The Voice of Practitioners Matters Most – Help Us Listen

By: Dale A. Blyth, Consultant and Deborah Moroney, American Institutes for Research

Practitioner voice has not been elevated adequately in the conversation about SEL assessment.  Why is this so? The world of assessment, SEL and otherwise, comes mostly from academics, measure developers, and users in research, (or recovering applied academics like ourselves) but assessments are used (and rightly challenged) by practitioners. Who are we talking about here? The people working daily with children and youth: Educators, out-of-school time professionals, student support specialists, and educational leaders in schools, districts and programs.

As the Assessment Work Group (AWG) seeks to move forward on our three goals of 1) understanding the value of different frameworks, 2) developing a practical guide to assessment, and 3) challenging the field to design new tools for assessing SEL, it is very important to gain the valuable perspectives of practitioners.

So what has the AWG done, what opportunities are emerging, and how can we do so better?

First, in initially designing the AWG, leaders took care to have 5 district–level practitioners at the table when we meet

Second, we recognized that out-of-school time practitioners–for whom social emotional learning and development is often a central characteristic of their practice–are also dealing with issues of assessment.

Third, AWG has partnered with Civic Enterprise and Peter Hart Associates to do a nationally representative survey of principals about their perspectives on SEL (the new report is coming out this fall–we will blog about here when it does). CASEL had also previously worked with them on a 2013 study of teachers’ perspectives (The Missing Piece).

But we want to do more than study practitioner perspectives–we want to engage practitioners and do this more often, more authentically, and in ways that support real time change in practice.

Therefore, the AWG built the Measuring SEL website which serves as a hub for our communications and products and is also growing the Collaborator Network of over 800 people involved in social emotional learning in school and in out of school settings in the U.S. and around the world. Over half of the network describes themselves as practitioners.

But we want and need to dive deeper and listen to practitioners’ perspectives more directly!

As a result, we are now exploring several new methods of engaging practitioners to gain valuable insight and feedback about what practitioners need, the challenges they face, and how they select assessments and use data to inform their practice.

In particular, we are:

  • Looking for practitioners to blog on Measuring SEL about their real life experiences with SEL assessments and using data to improve learning.
  • Exploring ways to work more closely with various practitioner associations and other groups that influence practice.
  • Soliciting nominations for a small national panel of practitioners with whom we can engage directly and who can advise and review AWG activities.
  • Seeking external reviewers for our various reports and briefs as well as the Design Challenge and Guide.
  • Writing blogs that ask practitioners to share their perspective on particular topics (see below for our first question!).
  • Seeking funding to support these and other direct efforts with practitioners.


What can you do to become a voice in this important conversation? You can:

  1. Provide your perspective via a blog comment especially regarding the following question:

What is the biggest opportunity you see as a practitioner to getting or using data to help shape or improve your practice?

  1. Email us at to let Deb and Dale know if any of our emerging opportunities (including writing a blog) interest you. We want to hear from you whether you are new to the field or well established in your practice.
  2. Keep reading this blog for other opportunities to share your valuable perspectives.
Posted in:

One Comment

  1. In our school district, we spent the 2016-17 school year writing an action plan for SEL. Essential components of this plan included universal screening, data teaming, progress monitoring and delivery of intervention within a tiered system of supports. This year, we used the CASEL standards to develop an informal universal screening tool to measure social skills, self-regulation and perspective-taking. We used this tool to guide our discussions with teachers during data teams. It has been useful to focus the social emotional intervention on specific domains that are linked into defined standards. This screener is not a scientifically developed tool in any way. However, we could not find any other instrument that would give us information about the SEL CASEL standards. We are going to spend the year researching the standards and developing rubrics to help us identify needs, guide instruction, monitor progress and evaluate social-emotional services.

Leave a Reply

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