This blog is based on a REL Pacific webinar titled "Creating Balanced Systems of Assessment to Support Equitable Opportunities to Learn and Child Well-being" hosted on July 28, 2021 and presented by Katie Buckley from Teach for America, W. Christopher Brandt from the Center for Assessment, and Fern Yoshida from the Hawai?i Department of Education. You can view a recording of the webinar here.
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is defined as the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. 1 SEL is intended to foster skills, dispositions, and orientations, referred to as social-emotional competencies (SECs), that can help individuals achieve greater success in school and life. Research shows that SECs are related to increased academic achievement, career success, and overall health and well-being 2 and that SEL is important for both personal and collective well-being. 3
In addition to teaching students SECs, focusing on adults’ SEL—and supporting the SECs of teachers, administrators, or policy-makers—can also increase their well-being and can in turn promote SEL among students through the modeling of SEL practices and by providing a more positive environment. 4
A system of assessments that includes a focus on social-emotional competencies can help educators establish and maintain an environment in which students can succeed. Positive student experiences such as an intellectually rigorous learning environment, physical and psychological safety, meaningful classroom work and discourse, opportunities to learn and recover from mistakes, and feelings of being seen and respected by peers and adults have been shown to result in positive student outcomes, such as intellectual curiosity, a sense of agency, self-love, empathy, and meaningful connections with others. 5
A holistic system of assessment expands the notion of student success to include social, emotional, and physical well-being in addition to academic success. 6 A holistic approach to assessment can support more equitable learning environments, promote students’ SECs, and improve students’ academic, social, and emotional learning outcomes. In practice, holistic systems of assessment consider school stakeholders’ feedback on what constitutes a successful student and citizen, connecting these positive outcomes to required inputs that are then implemented as part of the system of assessment. For example, if physical health is an important community value, a holistic system of assessment would include physical health as an outcome, and the data collected by the assessment would be used to inform decisions about needed supports that could be implemented, such as access to exercise facilities and equipment for students and health and nutrition education as part of the curriculum.
The four steps that schools and local education agencies can take to support holistic assessment are:
The Hawai?i Department of Education developed the Hawai?i Multi-Tiered System of Support (HMTSS) as a holistic system of assessment that focuses on whole-child development. This system of assessment incorporates academic, behavioral, physical, and SEL domains to promote healthy student development and achievement by gathering data on students’ social-emotional development via surveys. Student voice and well-being data are gathered through student perception surveys, SEL student surveys, and check-in surveys. Additionally, family voice is accounted for via stakeholder surveys.
The student perception survey gathers data on the overall climate and culture of schools. To supplement these data, stakeholder surveys were administered to families and students as part of a needs-sensing effort to better address student needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the Hawai?i DOE has implemented a state-wide SEL student survey, which examines students’ perceptions of their SECs. Student well-being check-in surveys also allow for progress monitoring throughout the year. Finally, teachers are provided with professional learning activities and strategies that are directly related to aggregated student survey data, which are analyzed to provide insights into how systems and practices might lead to positive student development and to systemically address student needs within the tiered framework.
For example, a survey showed that 51 percent of students were able to describe their feelings, meaning that about half of students (49 percent) could benefit from support in finding the right language to describe their feelings. Some potential ways of addressing this are to provide daily check-ins for students, use a mood meter to support students in describing their emotions, or to provide professional learning opportunities for teachers on how to help students recognize, label, and manage their emotions. Hawai?i’s multi-tiered system of support considers students’ knowledge, skills, and mindsets when crafting supportive environments and selecting programs and practices. It consists of three tiers, offering more focused, intensive support in higher tiers, and general, group-oriented support in lower tiers.
For help in identifying and evaluating assessments, including those for measuring SEL and other aspects of well-being, refer to the Center for Assessment’s Interim Assessment Toolkit (phase 1 and phase 2), which can help you identify your needs, find assessments that align to them, and select assessments that are relevant, of high quality, and appropriate for your system.
2 Damon E. Jones, Mark Greenberg, Max Crowley. (2015). Early Social-Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness. American Journal of Public Health 105, no. 11 (November, 2015): pp. 2283–2290. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2015.302630
3 Greenberg, M.T., Domitrovich, C.E., Weissberg, R.P., & Durlak, J.A. (2017). Social and emotional learning as a public health approach to education. The Future of Children 27(1), 13–32. doi:10.1353/foc.2017.0001 teamat/hru009
4 Cipriano, C., & Brackett, M. (2020). Teachers are anxious and overwhelmed. They need SEL now more than ever. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2020-04-07-teachers-are-anxious-and-overwhelmed-they-need-sel-now-more-than-ever
6 Schneider, J., Jacobsen, R., White, R., and Gehlbach, H. (2017). Building a better measure of school quality. Phi Delta Kappan, 98(7), 43–48.
7Quigley, K. (n.d.) A comprehensive guide to a portrait of a graduate [blog]. Panorama Education. https://www.panoramaed.com/blog/comprehensive-guide-portrait-of-a-graduate#:~:text=%20Strategies %20for%20Portrait%20of%20a%20Graduate%20Implementation,to%20life%20across%20the%20community. %20Most...%20More%20
8 Schneider, J., Jacobsen, R., White, R. S. & Gehlbach, H. (2017). Building a better measure of school quality. Phi Delta Kappan, 98(7), 43–48.