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Social-Emotional Learning

A 4-Step Protocol to Use SEL Data to Support Individual Students

Jenna Buckle
Jenna Buckle
A 4-Step Protocol to Use SEL Data to Support Individual Students



Collecting and analyzing social emotional learning data at the classroom, school, and district levels is a standard practice for understanding how a student body as a whole is doing socially and emotionally. Many schools and districts use aggregate-level SEL data to inform school- and district-wide supports.

In a tiered system of supports, however, looking at SEL data at the individual student level is just as important. Student-level SEL data can help you fill in the gaps and understand the full story of why a student is struggling so you can implement smarter Tier 2 and 3 interventions beyond the universal supports already in place.

Let’s say, for example, that students self-reflected on their beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes in a social emotional learning assessment. As an educator, you’re looking at the results for one of the students you support—let’s call her Barbara—and notice that she scored lower on Growth Mindset than on other topics.

How can you use this social emotional learning data to provide Barbara with the targeted supports she needs?

Watch our video and keep reading to learn a simple, four-step protocol for using SEL data to support an individual student.

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1. Take Inventory

Consider what you already know about the needs of the student in mind. Going back to Barbara, maybe you know that she struggles in several academic content areas and has gotten C’s or lower in her classes for the last two semesters. You also know that she comes from an economically disadvantaged background and receives Free or Reduced Price Lunch (FRPL).

2. Define the Results

Articulate the information you’ve learned from the student’s SEL results. Stay low on the Ladder of Inference; in other words, start with “just the facts.”

For Barbara, the social emotional learning survey results show that she scored a 3 out of 5 on Growth Mindset (defined as the belief that you can grow your intelligence or abilities). This puts Barbara below average for the skill compared to other students in her grade.

3. Unpack the Results and Make Connections

At this stage, you can begin to climb the Ladder of Inference by processing the results and ascribing meaning to the data. Determine what else you need to know about the student and what you might want to ask when sharing the SEL data with him or her in a 1:1 conversation. Ask yourself: How does this data connect to my observations of the student and my current beliefs about why the student is struggling?

For instance, perhaps the root cause of Barbara’s academic struggles is a lack of growth mindset. Are Barbara’s self-limiting beliefs contributing to her poor academic performance? This may be something to probe on when you meet with Barbara to discuss her SEL results.

4. Plan Next Steps

Determine a plan of action for the student. What will you keep doing, stop doing, or start doing to support his or her needs?

Based on the social emotional learning data and other available information, it’s clear that Barbara could benefit from additional supports. Maybe you decide to put together a support plan for Barbara focused on developing her growth mindset, including specific cues you plan to use in the classroom to help her shift her mindset.

Student-level SEL data is a powerful tool to better understand students who exhibit warning signs and clearly need support. But keep in mind that it’s also a great way to keep students from slipping through the cracks. Think about all of those students who appear to be performing well but who have even greater potential.

Bringing social emotional learning data into the picture is an opportunity to get—and keep—each and every student on track for success.

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