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How to measure social-emotional learning

Sa BalOctober 18, 2021

Teacher in the classroom


Educators have started to adopt and embrace a uniform approach to improve students’ Social and Emotional Learning skills, focusing on students’ measurable and adaptable SEL skills. 

There has been a paradigm shift in the education sector, and Social and Emotional Learning are at the center. SEL assessment boils down to identifying and choosing the “right” measurement tools and methods to gauge students’ competence. 

Many states in the U.S have their own SEL measurement standards and assessment methodologies. In the education sector, teachers use ‘Social and Emotional Learning as an intervention tactic. The underlying objective of SEL assessment is to build extensive research and roll out learning practices for students. 

Different age group, different SEL assessment

Modern educational institutions don’t generalize their SEL measurement. After all, Social and Emotional Learning varies from one age group to another. The essence of SEL measurement comes down to categorization. Ultimately, measuring SEL is all about monitoring a student’s educational experience. 

Today, educators understand that assessing SEL serves as an opportunity to understand students’ strengths and implement changes to improve their learning process. Many educators execute SEL initiatives that are not perfect, and that’s normal. It takes consistent adjustments and improvements to make a Social and Emotional Learning model effective. What’s more, measuring SEL takes valuable insights that allow educators to help students follow the right academic path.

In the contemporary school and district setting, SEL plays an integral role in our childrens’ daily lives. In the early stages of development, educators can measure students’ recognizable SEL skills. Professional educators use various tactics for different age groups to create positive reinforcement that allows students to form healthy relationships.

Measuring SEL for kids requires a lot of self-control that often challenges them at an early age. But unlike kids, you can count on adolescents to practice and master their social and emotional skills. Adolescents who eventually master their social and emotional skills learn to interact with large groups and forge long-term friendships.

With more emotional maturity, adolescents strive towards independence faster and make a successful transition into adult life.

But whether you measure kids’ or adolescents’ social and emotional learning skills, the assessment should revolve around quantifiable data. This data would affirm that everyone gets the right support and opportunity at the right time. Many teachers create a strategic direction for students to ensure they can hone their skills. 

SEL measurement systems

Simulated scoring scenarios

When it comes to measuring direct simulated environments, educators often use scenarios in games and create challenging interpersonal activities for students. The key is to track the students’ activity and understand “how” they may respond to a particular situation.

Some assessments require students to infer their feelings with more expressive facial expressions. Similarly, other tasks can revolve around video vignettes or illustrations to compel students to be more responsive about their intentions or toward a specific scenario.

The fun part is to figure out the next actionable step for students based on their previous decisions. In retrospect, it can be a step-by-step direct measurement of social and emotional skills without touching on culture or age parameters. Ultimately, the essence of direct simulated tasks lies in making the information relevant from the learner’s perspective.


The self-assessment Social and emotional Learning system can be applied from 3rd grade to high school students. It involves asking students to evaluate their own social awareness and emotional learning based on self-awareness and self-taught skills. Throughout the process, you can track their social and emotional state and create insightful reports. 

Direct observation is also important in this system. Typically, students expect to hear answers based on their best guesses. So, try to infer every student’s personal feelings about each task. Remember that the empathetic drive, personal development, and expressions will vary from student to student.

Observational measurement

One of the hallmark elements of self-assessment is observation, but you can use this as a separate system to measure students’ SEL . In this approach, educators focus on more social and emotional learning variables. Typically, you will find many interchangeable social and emotional links, but you can also expect a few variables that may not be comparable. 

Measuring SEL in the observational system requires a thorough understanding of cultural context, local parameters, and different perceptions. Educators often use their extensive training and experience to assign observational-based SEL scores. 

What about RAND evaluation?

RAND is another famous systematic measurement and evaluation system . However, it’s more of a tool than a platform. What’s more, RAND operates as an information hub for researchers and educators to dive into different kinds of assessments to help them design the perfect measuring tool. This type of evaluation focuses on the big picture and measures a wide range of elements. It involves review points that include various reliability and validity tests. 

 Assessment tools to measure SEL

IIS – Impact implementation system

IIS is an evidence-based tool that allows you to document and improve SEL results. You can combine extensive testing in a controlled setting to make SEL assessment more effective. It is an intuitive and collaborative tool that allows educators to improve individuals’ emotional and social well-being through an effective tracking system.

RCT – Randomized-controlled trials

RCT is a standard measurement tool in the research field and education sector. It involves a straightforward process where you need to assign individuals in separate groups. After that, you can assign students in two groups. One group will have to be controlled, and the other will be experimental.  

IS – Archived surveys

Measuring SEL also extends to archived surveys. It means you can use the data provided by archived surveys to gain richer and more accurate results. Archived surveys are full of historical data that can be useful to understand students’ perceptions. 

What to consider when measuring social-emotional learning

1. Purpose

Remembering the shared purpose and strengths of various measurement tactics

2. Comparaison

Collecting insightful data from others that may have been through SEL assessments

3. Continuous development

Maintaining a developmental lens to move in the right direction

4. Equity 

Ensuring transparency and equity throughout the SEL measurement

5. Tools

Checking out current tools to effectively measure strategic SEL efforts

6. Environment

Focusing on a concentrated environment for each group

SEL measurement in early childhood: what should be your approach?

When there is a minor repair or replacement issue in your home, an instant fix will usually solve the problem. You can view measuring Social and Emotional Learning through the same lens. 

SEL at early stages

SEL measurement at an early stage of a child’s development is the key to ensure positive reinforcement and influencing students to master skills and form valuable relationships. With an objective SEL measurement and clear framework, educators can put kids on the path to success in early life.

More involvement

Part of the SEL measurement is to get involved and spot potential issues. After that, you can roll out creative solutions to resolve students’ problems. Think of SEL measurement as a Mobius circle – it requires continuous observation, documentation, instructions, analysis, and planning.

Focus on measured progress 

Whether you want to focus on kids or adolescents, students will make steady and measured progress. Once students undergo a pre-defined measurement cycle, you will be able to take a closer look at their needs and combine their goals accordingly.

Personalized approach

Most researchers agree that students with competent SEL skills are highly adaptable and lead a normal life despite their background. From hands-on to digital SEL measurement, consider opting for a personalized approach to ensure positive changes. It will also allow you to garner more attention from students and ensure their abilities lead to positive changes. 


In time, there will always be a need to heighten Social and Emotional Learning efforts. Measuring Social and Emotional Skills would support students to thrive in personal and academic life. The best SEL programs assessment focuses on students’ concerns and works to build their core competencies. 

If the data is far too diverse and complex, you can use a combination of tools and methodologies to get the best results. Fortunately, many educational institutions and academic district leaders want to make their SEL assessment guide effective. The center point of SEL measurement is data – the more objective and systematic you are – the more sustainable and successful SEL initiatives you can implement.

Photo credit: Google for Education

Social Emotional Learning