Practitioner Voices in this year’s Assessment Design Challenge

by Clark McKown, xSEL Labs


This week, the Assessment Work Group launched a competition for direct assessments of student social and emotional learning. Direct assessments, such as naturalistic technology-enhanced simulations, performance tasks, game-based data, and live structured social simulations, are a promising approach to measuring students’ social and emotional skills. They are well-suited to measuring dimensions of social and emotional learning that are not easily observed, such as the thinking skills required to understand what people are thinking and feeling. Yet there are few direct assessments on the market and many have not yet been used at scale in educational settings.


The 2nd Annual Design Challenge is re-imagined from the first Design Challenge, using lessons learned and a particular focus on addressing practitioners’ assessment needs.

In the first Design Challenge in 2017, we received 25 submissions, selected seven winners, and wrote about our findings in a brief. Our intention was to solicit submissions from a mix of practitioners and test developers and in so doing represent the expertise and points of view of each of those groups of professionals. However, most submissions were from test developers, not from practitioners. In hindsight, this make sense: test developers have committed their careers to developing clever and technically sound strategies for assessing a range of skills, including social-emotional skills, and so were in the best position to submit assessment concepts and prototypes to the Design Challenge.


As a result, the 2017 Design Challenge showcased innovative ongoing work to develop direct assessments of SEL skills. However, largely missing was the direct input of practitioners about what assessments are most urgently needed, what constructs they should assess, and for what purpose those assessments might be applied.


The 2nd Annual Design Challenge honors the expertise of practitioners and test developers in their respective arenas through a two-phased approach.

  • In the first phase, we issued a call to practitioners to submit their ideas about the most pressing SEL assessment needs. Over 60 educators shared their most urgent SEL measurement needs. After a thorough review, we selected the 10 submissions that most clearly and convincingly articulated a practitioner need.
  • In this second phase, beginning March 20th, we issued a call for direct assessments of SEL skills. As was the case last year, submissions will be accepted from anyone with a good idea, and we expect test developers will be among the largest group to submit their ideas. This year, however, submissions must address one of the needs identified by the 10 winning practitioner submissions. In addition, recognizing that innovations may be at different stages of development, submissions can reflect designs, prototypes, or fully developed assessments.


The competition ends May 4th.  Please consider submitting your idea. Read more about the design challenge in our call for submissions.

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