Using SEL Assessments for Continuous Improvement: Part 2 — 8 Ways to Improve Your SEL Implementation

View the first article in this series: Using SEL Assessments for Continuous Improvement: Part 1 — How to Effectively Use SEL Data

We are always exploring ways to help schools achieve continuous improvement in their implementation of social and emotional learning (SEL). Continuous improvement helps schools ensure their SEL implementation has longevity and maximum positive impact on student outcomes.

In the first part of this series on continuous improvement, we explored effective ways to utilize SEL data. Now let’s explore ways to improve your SEL implementation.

Align Your SEL Program to State Standards

Goals and benchmarks are crucial. SEL standards, like academic standards, help educators know if students are on track and meeting learning expectations. All 50 states have developed SEL standards for preschool students, and most states have developed some form of standards for grades K-12. Note that only a few states have created comprehensive, free-standing SEL standards for all grade levels. Utilize your state’s standards, and advocate for better standards if you feel they could be improved.

Embed SEL into Your District Practices

Integrating SEL within district practices can go a long way to ensuring your SEL program has longevity and efficacy. Staff tend to be more engaged and committed to a program when they know it is a district priority. Consider adding SEL language to your district’s strategic plan, policies, and messaging. Train all staff on SEL and include SEL support in your central office.

Choose a Quality SEL Assessment

Select a research-informed SEL assessment, like the DESSA, to collect data on students’ social-emotional skills and SEL program effectiveness. The data will identify students’ social and emotional needs, which can guide instruction and can be used to create tailored interventions. When used as a pre-post assessment, SEL data can help educators determine program effectiveness.

Start with a Pilot, Then Scale Your Implementation

Avoid the mistake of biting off more than you can chew when launching an SEL program. Take the first year to introduce your SEL program as a pilot with a few teachers who believe in the benefits of SEL. Your selected staff members can spend the first year learning the program, evaluating SEL data, making adjustments to ensure the model works within your school, and becoming SEL experts. The following year, roll the program out on a larger scale. This model will create a strong foundation of support and will help make your implementation go much more smoothly.

Invest in Staff Professional Development

The most effective SEL implementations start with well-trained staff. Educators need to understand SEL and how to effectively integrate it into academic instruction. Principals can help ensure this happens by planning adequate training, creating a systematic plan for SEL implementation, aligning the SEL program to state standards, and helping educators understand and build their own social and emotional competence.

Increase Educators’ Social and Emotional Skills

SEL is not just for students educators can also benefit from increasing their social-emotional competence. When educators understand social and emotional skills, they are better prepared to effectively teach those skills to students. When educators have strong social-emotional skills themselves, they can model these skills for students authentically in the moment. SEL also helps educators develop skills to manage stress, the demands of teaching, and the needs of students. Utilize an SEL assessment and professional development program, such as Aperture Education’s Educator Social-Emotional Reflection & Training (EdSERT), to support educators’ SEL needs.

Support Your Staff

One of the most important ways to create a successful SEL program is to respect staff and provide them the support they need. Build in time for staff development, lesson planning, faculty meetings, time to review SEL data, and common planning time. Also help your staff address any implementation challenges, and encourage improvement through coaching and mentoring.

Implement, Assess, Adjust, Repeat

Ensure the sustainability of your SEL program by continually monitoring implementation, evaluating what is and isn’t working, and making adjustments as needed. Meet with stakeholders to hear about challenges they face and their success stories. Use SEL data (i.e. the DESSA System and EdSERT) to celebrate successes, find ways to overcome obstacles, and make improvements to your program.

Ready to get started? Contact our experts at Aperture Education through the form below, and we’ll help you create an effective SEL program that utilizes quality SEL data for continuous improvement.

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