Using SEL Assessments for Continuous Improvement: Part 1 – How to Effectively Use SEL Data

Thinking back to my very first year of teaching, there was a lot I didn’t know, but I always strove to improve. I developed techniques to keep the students on-task and learning. I brainstormed with colleagues on how to engage students. I was even (mostly) successful at figuring out how to work under pressure and deal with the stress that comes along with teaching.

Continuous improvement is important for every educator and every student. It’s how we keep pushing our limits, learning and growing.

This article is the first of a two-part series that will explore how to structure your SEL program for continuous improvement. Below are four questions to ask yourself when creating an effective social and emotional learning (SEL) assessment data action plan.

#1: Is your SEL assessment measuring the SEL skills that matter to you? Before selecting an SEL assessment, make sure to do your homework and select one that will give you the data you need. The assessment should also provide robust reporting, and it should be research-based and scientifically validated. A high-quality assessment is an important component of any SEL program, and the right tool will lend itself to your continuous improvement goals.

#2: Have you defined clear SEL assessment goals? What insight do you hope to glean from your SEL assessment? Are you looking to measure program effectiveness or use the data to improve your RTI? Clearly define one or two goals around what you hope to achieve with your SEL assessment. It is important to do this up front so you are able to circle back later on in your program and see what adjustments may be needed.

#3: Are you conducting regular data meetings? (I can hear the groans now!) I know many won’t be thrilled to meet on a regular basis to talk about data, but get the snacks and coffee ready, because these meetings are important. Assessment data will do you no good if it doesn’t get used. Your data meetings are an excellent way to help staff understand the data, make sense of what it is revealing about students’ needs, and collaborate on how to use this insight for student improvement. At the end of your meeting you should have a clear action plan, and everyone should understand the next steps.

#4: Are you continually following up? Want to know the secret to continuous improvement? Assess, evaluate, act, repeat. The best programs don’t just go through an assessment cycle, use the data once, and call it a day. It is important to repeat this process so you can see what’s working and what’s not working, troubleshoot any obstacles, and make adjustments to your program to improve effectiveness.

Just like new teachers who work on improving each year, it is important to keep pushing the boundaries — and effectiveness — of your SEL program. SEL assessment data can be a powerful tool to support student improvement, but it needs to fit into a continuous improvement plan to be most effective.

About the Author

Chelsea Schuss is a former educator and currently serves on Aperture Education’s client success team.

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