Creative Ways SEL Assessment Informs Curriculum Around the World

By Cherilyn G. Leet and Dr. Susan Stillman (Six Seconds)


The results of SEL assessments can be intriguing, motivating, and tied to curriculum. They do not have to be dry, feared, or detached. In our experience working with educators from the Americas to Europe, from the Middle East to Asia to Africa, data from SEL assessments have the potential to imbue a school with life. When all stakeholders come together with curiosity to explore the data and wisdom that can be derived from SEL assessments, the insights gained can lay the groundwork for positive change. Strong SEL assessments can become the axles which bring the school’s curriculum design, behavioral intervention, parent engagement, and teacher collaboration into sync.


The Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence InventoryYouth Version (SEI-YV) and Adult Version (SEI-AV) are validated assessments that measure eight emotional intelligence competencies: emotional literacy, pattern recognition, consequential thinking, emotional navigation, intrinsic motivation, optimism, empathy, and noble goals. The competencies are part of an action-oriented model, designed for use by all constituents. This model therefore creates a common framework from which parents, students, teachers, and administrators discuss the measurement of these SEL skills and the instruction required for students to acquire and deepen these same skills. Today we are sharing with you three snapshots of educational leaders in schools around the world who have used these SEL assessments to inform their curriculum design.


Assessment Tool as an Interdisciplinary Project


Administrators in a K-8 school in the Bay Area of San Francisco, California require students and staff to take an annual online SEL self-report assessment. The faculty, familiar with the concepts through their own assessment results, continually weave the language, framework, and resulting data derived from the youth assessments into their core academic subjects. Teachers certified in debriefing the youth assessment introduce the purpose and limitations of the assessments to their classes. The students receive a print-out of their individual results, and the teachers lead strengths-based workshops wherein students develop statements which connect their results with their long-term goals (e.g. “I will use my strength of Apply Consequential Thinking to assist me during science experiments so I can learn about the effects of pollution on nature.”).*


The third and fourth grade teaching team also incorporated the assessment language into a project integrating SEL with social studies and math. After reading biographies of Benjamin Franklin, students were asked to evaluate and rate Franklin’s competencies using evidence to support their claims. During a lesson on finding mean, median, and mode, children analyzed their voting data to determine Franklin’s overall scores and made bar graphs (see image). The above examples illustrate the multiple ways holistic assessment data can be used to both support individual student growth and also enrich curriculum with SEL data.


Data Inspires Students to Lead


At a primary school in Rome, fifth-grade students were shown a summary of the class’s combined Brain Talent scores (Dashboard) from the same SEL self-report youth assessment. A teacher, trained in using data to build a positive classroom climate, challenged students to become detectives of their emotions. During a discussion about their top Brain Talents (Vision, Entrepreneurship, and Design), students shared their hopes and fears for the future. While these fifth graders were excited to have learned about their own emotional intelligence, they were anxious about starting middle school, where the use of SEL assessments to promote self-awareness, choice, and purpose was not yet in place.  Transforming their anxiety into action, the students designed a workshop about the brain, emotions, and SEL skills, which they presented to older students at an assembly. Students from this class gained positive reputations as leaders that have followed them–even four years later–into their respective middle schools.**


Assessments to Target SEL Interventions


In 2014, the director of an underperforming public school in Kaunas, Lithuania, re-organized the budget to include SEL assessments and training and, as a result, witnessed unprecedented academic gains. The teaching staff received three days of professional development in using data to customize the results of their students’ SEL interventions by grade level. For instance, data from students in second grade showed lower empathy, optimism, and intrinsic motivation scores than the students in other grades; consequently, the teachers implemented specific lessons on these skills throughout the year. The staff reported not only a decrease in bullying, but also a 13% gain in academic achievement for the second grade students. While many initiatives likely contributed to these positive outcomes, the director credits the real-time incorporation of assessment data into the classroom as a significant factor.**


In conclusion, SEL assessments can become formative measures that promote student engagement through authentic, creative, and relevant curriculum and other classroom interventions. Just as Ben Franklin tracked habits in journals, so too can students become social-emotional scientists, investigators of their own and their classmates’ emotions, patterns, choices, and goals. The data provided in normed and validated SEL assessments fuel their quest. By integrating meaningful assessment data, educators create a focus around which their SEL work will crystalize. Assessment creates a path toward learning, so it is essential that the measure has the depth and meaningfulness that matches your purpose of integrating SEL. As Joshua Freedman and Massimiliano Ghini wrote in Inside Change, “You get what you measure.”


Note from the Assessment Work Group: You can learn more about this assessment by viewing the profile for SEI-YV in our Assessment Guide.


Please share in the comments:


  • What are other creative ways you’ve seen SEL assessments inform curriculum design and classroom climate?
  • Which SEL competencies have you found to be the most important to infuse into assessment and curriculum?
  • What are the benefits and risks involved in giving and debriefing SEL assessments in schools?


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*Case initially reported in the March-April 2018 issue of the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.

**Cases initially reported on July 20, 2017 at the 6th International Congress on Emotional Intelligence in Porto, Portugal.


Disclaimer: The Assessment Work Group is committed to enabling a rich dialogue on key issues in the field and seeking out diverse perspectives. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Assessment Work Group, CASEL or any of the organizations involved with the work group.

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