Getting smart about social and emotional learning measurement

Writing for AEI, Laura Hamilton and Heather Schwartz explore the complex topic of measurement of social and emotional learning (SEL). They posit that the way in which advocates choose to measure SEL will play a critical role in shaping the effort’s goals and success, but provide several warnings about measurements:

First, the lack of clarity and consensus around SEL creates a specific challenge when it comes to devising credible measures, so schools must be mindful of using instruments carefully and avoiding over reliance on formal assessments. Secondly, district and school leaders should take care to solicit feedback from teachers and families about how to customize SEL measures when needed and evaluate what is and isn’t working.

If done well, measures of a limited number of important, malleable, and well-defined SEL skills, combined with instruction and climate indicators, can help educators assess their own practices and support their students. An effective approach to SEL measurement is likely to include a small number of low-stakes measures of climate, student assessments, and teacher SEL instruction, with the goal of promoting students’ development of competencies that will ultimately help them thrive in school, work, and their broader lives.

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