Measuring Social Reasoning in Children: Be Part of a National Norming Study!

by Nicole Russo-Ponsaran, Rush NeuroBehavioral Center


Millions of children in the United States have social challenges that are related to behavioral and academic difficulties. To address this problem, many states are adopting social-emotional learning standards and schools are implementing programs that teach children how to interact positively with others. Yet, educators have surprisingly few tools available to adequately measure social-emotional skills children directly.


Ever wonder how a child navigates her social world and what makes one student more successful than another?


Using the theoretical social information processing model by Crick and Dodge as its framework, the research team at Rush NeuroBehavioral Center, in partnership with Soar Technology, Inc., developed Virtual Environment for Social Information Processing, or VESIPTM, to help answer this question among individual students. VESIP can be used to measure the growth and success of school-based social-emotional learning programs and monitor district-level progress toward state social-emotional learning standards.


VESIP is web-based direct assessment of children’s social information processing skills. It is designed for students in the third to seventh grades. VESIP allows boys and girls to customize a self-avatar and then respond to different types of challenging situations that are set in everyday school environments, such as ambiguous provocation, bullying, compromise, peer entry into a group, and friendship initiation.


VESIP was designed such that classroom-wide administration is feasible by educators or administrators. Little expertise and training is required for administration or scoring; automated results are available upon completion. Children are able to login individually at their work stations and take VESIP in English or Spanish. Children with little or lower reading skills are also able to take VESIP without the assistant of an adult because everything is read to them. All that is required is a computer (Mac or Windows), headphones, and internet connectivity.


VESIP has shown initial evidence of reliability and validity in small samples of typically-developing children and children with autism spectrum disorders (Russo-Ponsaran et al., 2018) and was further supported in a recent large-scale field trial in general education students (manuscript in progress).


This spring (2018) and during the 2018-2019 academic year, we are recruiting schools from which we can collect national normative data. We are inviting districts across the country to partner with us in this project. Here is how the partnership works:

  • Partners gain access to VESIP at no cost
  • Partners will receive instruction for how to use and interpret VESIP
    • Including written manuals, YouTube tutorials, and teleconferencing.
    • Rush research staff will provide technical assistance via email
  • Partners will administer VESIP to participating students in grades three to seven
    • All student-related data needed for roster upload and to develop norms will be de-identified
  • Partners receive automated assessment reports summarizing student and classroom performance and have support interpreting reports from the Rush research team



If you are interested in participating in this study, please contact Principal Investigator, Nicole Russo-Ponsaran, PhD (, 847-763-7927) or Study Coordinator, Irene Wu, MS (, 847-763-7988)



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.

Posted in:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *