Cooking Up an Appetizing SEL Strategy with Surveys

August 7, 2023

The need to support students as they work to get back on track and flourish in school is more important than ever. We like to think of this process like building your new favorite recipe; while the prepared dish may taste just okay, adding a dash of salt and a sprinkle of pepper elevates your recipe from ordinary to extraordinary (chefs-kiss!). Think of social-emotional surveys as the extra spice your program needs; by layering in this ingredient, you now have a valuable tool you can use for identifying the students who need support and track their progress on the skills that contribute to their overall well-being. But, like any souffle, timing is everything, and making the data actionable for every student can be a challenge.

Although you may not have added this “secret” ingredient into your recipe before, SEL survey data is an important way to identify the CASEL core competencies that students need to develop or strengthen. This topic was discussed during Classworks’ Social and Emotional webinar, Turning Data into Supports. Here are a few takeaways to help you get started.

SEL and Social Skills: Alike but Different

Social and Emotional Learning certainly overlaps with social skills in some areas, but it is not the same thing.

Social skills focus on appropriate behavior that helps students’ ‘fit in’ in the classroom and on the playground. In contrast, Social and Emotional Learning helps students develop the underlying skills to empathize with others and make the right decisions truly. Improved SEL competencies should naturally display as excellent social skills.

Social skills are the ability to respond to a given environment that produces, maintains, and enhances positive interpersonal (between people) effects.

Excellent social skills are typically an outcome of well-developed SEL competencies.

Start with Small, Consistent Strategies

The ESSA (The Every Student Succeeds Act) explicitly recognizes the relationship between school climate and student outcomes in the law’s provisions. The Act requires state education agencies to include at least one non-academic indicator – such as school climate or safety – into their accountability frameworks to affect positive change. This became law in 2015, long before the pandemic brought school climate and SEL into focus for many of us.

With that in mind, it’s a great first step to screen students, and staff about the school climate. No matter the results, taking it slow will reap higher rewards.

School climate measures can help educators, parents, and the community to:

  • Understand student, staff, and parent perceptions of climate in their schools
  • Set appropriate goals for improving student behavior and student-staff relationships while monitoring ongoing progress
  • Identify and adapt to changing student, staff, and parent needs and priorities
  • Make data-driven decisions about programs and practices that could improve school climate

It’s a great first step to screen students, and staff, about the school climate. Use SMART goals to develop class or individual competencies.

CASEL-based SEL training, which is what Classworks SE Survey is based on, is most effective when it involves the following four SAFE practices:

  • Sequenced: Connected, coordinated activities
  • Active: Dynamic and varied activities that engage students
  • Focused: Has at least one component devoted to developing SEL skills
  • Explicit: Targets specific CASEL skills rather than SEL as a whole

With the CASEL core competencies and SAFE strategy as your social-emotional resources, you’re sure to create a thoughtful program for your classroom. We recommend helping specific students or groups of students develop their SEL skills with SMART goals based on student responses to the social-emotional survey.

Adding SEL and SMART Goals to Your Recipe Book

If those topics left you excited to launch your SEL program in the right direction, and maybe a little hungry, let Classworks help! We invite you to visit our YouTube page for a deep dive into SEL through our latest webinar, SEL Surveys: Turning Data Into Supports. For more information about creating SMART goals and using digital tools to track students’ progress with the goals, here are a couple of resources:

About Classworks

Classworks’ cost-effective online platform is a game-changing solution that brings together the tools you need to quickly determine areas of social-emotional and behavioral need, provide needed supports, and track progress. Chat with us using the chat button in the bottom right or email

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