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Gaming SEL

Games as Transformational to Social and Emotional Learning

Matthew Farber

Games enable children to practice emotions in spaces that are free from actualized consequences. With thoughtful guidance, games can help children manage emotions, perspective-take, demonstrate empathic concern, and exhibit prosocial behaviors.

Emerging research suggests that these competencies—also known as social and emotional learning (SEL) skills—are, in fact, teachable. In Gaming SEL: Games as Transformational to Social and Emotional Learning, Matthew Farber investigates the rich opportunities games have in supporting SEL skill development. Experts from the fields of education, game development, and SEL—including folks from CASEL, the Fred Rogers Center, Greater Good in Education, iThrive Games, Minecraft Education, and UNESCO MGIEP—share advice.

Games themselves cannot be responsible for children’s learning. Having a supportive educator or caregiver guiding experiences can be crucial. This book also includes recommendations for embedding games in classrooms in ways that support meaningful SEL skill development. Regardless of your experience, content area, or grade level, this book is for you!

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Chapter Two An Exploration of Social and Emotional Learning


The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) evidence-based SEL Framework has been used with millions of children in the United States. As it happens, both histories of SEL and CASEL are intertwined. In fact, the phrase “social and emotional learning” was coined at the same 1994 meeting that saw the formation of CASEL. Back then, it was known as the Collaborative to Advance Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) (CASEL Milestones, 2020). In 2001, the A for “Advance” would become “Academic.” More on that shift soon!

Since inception, CASEL has had prominent board members, including co-founder and chair Timothy P. Shriver, who also chairs the Special Olympics. Other members have included Linda Darling-Hammond and Eileen Rockefeller Growald. In 2010, Warren Buffett’s NoVo Foundation became a major funder, thus enabling CASEL to become an independent nonprofit (CASEL Milestones, 2020). Other funders have included but are not limited to the following: The Allstate Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Institution of Education Sciences.

Initially housed at Yale University in 1996, CASEL soon moved to the campus of the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC). There, co-founder and psychology professor Roger P. Weissberg led as its director from 1996 through 2020. Under his leadership, CASEL formed partnerships with other ←35 | 36→ school-based organizations, notably the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), a professional organization of principals, superintendents, and school leaders. In 1997, Elias et al. wrote the book...

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