Selecting a SEL Framework to Drive Your SEL Work: Survey Results

By: Dale A. Blyth, Consultant


Earlier this year we asked members of the ever-growing Collaborator Network (join here) to do a survey about what frameworks they know about and use as well as the ways they use them. Over 200 of you responded and here is what you told us (while this, of course, is not a representative random sample, we believe it is helpful).


Of the 32 frameworks we explicitly asked about, only six were known by a majority of responders – Emotional Intelligence, the CASEL 5, Habits of Mind, KIPP’s 7 Character Strengths, the Partnership for 21st Century’s 21st Century Learning Skills, and the Department of Education’s Employability Skills. For each of the other 26 frameworks a majority indicated they had never heard of it.  Only 4 frameworks we asked about were reported as used by more than 20% of respondents – Emotional Intelligence (58%), CASEL 5 (47%), Habits of Mind (24%), and Employability Skills (24%).  Of these, only two were selected by more than a quarter of respondents as the framework “you MOST use to drive your work as a practitioner or with practitioners” – Emotional Intelligence (31%) and the CASEL 5 (28%).


Based on these respondents (who are likely better informed than many), while there are a large number of frameworks in our field, most are not even known – let alone used – by a majority of people.


When asked how they used the framework they selected, a clear majority indicated they used it in each of the following six ways:

  • Shaping training and professional development efforts (71%)
  • Designing programs, curriculum, and activities (69%)
  • Talking with stakeholders to whom you are accountable (67%)
  • Selecting or designing what to measure (65%)
  • Working with students and providing them feedback (62%)
  • Talking with families and communities (60%)


While these are not the only way frameworks are or can be useful (and respondents listed a number of other ways), it appears frameworks are used in a variety of ways rather than in one particular way.


We also asked about the extent to which “multiple frameworks and language issues” have been challenging or beneficial in six different ways.  Sixty percent indicated it was challenging when trying to communicate with stakeholders while 27% actually said it was somewhat or very beneficial. Roughly 55% of respondents said it was challenging 1) when working to integrate existing efforts, 2) deciding what to measure, and 3) when selecting which framework language to use. Two statements were rated as much more a balance of challenges and benefits – when selecting specific SE competencies on which to focus (49% saw this as a challenge and 36% saw it as beneficial) and when shaping professional development (43% saw this as a challenge and 38% saw it as beneficial).


Finally, we asked people which of 7 alternatives best describe how they “have actually dealt with multiple framework and language issues” in their work as or with practitioners.  Responses were varied widely.  Thirty percent indicated they “selected a single framework and use it to drive our work;” 26% said they “selected their own set of specific social emotional competencies;” 25% indicated “they developed consensus about which framework to use,” and 20% “created their own framework to use.”


Now is your chance to tell us about your experiences figuring out which framework to use or using one in your practice! We are interested in everything from brief descriptions of an experience you had to examples of how you figured out what framework to use, or what you wish would happen to make frameworks more usable in your work.  In order to capture your stories, please just CLICK HERE and tell us about your experience.  We are hoping to use some examples in a series of briefs about SEL frameworks that are being prepared for release this fall.


What challenges have you faced or overcome?


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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  1. Because I work in Massachusetts, I used the CASEL model. My colleague and I wrote SEL in the Classroom and worked withdistricts as thy began to adopt SEL, as required by the MA DESE. In my presentations, I developed a habits of a successful student rubric to support Teachers work with student goal-setting, though I suggest that each student set an academic and a social-emotional goal, e.g., get a better grade in math by asking questions when I’m stuck. For social skills, we use accountable talk and group work participation as measures, and for problem-solving we use circles and (more academically) Socratic seminars.
    With districts we emphasize beginning with the adults and use a pre and post year teacher survey to assess changes.
    For the students. We use a self-reported assessment, both pre- and post.
    We also address measuring absences, drop outs, suspensions. We have measured the impact of mindfulness initiatives by looking at absences and suspensions.
    In a graduate class, we used the case study method and studied the impact of interventions on the behavior of selected students. We observed classroom behavior after positive and negative responses in two case studies.

    As I review this, measurement seems haphazard. We are taking slow, careful steps, emphasizing the importance of the adults’ deep understanding first.
    I hope this is helpful.

    • Deborah,
      Sorry for delayed response but I have been on vacation. Working intentionally and progressively on integrating and improving SEL as you describe is wonderful and powerful — especially when you include gathering and using data of multiple types from multiple sources systematically. Thanks for sharing your example. The survey I blogged about focused on how people were using frameworks not assessments. We also surveyed the network about measures o inform the Practical Guide to Assessment due out later this Fall (including some guidance on how to think more systematically about measurement. Learn more here I agree measurement should not be haphazard.

  2. Can you describe the survey respondents? Clearly they were “members of the ever-growing Collaborator Network,” however, it would be helpful in interpreting the survey results to know more about who they are. I am curious about how representative they might be of educators across the nation. I realize this is not a research project, and some aspects of the results may not matter whether the sample is representative, but it would help with understanding the results. I was surprised by the statement “Based on these respondents (who are likely better informed than many), while there are a large number of frameworks in our field, most are not even known – let alone used – by a majority of people.” I am aware of many districts who use different frameworks. Thus, I assume that respondents to this survey are disproportionately linked to the frameworks that emerged as most common. That might not be an accurate assumption.

    • Christi,
      Sorry fro the delayed response but I have been on vacation. I was also surprised by the apparently limited knowledge and use of different frameworks we found and you noted. Perhaps people who responded are locking into particular frameworks more quickly then suspected and not exploring different frameworks more widely. Or perhaps this is a function of who responded. Unfortunately we do not know much about the actual respondents but the know the growing 1300 member Collaborator Network this was sent to comes from all 50 states and some 30 plus countries around the world (though overall heavily from the US). When asked to describe the nature of their work in SEL and allowed to check multiple responses, 72% indicated practice, 52% indicated research, 34% indicated administration and only 25% indicated policy with 13% indicating other. Their roles vary from consultants to teachers to social workers and counselors to professional development to not-for-profit leaders and professors. The Measuring SEL initiative and the Frameowrk Subgroup in particular are working to better understand the dilemmas and practices of people’s coping with the multitude of SEL frameworks out there. This survey was one part of that effort. Would love to hear from others about this finding and what it means or implies about our field. I would encourage people to check out the work of A.I.R. on frameworks ( as well as that of the Harvard Taxonomy project led by Stephanie Jones (

  3. As a Board member and Education Pillar chair for my local United Way, we are trying to determine SEL measures we could make available to funded partners who provide after school programs. Any suggestions based on the experiences of these respondents would be helpful.

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