SEB Competence: How Does It Affect Learning?

Social and emotional competence in children determines their success in all areas of their lives. It is a key factor in predicting their relationships with peers, self-regulation, and academic performance. These skills help children learn and relate to others. Illuminate Education lists component parts of social emotional competence as self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship skills, responsible decision-making, motivation, and academic achievement. In addition, it is marked by an absence of other undesirable behaviors. “SEB competence is also defined by the absence of problem behaviors that prohibit learning 

and healthy relationships (e.g, aggression, noncompliance, disruption, worry/fear, and withdrawal/avoidance).”


Social Emotional Behavior (SEB) competence acts as a buffer and mediator between risk factors and success. Children exposed to risk factors such as lack of resources, structure, or safety at home, but demonstrate SEB competence are more likely to be successful in school. Alternatively, children who do not demonstrate SEB competence struggle in school even given high quality instruction. According to this presentation given by Stephen Kilgus, Ph.D. and Katie Eklund Ph.D. from the School Psychology Program at University of Missouri, school success is a combination of academic skills, social-emotional skills, and behavioral skills. These skills affect areas like test-taking, attention in class, study habits, peer relationships, class participation, and ability to work independently, among others. 


Nurturing student SEB competence is part of seeing them thrive in all areas of their lives. This can be fostered through teaching social-emotional skills and imposing behavioral interventions. This is often done through a multi-tiered system of support, or MTSS. This tiered framework uses data to match resources to individual students’ needs. Illuminate Education says of MTSS, 


“In this tiered, data-informed framework, educators work to ensure that the majority of students respond to core instruction. Students who need additional supports for enrichment or remediation are identified by data and provided that support with the right focus and intensity. MTSS helps educators to be thoughtful about using resources appropriately and impactfully, and use data to continually monitor and improve the effectiveness of their actions. MTSS makes the district-wide system more effective and ensures we’re supporting the needs of every student.” 


MTSS supplements and enhances supports that are already in place for students. 


“MTSS streamlines and brings cohesion to the good work and best practices that are already happening in a district, so that those efforts are no longer happening in isolation. MTSS also helps districts to fill gaps in their standard practices that might exist due to common challenges, like limited resources, difficulty collaborating, and a lack of visibility in program effectiveness.” 


Students with IEPs may have goals related to SEB competence. Special education involves so much more than academic support. According to Understood.


“If your child qualifies for an IEP, she might start to meet regularly with a psychologist or social worker. This professional will work with her on specific skills to meet the social and emotional goals set out in her IEP.


Or your child might meet with a speech and language therapist who can help her understand humor, sarcasm, and other nuances of social communication. All social and emotional skills should be reinforced within the classroom.”

SEB goals should be no different than other goals on an IEP, in that they are specific and measurable. This Goal Bank provides objectives by focus area and subject for writing IEP goals that meet this criteria.


Supporting SEB competence may not involve direct instruction, but rather placing accommodations within the classroom that will support a child’s needs. This can be discussed with your child’s IEP team or teacher if they do not have an IEP. Some schools hold social skills groups taught by a licensed therapist or psychologist. These groups are a perfect way for your child to practice social skills in a simulated setting. 


SEB competence must be taught within the home as well. In the past year, our youngest students’ SEB skills have been greatly at risk due to school closures. At a time when our pre-k through kindergarten students are just beginning to take their skills into the classroom, learn peer engagement and classroom protocols, these opportunities were largely not available to them. 

The Indiana Department of Education outlines skills in this early learning guide that students as young as pre-kindergarten need, including how parents and educators can foster them. These skills involve self-awareness and confidence, identification and expression of emotions, self-control, conflict resolution, and relationship skills. 


Parents can help their children develop SEB competence every day by attunement and involvement. This is an ongoing process that involves respecting a child’s need for independence and selfhood, involving them in community events and groups, and modeling healthy emotional expression, conflict resolution, and relationships.  


Some students who need direct, one-on-one support with SEB skills, may not have an IEP that can give them what they need. IEPready can provide the independent, multidisciplinary evaluation they need to put them on the road to success. There’s no reason a parent should settle for a less than satisfactory evaluation or IEP goals, especially when so much is at stake. Contact us today to schedule a Care and Connect Call with one of our dedicated Parent Representatives.   

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