In the Australian Curriculum, students develop personal and social capability as they learn to understand themselves and others, and manage their relationships, lives, work and learning more effectively. Personal and social capability involves students in a range of practices including recognising and regulating emotions, developing empathy for others and understanding relationships, establishing and building positive relationships, making responsible decisions, working effectively in teams, handling challenging situations constructively and developing leadership skills.
Personal and social capability supports students in becoming creative and confident individuals who, as stated in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA 2008), ‘have a sense of self-worth, self-awareness and personal identity that enables them to manage their emotional, mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing’, with a sense of hope and ‘optimism about their lives and the future’. On a social level, it helps students to ‘form and maintain healthy relationships’ and prepares them ‘for their potential life roles as family, community and workforce members’ (MCEETYA, p. 9).
Students with well-developed social and emotional skills find it easier to manage themselves, relate to others, develop resilience and a sense of self-worth, resolve conflict, engage in teamwork and feel positive about themselves and the world around them. The development of personal and social capability is a foundation for learning and for citizenship.
Personal and social capability encompasses students’ personal/emotional and social/relational dispositions, intelligences, sensibilities and learning. It develops effective life skills for students, including understanding and handling themselves, their relationships, learning and work. Although it is named ‘Personal and Social capability’, the words ‘personal/emotional’ and ‘social/relational’ are used interchangeably throughout the literature and within educational organisations. The term ‘social and emotional learning’ is also often used, as is the SEL acronym.
When students develop their skills in any one of these elements, it leads to greater overall personal and social capability, and also enhances their skills in the other elements. In particular, the more students learn about their own emotions, values, strengths and capacities, the more they are able to manage their own emotions and behaviours, and to understand others and establish and maintain positive relationships.
Personal and Social capability This icon shows where Personal and Social Capability has been identified in learning area content descriptions and elaborations.
The key ideas for Personal and Social Capability are organised into four interrelated elements in the learning continuum, as shown in the figure below.
Organising elements for Personal and Social Capability
This element involves students developing an awareness of their own emotional states, needs and perspectives.
Students identify and describe the factors that influence their emotional responses. They develop a realistic sense of their personal abilities, qualities and strengths through knowing what they are feeling in the moment, and having a realistic assessment of their own abilities and a well-grounded sense of self-knowledge and self-confidence. Students reflect on and evaluate their learning, identify personal characteristics that contribute to or limit their effectiveness and learn from successes or failures. In developing and acting with personal and social capability, students:
- recognise emotions
- recognise personal qualities and achievements
- understand themselves as learners
- develop reflective practice.
This element involves students developing the metacognitive skill of learning when and how to use particular strategies to manage themselves in a range of situations.
Students effectively regulate, manage and monitor their own emotional responses, and persist in completing tasks and overcoming obstacles. They develop organisational skills and identify the resources needed to achieve goals. Students develop the skills to work independently and to show initiative, learn to be conscientious, delay gratification and persevere in the face of setbacks and frustrations. In developing and acting with personal and social capability, students:
- express emotions appropriately
- develop self-discipline and set goals
- work independently and show initiative
- become confident, resilient and adaptable.
This element involves students recognising others’ feelings and knowing how and when to assist others.
Students learn to show respect for and understand others’ perspectives, emotional states and needs. They learn to participate in positive, safe and respectful relationships, defining and accepting individual and group roles and responsibilities. Students gain an understanding of the role of advocacy in contemporary society and build their capacity to critique societal constructs and forms of discrimination, such as racism and sexism. In developing and acting with personal and social capability, students:
- appreciate diverse perspectives
- contribute to civil society
- understand relationships.
This element involves students interacting effectively and respectfully with a range of adults and peers.
Students learn to negotiate and communicate effectively with others; work in teams, positively contribute to groups and collaboratively make decisions; resolve conflict and reach positive outcomes. They develop the ability to initiate and manage successful personal relationships, and participate in a range of social and communal activities. Social management involves building skills associated with leadership, such as mentoring and role modelling. In developing and acting with personal and social capability, students:
- communicate effectively
- work collaboratively
- make decisions
- negotiate and resolve conflict
- develop leadership skills.
