Personal and social capability


This background summarises the evidence base from which the Personal and social capability’s introduction, organising elements and learning continuum have been developed. It draws on recent international and national research, as well as initiatives and programs that focus on personal and social capability across the curriculum.

The domain of personal and social learning is not new, despite changes to nomenclature, definitions and understandings over the past century. In 1920, Thorndike identified ‘social intelligence’ as an important facet of intelligence. Since then, many researchers and educators, including Moss and Hunt (1927), Vernon (1933), Wechsler (1940), Gardner (1983), Salovey and Mayer (1990), Seligman (1998) and Goleman (1995, 1998, 2006), have explored this concept, each contributing to current understandings of this domain. Importantly, recent contributors have emphasised the ability to develop and improve personal and social capability both as adults and as children. Development of personal and social learning can provide a way for students with disability to access age-equivalent content and promote student learning, self-confidence and independence (Wehmeyer et al 2007, 2012; Malow 2012).

Two contributors have been particularly significant to recent developments in personal and social learning as a competence or capability in school education. Gardner’s (1983) Frames of Mind: the theory of multiple intelligences broadened notions of intelligence, introducing and popularising the concepts of intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence, which represented two of his eight intelligences. More recently, Goleman further popularised the concepts of emotional intelligence (1995) and social intelligence (2006) in educational discourse.

In 1994, Goleman and others founded the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC). Since then, CASEL has been the world’s leading organisation in advancing understandings, research, networks, curriculum, school practice and public policy in the area of personal and social learning.

CASEL’s evidence-based approach and definitions of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) are the best known and most highly respected in the world today, and provide an excellent framework for integrating the academic, emotional and social dimensions of learning.

Most educational programs around the world that integrate social and emotional learning are based on CASEL’s SEL framework. This framework is also drawn upon and referenced by various personal, interpersonal and social curriculum in Australian states and territories, and by programs such as MindMatters, KidsMatter and Response Ability.

While some differences emerge within the literature about how personal and emotional learning should be named, constructed and taught, and different organisations also include some additional categories, it is widely accepted that a Personal and social capability will always include a minimum foundation of the four interrelated and non-sequential organising elements – Self-awareness, Self-management, Social awareness and Social management – used in the Personal and social capability learning continuum.

The capability has also been richly informed by understandings gained through the National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools (DEEWR 2005), and the resultant Values education initiatives in all areas of Australian schooling. In addition, the Melbourne Declaration on Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA, p. 5) states that ‘a school’s legacy to young people should include national values of democracy, equity and justice, and personal values and attributes such as honesty, resilience and respect for others’. While Values education is certainly found in the Personal and social capability, it is also located within other general capabilities, such as Ethical understanding.


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