An SEL Needs Analysis: Sustaining and Improving Students’ Adaptability to Change Through The Inclusion of Social and Emotional Learning into Higher Education. Case Study: The University of Oran 2, “Mohamed Ben Ahmed”

  • Houari Zidour

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The application of Social and Emotional Learning has been focusing on lower levels, from pre-school to high school, and has contributed to the success and the overall wellbeing of children and teenagers. This thesis therefore attempts to broaden the range of SEL application to include university and college students using the SEL five core competencies – Self-awareness, Self-management, Social-awareness, Responsible Decision-making, and Relationship Skills – to help students cope with university life after their transition from school, and also help them make an easy transition to the professional life.

I chose English for Specific Purposes (ESP) as a platform or medium to promote SEL, because this constantly growing field has moved from focusing on teaching the specialist vocabulary and texts used in the different domains to now look at the social discourses and identities of participants in certain communities of practice. In doing so, the field of ESP – and its practitioners – became more invested in supporting university students in their transition into these communities of practice, for example, lawyers, engineers, doctors. Thus, this thesis explores whether the combination of ESP and SEL skills can aid university students make a successful transition into their respective professions.

This thesis is built on exploratory research which employed a variety of research methods, which were amended due to some challenges I faced during my research journey. First, surveys were used as probing tools, and were distributed via emails prior to the first data collection trip. Second, an asynchronous discussion board was set up on Facebook, and aimed at gathering data on the social and academic aspects of the Algerian university students, as well as their mental and emotional wellbeing. Third, to replace the intended pilot intervention, it was necessary to collect data by asking the participants for their feedback on the SEL-based pilot intervention materials. Fourth, the teachers’ interviews were designed to explore the Algerian higher education experience from the teachers’ perspective. Fifth, a reflective research diary was added as a research method, and a source of data to reflect on my journey and include myself as a subject for research.

The contributions of this research can be summed up in the following points:

1. Social and Emotional Learning can be incorporated into higher education settings.
2. It is possible to design an inclusive and proactive SEL-based intervention for all students.
3. SEL skills can be beneficial for all university students, not just the vulnerable.
4. SEL skills can support students through their transitional stages, namely school-university-work transitions.
5. SEL can help researchers overcome mental and emotional distress while conducting research in times of crisis and uncertainty.
Date of AwardSept 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDave Burnapp (Supervisor), Qian Zhang (Supervisor) & Paul Jackson (Supervisor)


  • Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)
  • Higher Education
  • Transition
  • Change
  • Students' Wellbeing
  • Inclusive Intervention
  • Social Issues
  • Reflective Research

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