How is Social Emotional Learning in Action (SELA) Differentiated from other SEL programs?


SELA, delivered through an experiential approach, only increases its potency. Experiential education has long been known to develop critical thinking, reflection, and lifelong learning skills.


When students are given opportunities to learn in authentic situations in school or in the field, like those provided in internships/co-ops and service-learning projects, the learning becomes significantly more powerful. By engaging in formal, guided, authentic experiences, individuals connect their learning to actual experiences, have opportunities for reflection, draw meanings from their reflections, create new learning, and transfer their learning into the next experience. Additional benefits include increased motivation for learning and development of real-world problem-solving skills which help to create self-directed learners. The acknowledgment of increased engagement, understanding, and enjoyment in learning has led to the development of experiential curriculum, multiple national/international associations and conferences, and countless research articles. It is not necessary to leave the classroom or building to facilitate authentic experiential learning.

A list of principles of experiential learning adapted from the leading association on experiential education ( are as follows:

  • Learning occurs when carefully chosen activities are supported by reflection, critical analysis, and synthesis.
  • Throughout the process, the learner is actively engaged in posing questions, experimenting, solving problems, assuming responsibility, being creative, and constructing meaning.
  • Learners are engaged on many levels: intellectually, emotionally, socially, and physically.
  • Relationships are both developed and nurtured: learner to self, learner to others, and learner to the world at large.
  • Opportunities are nurtured for learners to explore and examine their own values.
  • The educators’ primary roles include structuring an intentionally sequenced flow of activities, setting boundaries, supporting learners, ensuring physical and emotional safety, and facilitating the reflection process.
  • The educator also recognizes and encourages spontaneous opportunities for learning.