Using a strength-based approach to highlight a few of the customary challenges of performing a social emotional learning (SEL) assessment.
Schools and learning environments that have committed to and are in the process of establishing and sustaining a high-quality, data-based SEL framework do best when approaching each phase of the development and implementation from a strength-based lens. Experienced SEL practitioners recommend a triangulated approach to data collection that focuses on the “whole child” and includes qualitative and quantitative measures, along with an inclusive SEL culture to best inform practice and realize the greatest gains.
Strong vision and intentionality
Effective evaluation of SEL competencies requires a clear vision and explicit goal setting. A deliberate, collaborative process should be set in place, where key stakeholders (including leaders, parents, students, and community members) are fully informed and can participate in the process in meaningful ways. A global understanding is also gained by sharing specific goals and linking them directly to the SEL competencies and classroom applications. It should be made apparent that assessments are tied to specific goals that align with the overall vision of the learning environment. Demystifying the concept of SEL will build support and a deeper understanding of how integral SEL is to overall success and help extend SEL practices into homes and the larger community.
Positive organizational structure and climate
A healthy environment within which SEL competencies grow and evolve sets the stage for positive outcomes and is imperative for effective assessment. Schools that are physically safe and emotionally supportive can accelerate students’ growth and performance. Doing the utmost to recognize and understand the cultures and contexts of every learner, identify areas for SEL improvement, and back those up with resources contributes to a positive school climate. If schools actively listen to students and their families and follow their lead, trust can grow across the learning community. A supportive foundation that includes trust is imperative to meaningful SEL assessment and enables educators to use data effectively to foster healthy emotional wellbeing within the school setting.
Culturally competent approach
Lead every SEL endeavor with the perspective that all individuals possess SEL abilities upon which to build. In a positive culture, leaders should communicate with parents and others from a strength-based perspective, keeping in mind that unique abilities within distinct settings may manifest differently from individual to individual. Using data to guide approach and inform best practices, rather than diagnosing or categorizing individuals, helps avoid comparisons and honors unique lived experiences and personal development trajectories.
Supporting and promoting adult SEL awareness
An essential component of thoughtful, sustainable assessment relies on the adults who spend countless hours with students and who serve as positive role models. Those who are self-aware tend to be more open to reflection and therefore, better able to demonstrate prosocial relationship skills and model strategies to reinforce social emotional and cultural competencies. Such educators can incorporate SEL into their daily classroom lessons and engage in mutually respectful relationships within a dynamic, diverse classroom community.
SEL training for staff, coupled with weekly reflective supervision, heightens self-awareness, provides a supportive space, and sustains a culture around SEL at the leadership level. Sharing strategies on ways to embed SEL into daily curricula and promote a relationship-based practice that emphasizes intentional interactions helps nurture pro-social behaviors inside classrooms and the school community at large. In addition, staff who possess an understanding of SEL are better able to interpret data in meaningful ways to improve practice.
Implementing SEL through an equity lens.
Educational equity ensures that every student has access to the resources and support that they need to reach their full potential. Achieving educational equity is a process and requires continual analysis and feedback from students and staff to ensure compliance. An equity lens opens minds and builds awareness around individual lived experiences. Learning environments that establish non-judgmental spaces with skilled moderators to listen and discuss bias and issues around race can build bridges between students and encourage appreciation among young people and adults for their differences.
Evidence-based data should assess for growth to continually improve and inspire practice.
Data should not be used to measure deficiencies, but rather be a foundation for continued growth. By triangulating data (quantitative and qualitative) to regularly review SEL competencies, behavior, and academic efficiencies, schools can gain a deeper understanding of the “whole child.” Analysis of wellness data should be conducted regularly with a mind for continuous quality improvement. Instituting a robust process around data collection and analysis helps assess for growth and set realistic goals. To prevent bias around outcomes, engage a diverse set of voices and dig deeply into the feedback.
Using a strength-based lens to SEL assessment and data with a continuous commitment to quality improvement enables decision-makers to clarify opportunities for learning and development and identify areas for targeted support. ei Pulse provides schools and alternative learning environments with a high-quality foundational technology platform to capture usable wellness data from every student to drive impactful decision-making in real time and foster sustainability over the long term.
Here at Educator Impact, we help school leaders keep a pulse on their students’ wellbeing and empower them with tools that leverage real-time student insights to inform SEL strategies, identify which students need further support, and enable them to continually improve their SEL initiatives.
To see how we can help you do the same for your school community, feel free to reach out to our SEL and wellbeing experts today!