Personal and social capability skills are addressed in all learning areas and at every stage of a student’s schooling. This enables teachers to plan for the teaching of targeted skills specific to an individual’s learning needs to provide access to and engagement with the learning areas. However, some of the skills and practices implicit in the development of the capability may be most explicitly addressed in specific learning areas, such as in the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education. Teachers can also use the Personal and Social Capability learning continuum to plan for the teaching of targeted skills specific to an individual’s learning needs.
The learning area or subject with the highest proportion of content descriptions tagged with Personal and Social Capability is placed first in the list.
Health and Physical Education
In the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education, students work independently and collaboratively in movement- and non–movement-based activities to develop personal and social skills as well as an awareness and appreciation of their own and others’ strengths and abilities. Taking a strengths-based approach is one of five propositions that have shaped the entire health and physical education curriculum. Students develop a range of interpersonal skills such as communication, negotiation, teamwork and leadership, and an appreciation of diverse perspectives. The Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education provides explicit opportunities for students to explore their own identities and develop an understanding of factors that influence and shape who they are. They learn how to recognise, understand, validate and respond appropriately to their own and others’ emotions, strengths and values. In the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education, students are provided with explicit opportunities to learn, practise, gain feedback about and refine their personal and social skills.
Students develop the knowledge, understanding and skills to set and monitor personal and academic goals, effectively manage their time, and prioritise tasks and responsibilities to balance their school, home, work and social commitments.
In the Australian Curriculum: The Arts, students identify and assess personal strengths, interests and challenges. As art makers, performers and audience, students develop and apply personal skills and dispositions such as self-discipline, goal setting and working independently, and show initiative, confidence, resilience and adaptability. They also learn to empathise with the emotions, needs and situations of others, to appreciate diverse perspectives, and to understand and negotiate different types of relationships. When working with others, students develop and practise social skills that assist them to communicate effectively, work collaboratively, make considered group decisions and show leadership.
In the Australian Curriculum: Languages, students interact effectively in an additional language and with people of diverse language backgrounds. This involves negotiating and interpreting meaning in a range of social and cultural situations, and understanding and empathising, which are important elements of social and intercultural competence. Being open-minded and recognising that people view and experience the world in different ways, and learning to interact in a collaborative and respectful manner are key elements of personal and social competence.
In the Australian Curriculum: Technologies, students develop personal and social capability as they engage in project management and development in a collaborative workspace. They direct their own learning, plan and carry out investigations, and become independent learners who can apply design thinking, technologies understanding and skills when making decisions. Students develop social and employability skills through working cooperatively in teams, sharing resources and processes, making group decisions, resolving conflict and showing leadership. Designing and innovation involve a degree of risk-taking and as students work with the uncertainty of sharing new ideas they develop resilience.
The Technologies learning area enhances students’ personal and social capability by developing their social awareness. Students develop understanding of diversity by researching and identifying user needs. They consider past and present impacts of decisions on people, communities and environments and develop social responsibility through understanding of, empathy with and respect for others.
F-6/7 Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS)
In the F–6/7 Australian Curriculum: Humanities and Social Sciences, students develop personal and social capability as they learn how to build discipline-specific knowledge about history, geography, civics and citizenship, and economics and business, as they pose questions, research, analyse, evaluate and communicate information, concepts and ideas.
Inquiry-based learning assists students to develop their capacity for self-management. It gives them a role in directing their own learning and in planning and carrying out investigations, providing them with opportunities to express and reflect on their questions, opinions, beliefs and values appropriately. As students gain understanding about human experience, past and present, and about their own interconnectedness to people and places across local and global settings, they identify issues and others’ perspectives which inform reflective practice, empathy, communication skills, teamwork and advocacy. They learn to appreciate the effects of civic, social, environmental, economic and business decisions, and the effect of these on their lives and those of others. They develop and use enterprising behaviours and capabilities such as leadership and initiative to make informed and responsible decisions, while working independently or collaboratively to achieve desired outcomes and make a contribution to their communities and society.
