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Posts tagged ‘social and emotional skills’

SEL Data for Dialogue

When I first started working as a teacher in the US, I learned about “data-driven instruction.” The school where I taught used several data points to assess students’ understanding and mastery of the academic standards taught in class: reading assessments, math benchmarks, exit tickets, student writing samples, classroom observations, and student-led projects, among several others. We used these tools to assess students’ strengths and identify any gaps in their learning. Then, as a team, we adjusted our instructional plans to make sure students’ academic needs were being met. Many of you probably go through a similar process in your classroom. So, what about social and emotional needs? Is it possible to use SEL data to inform instruction?

Here’s the quick summary: If we want to understand students’ social and emotional competencies and how much progress we are making in helping students develop these skills, we need to use data. Otherwise, how would you know that what you’re doing is working? Or that you are meeting students’ needs?

In an earlier post, I discussed how SEL cannot be solely focused on teaching social and emotional competencies once a week; SEL should be part of the school fabric (from the way teachers greet students in the morning, to the procedures for handling student misbehavior), and it should incorporate SEL data that helps school teams improve instruction and the learning environment at the school. Dr. Denham, Psychology Professor and member of the research advisory group at CASEL, explains that a well-designed SEL initiative includes clear goals and benchmarks (i.e. SEL standards), and tools for universal and targeted screening and progress monitoring. Let’s look at these two elements in more detail.

1. SEL goals and benchmarks

This refers to the SEL content you teach- the what. Which competencies do you teach? How are these competencies applied differently by age/grade level? What should you expect students to do/practice/apply when they leave campus? If you have clear goals and benchmarks at your school, answering these questions should be straightforward. However, if you don’t, continue reading. There are several resources that may help you and your school with your SEL benchmarks.

In the US, some states have adopted specific SEL standards. For example, the state of Illinois established free-standing SEL standards in 2006. The first SEL goal is “to develop self-awareness and self-management skills to achieve school and life success.” They break down this broad goal into 3 learning standards:

  1. Identify and manage emotions and behaviors,
  2. Recognize personal qualities and external supports, and
  3. Demonstrate skills related to achieving personal and academic goals.

Then, each learning standard is divided into specific benchmarks, following developmentally appropriate milestones. Let’s look at the corresponding SEL benchmarks for the first learning standard.

Learning Standard: Identify and manage one’s emotions and behaviors

Early Elementary Benchmarks (ages 6-8):

  • Recognize and accurately label emotions and how they are linked to behavior
  • Demonstrate control of impulsive behavior

Late Elementary (ages 8-11):

  • Describe a range of emotions and the situations that cause them.
  • Describe and demonstrate ways to express emotions in a socially acceptable manner.

Middle/Junior High School (ages 11-14):

  • Analyze factors that create stress or motivate successful performance.
  • Apply strategies to manage stress and to motivate successful performance.

Early High School (ages 14-16)

  • Analyze how thoughts and emotions affect decision making and responsible behavior.
  • Generate ways to develop more positive attitude.

Late High School (ages 16-18):

  • Evaluate how expressing one’s emotions in different situations affects others.
  • Evaluate how expressing more positive attitudes influences others.

The state of Illinois goes one step further identifying performance descriptors for each benchmark (check out descriptors for grades 1-5 and grades 6-12). For example, a 6 year-old student who meets the first benchmark (recognize and accurately label emotions and how they are linked to behavior) would be able to:

  • Identify emotions (e.g., happy, surprised, sad, angry, proud, afraid) expressed in “feeling faces” or photographs.
  • Name the emotions felt by characters in stories.
  • Identify ways to calm yourself.
  • Describe a time you felt the same way a story character felt.
  • Discuss classroom and school rules.
  • Share feelings (e.g., through speaking, writing, drawing) in a range of contexts.

As you can see, these standards and benchmarks describe what students should know and be able to do in each level. In addition, the performance descriptors offer discrete indicators that teachers can use to monitor if students are reaching their SEL goals.

In your classroom, you probably have students reading at different levels, right? The same is true for SEL. You may have students who enter kindergarten knowing basic emotions and having strategies to calm themselves, while other learners may need additional instruction and support to develop these skills. Having SEL benchmarks and goals will help you develop a plan to support students’ growth in this important area. Do you have questions? Reach out!

2. Tools for Assessing SEL

Assessment data are an essential component of SEL implementation. It can serve many functions, including universal and targeted screening, progress monitoring for SEL benchmarks, and as a planning tool for curriculum development and instruction. SEL measures can also support equitable outcomes; since a systematic data analysis can reveal disparities in the degree to which schools are meeting students’ needs. Teachers can use SEL data to make effective instructional decisions generally and, specifically, to guide the integration of SEL in the classroom. In addition, when SEL data are used along academic scores, discipline reports, attendance, teacher observations and parent input, schools can easily identify the challenges that students face, and act to ensure adequate levels of support to meet the needs of all students.

If you are looking for an SEL assessment tool for your school, you are in luck. CASEL just released the first SEL Assessment Guide, which provides a curated catalog of 23 assessments currently used in schools, and examples of how practitioners are using these tools. It includes student self-report, teacher/staff perceptions, performance measures, and family and peer feedback. Many of the tools are available in several languages. If you are looking for an assessment, this guide will make the task of selecting and using an appropriate assessment easier and faster.

