Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Assessment in After-School Care: How Accessible Evaluation Can Lead to Widespread Quality Implementation

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Assessment in After-School Care: How Accessible Evaluation Can Lead to Widespread Quality Implementation

Dana Minney
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6728-9.ch011
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An abundance of research links children's social-emotional competence with positive school and life outcomes, but many barriers to widespread, high quality social-emotional learning (SEL) exist. Studies also found SEL delivered consistently and in coordination with other programs, both in and out of school, is more effective, but lack of unified standards, a supportive framework, and systematic approach prevent consistency and coordination of delivery. Process monitoring and impact evaluation help overcome barriers and improve implementation. After-school programs provide opportunities for quality SEL delivery and evaluation. This chapter reports results of an evaluation comparing pre- and post-program survey data from elementary school children (n = 98) in an after-school program that has incorporated an SEL curriculum. Results showed significant increases in the SEL competencies of self-management, social awareness, and social skills. The author also explored advantages of providing both SEL instruction and low-cost evaluation in after-school care settings in addition to schools.
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Literature Background

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is considered as the most prominent and trusted source of information about SEL. Their definition is as follows:

SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions. (CASEL, 2020, para. 1)

A group of researchers and child advocates (including Daniel Goleman, Roger Weissberg, and Richard Boyatzis) met to discuss children’s well-being at the Fetzer Institute in 1994. Their discussion of strategies to enhance students’ mental health and academic and healthy social development led them to coin the term “SEL” (Elias et al., 1997). Thus, CASEL was formed.

Simultaneously, interest in emotional intelligence was growing in the field of psychological research, and later spread to the military and organizational psychology. Studies in workplace performance and job success consistently showed a link between the identified EQ constructs and positive career outcomes (Goleman, 2005; Goleman et al., 2002).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Self-Management: The ability to regulate one's emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations.

SEL Curriculum: Any content, exercises or learning material that includes a wide variety of ideas and skills related to self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

Ecological Framework: A framework or model originally defined by Bronfenbrenner (1990) as 5 levels of influence, or layers in a person’s environment. In the model, reciprocal relationships exist within and between these layers and each layer influences the individual in different ways. This framework of influence can also be used in analyzing organizations and communities and in policy practice.

Emotional Intelligence: Emotional intelligence (otherwise known as emotional quotient or EQ) is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.

Self-Soothing: Any behavior an individual uses to regulate their emotional state by themselves. These behaviors are often developed in the early years of life, are repetitive or habitual in nature, and are often viewed by a child or adolescent as calming or comforting.

Program Evaluation: A systematic method for collecting, analyzing, and using information to answer questions about projects, policies, and programs, particularly about their effectiveness and efficiency.

After-School Programs (Sometimes Called OST or Out-of-School Time Programs): Serve children and youth of all ages, and encompass a broad range of focus areas including academic support, mentoring, positive youth development, arts, sports and recreation. They can be offered on a campus, after the school day ends, or off-campus, hosted by a for-profit or non-profit organization.

Social-Emotional Learning: The process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

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