Social-emotional learning continues to be a priority for schools, and some school leaders may consider evaluating teachers and principals using indicators that relate to SEL. Evaluation helps school leaders better understand the impact of SEL, and it communicates the importance of SEL.

This blog is the first in a series to help school leaders establish effective SEL evaluation processes. For full guidance, download our guide Evaluating Teacher & Principal Effectiveness on Indicators of Social-Emotional Learning.

The first step of any new evaluation process is preparation. It sounds like common sense, but this step is sometimes overlooked and rushed, which can lead to an anxiety-inducing evaluation process. Evaluation is more effective and meaningful when you take the time to think through your school’s unique needs and priorities before evaluation begins.

Let’s look at some specific considerations when preparing to evaluate SEL.

Teacher looking at a student's solar system

Address Teacher Well-Being

One easily overlooked aspect of SEL is the role of teacher well-being and its effect on individual classrooms. In both direct instruction and interactional approaches to SEL, there is little doubt that the teacher is the key to successful implementation.

Mentally and emotionally disengaged teachers are less effective, and their students often have less positivity toward the learning environment. Teachers struggling with their well-being have difficulty supporting the social-emotional skills of students, are less likely to form and maintain close relationships with students, and are less empathetic to the SE needs of students.

There are several factors a school may address to positively affect teacher well-being. These include:

  • Work-life balance: Encourage teachers to establish set times and locations for work that must be completed after school hours. Doing so allows the teacher to be fully engaged in after-hours work during the designated time and fully engaged with personal activities at other times.
  • Encourage positive mindset: Encourage teachers to identify and celebrate the positives in their daily lives and appreciate things that go well. Persistent focus on negativity can cause a spiraling effect that causes individuals to develop more negative thoughts.
  • Disconnect: Encourage teachers to regularly disconnect from the stress that occurs in day-to-day school activities by engaging in activities not related to school. It is important for educators to separate for a time from their job responsibilities.
  • Collaborate: Create a collaborative environment within schools to allow for collective planning for school improvement, including building climate. When teachers feel they are a part of a greater purpose, they are often motivated and encouraged that they are making a difference.

To reinforce the importance of teacher well-being, consider the following proactive action steps:

  • Create a self-care plan: Writing down a plan increases the likelihood of following through on important self-care activities. Try the Self-Care Give One/Get Eight activity and tool available through CASEL.
  • Provide teacher well-being PD: Check existing connections schools may have with local health care providers that can support or provide mental health services.

Districts might also consider administering a climate survey to faculty and staff. The NEE Teacher Survey, measure of principal effectiveness, has some items that are specific to school climate. These items may yield important information related to teacher perceptions of school climate.

Conduct a Needs Assessment

Whether a school is starting a new SEL initiative or considering evaluation of an existing SEL program, a needs assessment helps to establish where the school should focus its implementation and/or evaluation efforts.

To get started with a needs assessment, consider reviewing data from your NEE Student Survey. The survey is a measure of teacher effectiveness from the perspective of a key stakeholder – students. It can be tailored to include indicators related to SEL. The survey can be administered to students at the beginning of an SEL evaluation and then re-administered once or twice every year to measure change in student perceptions.

Data on NEE’s Indicator Trend Report, which shows aggregate classroom observation scores over time, may also point to areas of need.

Another resource to consider is the Indicators of Schoolwide SEL: Strengths and Needs Reflection from CASEL. This free checklist structures reflection on 10 indicators of schoolwide SEL. It is intended to be reviewed by a team that is representative of the school community and gives each stakeholder group a voice (e.g., school leaders, teachers, students, parents, and community members). For each indicator, the team should make a good effort to gather feedback from multiple individuals who have direct experience with the item in question. Although a survey might be used to collect data, interviews should be strongly considered as another source of information. Stories shared in interviews may identify trends and experiences that need to be addressed. If the school is considering evaluation of an existing SEL initiative, the needs assessment will determine readiness for evaluation as well as which focus indicators should be selected for evaluation.

Collect Baseline Data

Addressing teacher well-being and conducting a needs assessment will provide initial data that identify the school’s strengths and areas for growth in relation to SEL. This data can be used as a benchmark for growth as evaluation continues over time.

The next step will be to select the NEE indicators that will become the focus of your SEL evaluation processes. We will address that step in Part 2 of our blog series on evaluating SEL.

The Network for Educator Effectiveness (NEE) is a simple yet powerful comprehensive system for educator evaluation that helps educators grow, students learn, and schools improve. Developed by preK-12 practitioners and experts at the University of Missouri, NEE brings together classroom observation, student feedback, teacher curriculum planning, and professional development as measures of effectiveness in a secure online portal designed to promote educator growth and development.