Committee for Children Blog

Using SEL Assessments to Foster Inclusive Education  

Portrait of school children smiling in classroom

Teachers and school leaders strive to provide an inclusive education for all students so that children have equal learning opportunities in a classroom setting with their peers. Students should feel supported, safe, and respected in school, regardless of their identity or background or any physical, behavioral, or learning disabilities they may have.  

Social-emotional learning (SEL) curricula, like our Second Step® family of programs, have been shown to foster an improved sense of inclusion and belonging for students, more positive relationships with peers and adults, and boosted academic achievement.  

Key components of SEL are self-awareness; self-management, such as planning and organizational skills; social awareness, such as practicing empathy and perspective-taking; relationship skills; and responsible decision-making. When these social-emotional skills are learned and practiced, their benefits are often undeniable.  

Even though more than a decade of research shows the benefits of SEL—and most school leaders and educators support SEL—teachers still need a targeted way to gauge what students are learning in their classrooms. Implementing SEL assessments, like Aperture Education’s DESSA Second Step® Assessments, provides the bridge from research-backed curricula to specific insights on each student’s SEL competencies and areas for growth.  

How SEL assessments work  

SEL assessments can be used alongside an SEL curriculum or embedded directly within SEL modules. Assessments are strengths-based and growth-oriented, so they focus on measuring positive behaviors, such as how students get along with others or show kindness toward others. Assessments can incorporate multiple perspectives, including teachers and parents and self-reporting from students themselves. Together, they provide data-driven insights on each student’s skills across the five core competencies of SEL: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. 

Applying assessment insights  

Reviewing data from SEL assessments informs multiple facets of learning for:  

  • Classrooms. By evaluating assessment outcomes for all students in the class, teachers can better determine which SEL lessons may need additional instruction time. Results may also spotlight areas where educators can adjust the learning environment to be more inclusive, promoting educational equity and strengthening relationships between teachers and students and among student peers. 
  • Districts. Assessments help school leaders identify which classrooms, grade levels, or schools need additional implementation support. Studies show the quality of lesson delivery is influenced by instructional support. Assessment outcomes can guide strategies for future professional development, and assessments also provide a big-picture view of curriculum impact, allowing leaders to evaluate their return on investment for their SEL programs.  

Read about our partnership with Aperture Education to co-develop assessments specifically for our Second Step® family of programs. 

Learn more about our Second Step® programs for Early Learning through Grade 12, which help more than 26 million children around the world each year.