The Future of SEL Assessment – 5 Essential Directions

By: Christina Cipriano, Ph.D., Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

On October 2nd, 2019, sixty-three stakeholders reflecting the national SEL assessment landscape in the U.S. participated in an invited, full-day work session to build on the vision articulated by the Assessment Work Group’s State of the Field Report and National Commission Report by generating ideas and forging partnerships to launch the most essential next phases of work related to the assessment of SEL. 

After a full day of collaborative discourse (facilitated by Education First) and a review of the themes that emerged, we identified five essential next phases of work for advancing SEL assessment. The full report can be found here, and we summarize these five directions below. 

Leverage Resources and Expertise. Participants agreed that a critical next direction for SEL assessment is to coordinate building on and improving the tools and resources that have been developed to date, and to find new ways to make connections among those tools and resources illustrated with a range of practical examples for data-users. For example, participants considered how to broaden information access and usage for data-users, through web-mediated and/or hands on tutorials and quick-start guides. In addition, participants committed to promote coordinating efforts across the field – for example, we coordinated the release of our report with a brief focused specifically on SEL Assessment as part of Penn State’s Future Directions in SEL and Education Issue Brief Series

Promote SEL Data Literacy. Although educators lack no shortage of commitment to SEL, there remains a need for more guidance and support related to SEL Assessment. The next phase of work to support in data literacy will provide data-users with step-wise guidance and parameters for decision making to support the identification of priorities, expectations, operationalization of constructs, and best practices in data collection and interpretation. This introduction would lay the ground for deeper dives in each of these areas building toward the intended end of promoting the best possible use of data by and for the end-user.

Enable Equity. The importance of proceeding with caution to ensure that SEL assessments promote equitable learning environments and experiences was also a prominent theme that emerged from our convening. This focus reflects a growing conversation in the field about the potential for SEL to be a key lever for equity. This next phase of work will present up to four key questions and the corresponding impact the answers to those questions have when choosing and using SEL assessments towards the end of supporting equity and will draw from the newly formed CASEL Equity Work Group.

Engage Youth Voice.  The need to elevate student voice in the development, reporting, interpretation, and utilization of SEL assessment was also an important theme from the convening. Powerful examples of this work exist from districts prioritizing SEL across the nation. The stories of two such examples were told by the practitioners’ themselves on the AWG’s MeasuringSEL Blog, and have been featured in national publications such as EdWeek. The next phase of work in this area includes prioritizing the development of guides and the supports needed to use data points that students generate, interpret, and build on to support the improvement of SEL. 

Integrate SEL Assessment at the System Level. The greatest opportunity to realize the positive effects SEL has on students, classrooms, and teachers, exists when SEL assessment practices can be embedded into larger systems. The next phase of work must discuss best practices with examples of success stories–schools that have integrated SEL assessment well and how they executed the integration, including how to best-fit assessment (inclusive of data collection, analysis, application) timelines into the school year, and how to ensure school staff/faculty prioritize assessment through collectively understanding its value for the individual student, classroom, and their larger school community.

What’s next? SEL Assessment Learning Modules

In the months following the meeting, convening participants have proposed to work together to develop a set of online learning modules to share information and jump-start work in these identified areas with a wide audience of stakeholders. 

The learning modules will serve as the introductory resource for each essential topic and each module will have an accompanying resource guide and will be shared via a blog post hosted here on the Measuring SEL website. Stay up to date with the release of the SEL Assessment Learning Modules by signing up for the Collaborator Network HERE. The first learning module and accompanying resources and blog will be released in May 2020, and will continue to be released periodically leading up to the 2nd annual SEL Exchange! Interested in contributing to a learning module development team? Email Chris at to get more info. 

It is our hope that these learning modules can serve as a pilot for considering the building out of an in-depth, interactive, resource library of learning modules for practitioners to hone their SEL Assessment skills and ways of using data in implementation, possibly leading to credentialing and better ways for all stakeholders to share resources and best-practice. 

Thank you to all the practitioners, researchers, developers, and funders who have leaned in in support of catalyzing the future directions of SEL assessment. Feeling grateful for what we’ve done together and excited for our collective next steps in our commitment to utilize SEL assessment to improve SEL. We are all better together. 

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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