.

Traditional ways of assessment can often lead to an increase in stress levels for both staff and students. We'll be exploring the impact assessment is making on teacher workload, and assessment experts RS Assessment from Hodder Education will be demonstrating how important it is for schools to have access to reliable assessment advice and resources.

Read on for more ideas, examples and tips for assessing assessment in your school.

Games and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) competencies

Matthew Farber

Matthew Farber teaches social studies at Valleyview Middle School, in Denville, New Jersey. He is also an adjunct instructor for the New Jersey City University (NJCU) Educational Technology Department. Mr. Farber holds a Master's Degree in Educational Technology from NJCU, where he is currently is pursuing a Doctorate in Educational Technology Leadership. He is also on the board of directors for the New Jersey Council for the Social Studies (NJCSS). He also blogs regularly for Edutopia. His book, Gamify Your Classroom: A Field Guide to Game-Based Learning, is out now via Peter Lang Publishing.

Follow @MatthewFarber

Website: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Children in school grow emotionally, as well as physically and intellectually. A child’s ability to understand his or her own individual emotional growth is formally known as Social Emotional Learning (SEL). The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines this competency as “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

"Games also use ‘social mechanics’ to encourage player interactions — one must be aware of the consequences of the decisions he or she makes."

CASEL lists Five Competencies of SEL:

  1. Self-awareness 
  2. Self-management 
  3. Social awareness 
  4. Relationship skills 
  5. Responsible decision making

The entire above list can apply to playing games of all sorts, from sports to board games to video games. The mechanics (the actions one takes to play, like jumping, guessing, bluffing, or trading) create a system in which SEL can flourish. Games also use ‘social mechanics’ to encourage player interactions — one must be aware of the consequences of the decisions he or she makes. This is because games put players in authentic, situated environments. Moving a pawn across a board or racing a virtual car puts the participant in a cause and effect loop. Playing a game can promote SEL competencies. For more information, read through this research study.

Games and SEL Competencies

Edutopia blogger Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D. is a foremost expert on SEL competencies in the classroom. She has written extensively on its importance when educating growing minds. In 2013, she wrote an informative post on games and SEL entitled Video Games and Social Emotional Learning. In it, she cited examples of how different games address the Five Competencies of SEL. Gerstein’s research included findings from psychological studies about decision making in games. Most games are, in fact, social and provide opportunities to refine SEL competencies (when a badge system and leaderboard are considered, then even single-player video games can be deemed as social!).

Games have built-in feedback mechanisms that reward responsible decision-making, while penalizing ‘wrong’ moves. When a player breaks a rule, like hitting a turtle shell in Super Mario Brothers, there is a clear penalty—you lose a life. Even board games have setback penalties. Monopoly has the famous ‘Go to Jail’ punishment; Chutes and Ladders (sometimes sold as Snakes and Ladders) has the chute (or snake), sending the player back a few spaces on the game’s board. In fact, the idiom “back to square one” may be traced to setback penalties.

"When a player breaks a rule, like hitting a turtle shell in Super Mario Brothers, there is a clear penalty—you lose a life. Even board games have setback penalties."

Tabletop games require interactions among players. Some games are competitive, like the classic Risk, while others are cooperative, like Pandemic: The Board Game and Forbidden Island. SEL is especially prevalent in cooperative games because every player either wins or loses together. The cooperative nature of some games can be justification enough to play them in school!

Like board games, video games too promote SEL competencies. Even when seemingly alone, when a child is on a mobile device in the car or at a restaurant, it does not necessarily mean that they are not being social. Games have social features, like shared leaderboards, in which player high scores are published. Many digital games feature non-playable characters (NPCs) that virtually interact with players. This can be seen as practice to making proper choices in social settings. Examples include the Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, and the soon-to-be-released Game of Thrones. While meaningful, however, Telltale Games’ content is not always ‘school appropriate’. Nonetheless, each provides an example of how players work with a menu of answer choices and gets rewarded for making empathetic decisions. A more ‘school-friendly’, choice-driven option is the Mission US series. For more, check out the game-like stories on the interactive fiction, authoring tool, Inklewriter.

If You Can

Electronic Arts co-founder Trip Hawkins is so passionate about SEL that he created a game about it. In 2014 he launched If You Can, a website designed to teach emotional intelligence, along with the role-playing iPad game, If… (the title was inspired by a poem from Rudyard Kipling). In the game, children explore virtual worlds, while making responsible decisions. Helping other NPCs in the game triggers rewards. The support website features a teacher dashboard, as well as a syllabus. For more about the game, check out this video:

SEL Strategies

Edutopia, the George Lucas Educational Foundation, has a helpful webpage with SEL resources. For example, the Mount Desert School, in Maine (USA), is shown as a model in its ‘Schools That Work’ series. More SEL support can be found from the Institute for Social Emotional Learning. BrainPOP also offers resources on the topic, as it relates to digital media. There is even an “official” Twitter hashtag for the competency: #SEL

Have you used games to develop SEL qualities? Let us know in the comments.


  • Lyman Lugo

    Lyman Lugo - Monday, 18 June 2018

    Hello, I enjoy reading all of your article post. I wanted to write a little comment to support you.|

  • Elvera Mauffray

    Elvera Mauffray - Monday, 18 June 2018

    I think the admin of this website is actually working hard in favor of his web site, since here every stuff is quality based data.|

  • Norman Abdelwahed

    Norman Abdelwahed - Monday, 18 June 2018

    I know this if off topic but I'm looking into starting my own weblog and was curious what all is needed to get set up? I'm assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I'm not very internet savvy so I'm not 100 sure. Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated. Kudos|

  • Bob Deckelbaum

    Bob Deckelbaum - Sunday, 17 June 2018

    Excellent article. Keep posting such kind of information on your blog. Im really impressed by it.

  • Vivien Divincenzo

    Vivien Divincenzo - Saturday, 16 June 2018

    My relatives every time say that I am killing my time here at net, but I know I am getting knowledge all the time by reading such nice posts.|

  • Zelda Parcells

    Zelda Parcells - Saturday, 16 June 2018

    Link exchange is nothing else however it is simply placing the other person's website link on your page at suitable place and other person will also do similar in favor of you.|

  • Gabrielle Klegin

    Gabrielle Klegin - Friday, 15 June 2018

    WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching for meta_keyword|

  • Cassy Bowren

    Cassy Bowren - Friday, 15 June 2018

    As the admin of this website is working, no hesitation very rapidly it will be well-known, due to its feature contents.|

  • Ana Blyth

    Ana Blyth - Friday, 15 June 2018

    Hmm is anyone else having problems with the images on this blog loading? I'm trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it's the blog. Any feed-back would be greatly appreciated.|

  • Sterling Mccarrol

    Sterling Mccarrol - Thursday, 14 June 2018

    It's hard to come by educated people about this topic, but you sound like you know what you're talking about! Thanks|

  •  Start 
  •  Prev 
  •  1  2  3 
  •  Next 
  •  End 

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"