The social and emotional learning movement continues to gain momentum. A recent study published by the Remedial and Special Education journal and covered in a release on GlobeNewswire, found that bullying by middle school students with disabilities was significantly reduced when they received lessons from the Second Step program, a social and emotional learning (SEL) curriculum created by the Seattle-based nonprofit Committee for Children.

Informed By Research

Conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the study’s researchers hypothesized that direct instruction in the areas of self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, problem-solving and relationship management would serve as a vehicle to reduce bullying, victimization and fighting over time for students with disabilities. Students were surveyed on their verbal/relational bullying perpetration, victimization and physical aggression toward their peers, over a three year period. Researchers found that the frequency of bullying perpetration decreased by 20 percent for students who were in the Second Step program. The program, which consists of 41 lessons for middle school students, focuses on direct instruction in risk and protective factors linked to aggression and violence, including empathy training, emotion regulation, communication skills and problem-solving strategies.

With more and more schools and districts widely adopting social and emotional learning (SEL) programs, the need to assess students’ social and emotional competencies becomes an important factor in their social and emotional development.

Why Assessment Matters

Assessments are all about guiding where the instruction goes next. What this means is that teachers should ask the right questions in order to get valuable feedback which leads to a better understanding of the whole student. By identifying students’ strengths and areas in need of development they can help students become “healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged” in today’s society.

Another way to use assessments is to help parents play an active role in the education of the student. By arming parents with information, they can address their child’s academic and social and emotional needs at home. This consistent approach provides better support for the child.

Assessing SEL Competencies

School-based SEL programs are based on the idea that a student’s academic success is linked to their ability to manage and regulate emotions, communicate and solve problems and manage interpersonal conflicts. Social and emotional learning has been proven to decrease disruptive behavior, noncompliance, aggression and disciplinary referrals.

Technology offers tools that facilitate new ways to assess student learning. Apperson’s Evo Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) assessment is a cloud-based version of the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA), a two-part screener and assessment designed to help educators promote social-emotional development of students. It includes the DESSA-mini, which is used to screen students, and the DESSA, which is administered to students who are identified as at-risk for social-emotional difficulties.

Apperson also carries a version of the DESSA that aligns with the Second Step curriculum, empowering educators to assess their students’ competencies in self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.

Using assessments for both academic and social and emotional learning will help educators to be better at teaching, learning and shaping students into well-rounded individuals.