Hot Topic - Should SEL Be Measured? If So, How?

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Jan 25, 2019
by Anna Rawe
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Hot Topic - Should SEL Be Measured? If So, How?

Salzburg Global Fellows share their views during Social and Emotional Learning: A Global Synthesis Salzburg Global Fellows share their views during Social and Emotional Learning: A Global Synthesis

A select number of Fellows at Social and Emotional Learning: A Global Synthesis were asked: "Should SEL be measured? If so, how?" We have published their answers below.

“There [are] some very general social and emotional factors that can be assessed at pretty much any age, so starting when students enter all the way through school, what changes is how you carry out that assessment. The most valid assessments we have now are one where, in the early years, it has to be completed by a teacher [because] the student isn’t capable of self-assessing. There’s a lack of awareness and lack of reading skills that prevents that from happening… [In] third or fourth grade you can begin to ask a student to self-assess and you can couple that with teacher assessments, or not. For the most part, we do these kinds of assessments with ratings scales, look[ing] at scales [of] teachers’ ratings or students’ self-ratings. But, more and more there is beginning to be developed performance assessment tasks, so we are looking forward to the day when we have a whole suite of task designed to measure social and emotional skills that depend on students performing some kind of task.”

Patrick Kyllonen, USA
Distinguished presidential appointee, Educational Testing Service (ETS)

“I think that we need to set objectives [that are] very clear, for what group of social and emotional skills we need to assess in a particular context. For example, what a country needs could be different for other countries… The age is so important because, for example, little children cannot respond or answer [using] scales; we have to look for adequate ways to assess. I think that all of these questions are still remaining unanswered… We need much more research about this.”

Humberto Perez Leon Ibanez, Peru

Head, Learning Quality Measurement Office, Ministry of Education

“We are right in the middle of that question right now in India. We’ve got partners to develop instruments; we’re asking questions… Even if you assess how are you going to integrate that? Should children’s social and emotional skills see a year-on-year increase? The sector only understands linear growth… [For those over 7 or 8 years old] measurement for me at this point of time is really important to set a sense of urgency. There’s literature saying its important, but we don’t know how bad it is in India… Measurement is critical to be able to understand what are we even dealing with, [but] what is the baseline?”

Sukhmani Sethi, India

Program Manager, Porticus

“I think there’s a difference between assessing and monitoring, or reporting. In terms of assessment test-type of activities, I would say no. We have in Scotland… SHANARRI [Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible and Included] indicators… We’ve got a curriculum [where] children have certain capacities that include being effective contributors, responsible citizens, successful learners, and so on. Then we have [a] national policy, which is ‘Getting it right for every child,’ which applies to schools but it’s a multi-agency approach – it’s not just down to teachers to make sure that children are OK… Schools use the SHANARRI indicators and children look at children and look at how they’re doing using a range of these indicators, and then we build up a picture of how the child is doing… It’s a rounded picture rather than test assessment.”

Linda Brownlow, UK

Head, School of Education, University of Strathclyde


The program Social and Emotional Learning: A Global Synthesis is part of Salzburg Global's multi-year series Education for Tomorrow’s World. This year’s program is being held in partnership with ETS, Microsoft and Qatar Foundation International, who will also co-chair the program, together with additional partners, the British Council, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Inter-American Development Bank.