Through working collaboratively in the classroom, in the field and in virtual contexts, students develop their interpersonal and social skills, learning to appreciate the different insights and perspectives of other group members, developing skills to plan, problem-solve, negotiate and lead. Historical, geographical, civic and economic studies inform students’ personal identity and sense of belonging and offer opportunities to consider ways of contributing to their communities.
In the Australian Curriculum: History, students gain understanding about human experience and develop skills of historical inquiry as they develop and use personal and social capability. This includes empathy, reflective practice, appreciation of the perspective of others, communication skills, teamwork, advocacy skills and a disposition to make a contribution to their communities and society more broadly.
The Australian Curriculum: History enhances students’ personal and social capability by providing opportunities for them to engage with understandings such as historical empathy, contestability, perspectives, cause and effect, and continuity and change.
In the Australian Curriculum: Geography, students develop personal and social capability as they engage in geographical inquiry, and learn how geographical knowledge informs their personal identity, sense of belonging and capacity to empathise with others, as well as offering opportunities to consider ways of contributing to their communities.
Inquiry-based learning helps students develop their capacity for self-management. It gives them a role in directing their own learning and in planning and carrying out investigations, and provides them with opportunities to express and reflect on their opinions, beliefs, values and questions appropriately. This enables them to become independent learners who can apply geographical understanding and skills to decisions they will have to make in the future. Through working collaboratively in the classroom and in the field, students develop their interpersonal and social skills, and learn to appreciate the different insights and perspectives of other group members.
7-10 Civics and Citizenship
In the Australian Curriculum: Civics and Citizenship, students are encouraged to develop and apply personal, interpersonal and social skills, behaviours and dispositions, through working collaboratively and constructively in groups, developing their communication, decision-making, conflict resolution and leadership skills, and learning to appreciate the insights and perspectives of others.
7-10 Economics and Business
In the Australian Curriculum: Economics and Business, students learn to appreciate the effects of economic and business decisions, and the effect of these on their lives and those of others. They develop and use personal and social skills and enterprising behaviours and capabilities such as leadership and initiative, developing and maintaining positive relationships, negotiating and resolving conflict and making informed and responsible decisions, while working independently or collaboratively to achieve desired outcomes.
There are many opportunities for students to develop personal and social capability in the Australian Curriculum: English. Students learn that language is central to personal and social identity through exploring narrative point of view and the way it shapes different interpretations and responses in readers. Using English to develop communication skills and self-expression assists students’ personal and social development as they become effective communicators, able to articulate their own opinions and beliefs and to interact and collaborate with others.
The study of English as a system helps students to understand how language functions as a key component of social interactions across all social situations. Through close reading and discussion of imaginative and persuasive texts, students experience and evaluate a range of personal and social behaviours and perspectives and develop connections and empathy with characters in different social contexts.
In the Australian Curriculum: Science, students develop personal and social capability as they engage in science inquiry, learn how scientific knowledge informs and is applied in their daily lives, and explore how scientific debate provides a means of contributing to their communities. This includes developing skills in communication, initiative taking, goal setting, interacting with others and decision-making, and the capacity to work independently and collaboratively.
The Science learning area enhances personal and social capability by expanding students’ capacity to question, solve problems, explore and display curiosity. Students use their scientific knowledge to make informed choices about issues that impact their lives such as health and nutrition and environmental change, and consider the application of science to meet a range of personal and social needs.
In the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics, students develop and use personal and social capability as they apply mathematical skills in a range of personal and social contexts. This may be through activities that relate learning to their own lives and communities, such as time management, budgeting and financial management, and understanding statistics in everyday contexts.
The Australian Curriculum: Mathematics enhances the development of students’ personal and social capabilities by providing opportunities for initiative taking, decision-making, communicating their processes and findings, and working independently and collaboratively in the mathematics classroom.
In the Australian Curriculum: Work Studies, Years 9–10, students work cooperatively with others in teams when undertaking project-based activities. Students develop interpersonal skills (such as communication, teamwork and leadership) and learn to appreciate the different strengths and abilities of themselves and their peers. Students are given opportunities to explore their own personal identity and develop an understanding of the influences that form their sense of identity.