SEL assessments should NOT be used for tracking or labeling students; they should be used to help teachers identify strengths in their students and areas that need to be further developed. The insights gain from SEL data should support creating richer learning environments, where students feel safe and supported to practice the skills they’re trying to learn.

Need more examples? If you’d like to read more about how schools use SEL assessments in practice, let me know. I’ll send you a recently published case study that describes how a school uses assessment data to build positive school climate and strengthen the skills of students and teachers. Or just drop me a note using the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you.

3 Skills To Discuss Racism with Emotional Intelligence

You do not look how I expected you to look. Are you Asian?”. He turns to my husband and asks “Don’t you think you should have told us your wife was Asian?”.

A former colleague recently posted these sentences on Facebook in response to the article “Go Back to China” recently published in the New York Times. Reporter Michael Luo was told to go back to China when walking with his family and friends on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on a Sunday morning. My colleague was among many others who replied to Luo’s article describing their own experience of racism and discrimination. Read more

2y + 3x = SEL

It has been almost 6 years since the Common Core State Standards were released. The adoption of common standards in the US has brought exciting changes for students and teachers, and a fair amount of frustration, anger and fear of failure. Although the standards have received many criticisms, Montoy-Wilson, a 2nd grade teacher in East Palo Alto (California), describes them as a tool to address the achievement gap and equip all students with proper tools for the 21st century: Read more

How are social and emotional skills developed?

Healthy social and emotional development involves the ability to manage different emotions, learn and play, face difficulties and form trusting relationships with others. Starting from birth, babies learn who they are through their caregivers. Adults are powerful role models when it comes to social and emotional development! In earlier posts, I have discussed that social and emotional skills can be learned and developed over time. If you are starting to teach SEL or trying to incorporate social and emotional competencies in your lessons, it is helpful to understand how these skills are developed over time. Here’s a roadmap.
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Back to School: And this year we are also teaching SEL!

One of the greatest concerns for principals and teachers who want to bring Social Emotional Learning to their schools is the potential push back they might get from their staff. SEL evangelists might be afraid that teachers will perceive Smud-day-9-630x424EL as something else they need to teach on top of continuing the transition to the Common Core, the new writing curriculum, iPads for all students, teacher evaluation, you name it… making them feel they C-A-N-N-O-T take on anything new. Read more

Teaching is an emotional practice

One of my first teaching assignments was in a public school in Barcelona. I met the principal and the dean of students the afternoon before starting my new position and was told: “This is a very difficult group of students, some with challenging behaviors. Do you think you can do it?”. I really wanted to teach at that school, so (even if I had my doubts) I said “Of course!”. I didn’t sleep at all that night… I was scared and felt unprepared.

During my doctoral dissertation, I asked teachers why they had decided to go into teaching. Their faces lit up while they described their passion to provide students with the opportunities they had growing up, being inspired by their own teachers or having a social justice purpose in life. These same teachers also shared concerns about staying in the teaching profession where the work hours are long, there is a lack of work-life balance and they are “emotionally drained” by the end of each school year.

Emotions are at the heart of what teachers do and why they do it. Teaching is an emotional practice and we can’t ignore that teachers need support developing their own social and emotional competencies, so they can successfully regulate their emotions and manage the stress that comes with teaching. If you take a look aSix Secondst Six Seconds model of Emotional Intelligence (EQ), you might find that some of these skills come naturally to you and others might require some additional development. Like with our students, as adults, we also have strengths and challenges when it comes to our social and emotional competencies.


Jones, Bouffard and Weissbourd (2013) also point out that these skills are influenced by context. If you work at a school or organization where gossip and complaints are the norm, you will tend to display more negative behaviors; while if you work in a supportive environment, you will be more inclined to successfully manage stress or ask/offer help when needed.

In any case, developing your social and emotional competencies is a good investment because it will improve the relationships with your students, provide a different outlook to your classroom management and (hopefully) reduce some burnout. These are some resources that I have found valuable in the development of my own competencies. Try them out!

  •  Assess your EQ competencies. This is normally based on a self-report, and it provides with specific feedback on your skills and a framework to apply EQ in and outside of the classroom. If you don’t know where to start developing your skills, this is a helpful first step. Email me if you want to learn more.
  • Cultivate self-awareness. Are you able to name your emotions and explain why you are feeling that way? Emotional awareness starts with our ability to identify how we feel, not only the obvious feelings, but also the ones that are hidden. Reflect on what your emotions are telling you about a particular situation.
  • Incorporate reflection into your day. Remember we discussed the importance of reflecting to learn with our students? Building a reflection time for adults is key to develop social and emotional competencies. This can be done during team or staff meetings at your school, or you can do it independently at a time that seems feasible and sustainable for your schedule. Just try to be consistent!

Teaching is an emotional practice and teachers need support developing their own social and emotional competencies in order to successfully regulate the stress that comes with teaching. Assessing your EQ competencies, cultivating self-awareness and incorporating reflection time into your day are a few strategies to get started developing your skills. What strategies are you using to build your social and emotional competencies? Please share!

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