The growing importance of student well-being and social-emotional learning

23 Sep 2021

Student well-being delivers meaningful benefits far beyond physical and mental health. When our students feel well, they also feel confident and can maintain a positive outlook that helps them both in school and at home. Developing social-emotional skills is increasingly becoming one of the most important tools in student success. The impact of the pandemic has only accelerated the need for this Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) in our educational communities. Certainly communicating, collaborating and problem-solving are important, but what other social-emotional skills will help our students prosper and find fulfillment in work and life? And how can we create learning experiences that help our students grow these new skills?

Not surprisingly, new skills, such as self-management and social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making, are now identified in the top ten most demanded career skills for 2025. A World Economic Forum analysis showed that students exposed to SEL instruction and experiences gained an average 11% in achievement scores. The same group studied showed that SEL improved student happiness with school and increased job opportunities, as well. Along with traditional skills, incorporating social-emotional learning experiences helps equip today's students and prepares them to be Future Ready in the always changing digital economy.

Minecraft: Education Edition offers several resources for educators to support student well-being and to develop necessary social-emotional skills. The Social Emotional Learning Subject Kit features lesson plans and worlds, such as the Mindful Knight, where students are faced with several challenges and must consider their mental state to make the best decision. Pixel Selfies are another great SEL lesson plan, where students employ creativity and self-reflection. Inspiration Island invites students to express themselves and highlight their values and strengths, key skills in growing self-awareness.

A knight character stands in a royal court with other knights and a king in the lesson, The Mindful Knight

Minecraft Esports, with its team-based multi-player worlds, expands opportunities for building leadership and self-management skills, while demonstrating traditional content skills. Whether building in the Make & Model or Code 2 Create worlds, students must work together in teams, building a plan and communicating, in order to compete. With esports lessons in the SEL subject kit, when students in these game-based learning experiences express frustration with their play or with their learning, that negative emotion is sometimes referred to as "tilt". These learning techniques help to manage frustration which resonates with students. They are motivated to push through them and improve their game, while building new skills!

A competition scoreboard stands on a fantasy island in the Code 2 Create lesson, Splat Racers

As an esports coach and teacher, I helped develop a mindfulness-based check-in tool (shown below) with the Samueli Foundation to help students play well and be well. The GAMERS check-in tool helps students become aware of their energy, sleep, relationships and selves, all in the context of improved play. Of course, when students know that feeling well means playing better, they will check in with themselves and their team more often.

The GAMERS mindfulness check-in tool shows steps to aid students in their well-being

As we welcome students into our classrooms, implementing strategies that reduce anxiety and stress and open pathways for new social-emotional learning can be central to our daily teaching routine. Helping our students by teaching them how to train their brains and build their social and emotional skills will give them healthy habits that can last a lifetime.

In summary, here are the worlds and lessons covered in this article from Minecraft designed to support your learners in SEL, self-awareness, and well-being:

  • New Esports Worlds and Lessons to inspire game-based learning and related SEL benefits with your learners can be found in the Library of Minecraft: Education Edition or our esports landing page.
  • Explore Inspiration Island and Self Awareness Lessons with your students: Inspiring Self-Awareness.
  • Students are invited to create something unique to introduce themselves to their new class: Back to school!
  • Introduce your students to the basics of mindfulness with this immersive learning experience: The Mindful Knight.
  • Use art as a format for Self-Expression through Minecraft: Pixel Selfies.
  • Discover even more worlds and lessons on self-expression, empathy, citizenship and more through the SEL Subject Kit: Minecraft Social and Emotional Kit.