What is Social Emotional Learning and how is it Assessed?

School girl in class using laptop for social emotional learning / SEL assessment.

Social-emotional learning, or SEL, is one of the hottest topics or buzzwords in education today. SEL is all about focusing on more than just content or curriculum with students, it is about providing students with the tools that they need to interact in an ever-changing and complex world. Through targeted lessons and assessments, students can learn self-awareness, relationship skills, and how to make decisions responsibly. 

While teaching and assessing SEL may seem challenging, technology provides new avenues that are more efficient and offer more insight into student thinking than traditional strategies. By teaching students SEL techniques and strategies teachers can develop students into self-reliant learners who have the skills to navigate the challenges of the world. 

What is Social-emotional Learning?

Social-emotional learning (SEL) refers to the process through which individuals acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to interact productively within the world. SEL skills help people 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. As an educational approach, SEL focuses on the development of social and emotional competencies to enhance well-being and improve interpersonal relationships.

Key components of social-emotional learning include:

  • Self-Awareness: Recognizing and understanding one’s own emotions, strengths, and areas for growth.
  • Self-Management: Developing the ability to regulate and manage one’s own emotions, behaviors, and stress.
  • Social Awareness: Understanding and empathizing with the perspectives and feelings of others. Being aware of social cues and the impact of one’s behavior on others.
  • Relationship Skills: Building and maintaining healthy relationships, including effective communication, active listening, and cooperation with others.
  • Responsible Decision-Making: Making thoughtful and ethical decisions based on consideration of one’s well-being and the well-being of others.

Educators integrate SEL into the curriculum to promote a positive school climate, improve classroom behavior, and enhance students’ academic and personal success. SEL programs often involve explicit instruction, discussions, and activities that help students develop and apply social and emotional skills. They also may allow educators to measure social-emotional learning. 

Research suggests that social-emotional learning can have a positive impact on students’ academic achievement, behavior, and overall well-being. It is also recognized as a valuable tool for promoting mental health, preventing bullying, and fostering positive school and work environments.

Why is SEL Emphasized in Schools? 

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is being emphasized in schools for several reasons, recognizing the critical role that social and emotional competencies play in students’ overall development and success. Research has shown that students with strong social and emotional skills perform better academically. SEL contributes to a positive and supportive learning environment, enhancing students’ ability to concentrate, learn, and engage in the educational process. An added benefit schools see when they emphasize SEL is that a positive school climate is created by promoting empathy, respect, and cooperation among students and between students and teachers. This contributes to a more inclusive and supportive learning environment.

At an individual level, social-emotional learning helps students develop self-regulation and conflict-resolution skills, reducing behavioral issues and disruptions in the classroom. This, in turn, allows teachers to focus more on instruction. SEL programs also may include components that address bullying prevention and conflict resolution. By fostering empathy and promoting positive relationships, SEL contributes to creating a safer and more respectful school environment.

Social-emotional learning is recognized as a valuable tool for promoting mental health and well-being among students. It helps students develop resilience, coping strategies, and emotional intelligence. Students facing challenges, such as trauma or adverse life experiences, may benefit significantly from SEL programs. These programs provide additional support for at-risk students by addressing their social and emotional needs.

What Does this Mean for Educators?

For educators, the emphasis on Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) signifies a recognition of the critical role they play in shaping not only the academic success but also the overall well-being of their students. It underscores the understanding that students’ social and emotional development is inseparable from their educational journey. 

Educators are encouraged to integrate SEL principles into their teaching practices, creating a positive and supportive classroom environment that fosters not only intellectual growth but also the development of essential life skills. This involves incorporating SEL curricula, promoting positive teacher-student relationships, and implementing strategies that address the diverse social and emotional needs of students, ultimately contributing to a more inclusive, empathetic, and effective learning community.

Utilizing Technology to Assess SEL skills 

One of the challenges with teaching SEL skills within the classroom is that they can be tricky to assess. Many SEL skills are “soft skills” that do not show up on exams or in essays. However, this does not mean that these skills are unassessable. Through new advancements in online testing, teachers may be able to assess SEL skills within their classrooms. 

Technology plays a crucial role in assessing Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) by providing tools and platforms that facilitate data collection, analysis, and ongoing assessment. Here are several ways technology can be utilized in a social-emotional development assessment:

  • Digital Surveys and Assessments: Online surveys and assessments can be designed to measure various SEL competencies, such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Digital platforms allow for efficient data collection and analysis of a social-emotional development assessment.
  • SEL Apps and Platforms: There are numerous apps and digital platforms specifically designed to support SEL assessment and development. These tools often provide interactive activities, games, and assessments that help individuals enhance their social and emotional skills.
  • Online Learning Management Systems (LMS): LMS platforms can incorporate SEL assessments and modules into educational programs. These systems allow educators to track student’s progress in developing social and emotional skills over time.
  • Data Analytics and Dashboards: Technology enables the collection of large amounts of data related to student behavior, engagement, and performance. Data analytics tools and dashboards can help educators and administrators analyze this information to identify trends and patterns related to SEL.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) and Simulations: VR and simulations can provide immersive experiences to assess and develop social and emotional skills in a controlled and realistic environment. These technologies offer opportunities for individuals to practice and receive feedback on their interactions.
  • Chatbots and Virtual Assistants: Chatbots and virtual assistants can be used to engage with individuals in conversations that assess their emotional well-being and provide support. These tools are often used in mental health and counseling contexts.
  • Online Journals and Reflection Tools: Digital platforms for journaling and reflection can be used to assess and develop self-awareness and self-management skills. Individuals can document their thoughts, feelings, and experiences over time.
  • Gamification and Game-Based Assessments: Gamified assessments and serious games can be used to assess and enhance SEL skills engagingly and interactively. Games can simulate social situations and decision-making processes.

Benefits of Using Technology to Measure & Assess SEL

Using technology to assess Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) offers several significant benefits. Technology provides a scalable and efficient means of collecting and analyzing data related to individuals’ social and emotional competencies. Digital tools allow for widespread assessments, enabling educators to gain insights into the emotional well-being and skill development of large groups.

Educators can use technology to facilitate real-time feedback and personalized interventions, allowing for targeted support based on individual needs. Digital platforms often engage learners through interactive and dynamic content, fostering a more participatory and reflective approach to SEL assessment. Technology enhances the overall accessibility, precision, and effectiveness of a social-emotional assessment development assessment, contributing to a more data-driven and responsive approach to promoting social and emotional well-being.

SEL Assessment Examples 

In terms of SEL assessments, many professionally made assessments are available to education professionals designed to assess different aspects of SEL and to measure social-emotional learning. These include the CASEL Assessment Guide, the Devereux Student Strengths Assessment), Check and Connect, and many others. These types of tests can give an in-depth look into many different areas of SEL. 

SEL assessment is not limited to the tests above, however, and educators can assess SEL in their classroom. Incorporating activities like journaling, surveying, and discussing SEL topics can all give educators an insight into a student’s social-emotional health and can be used to measure social-emotional learning. Schoolwide SEL efforts such as multi-tiered systems of support, or MTSS, allow schools to assess students using various supports to determine how to best impact a student. 


Social-emotional learning and assessment are at the front of many educator’s minds. Meeting students’ needs and understanding their skills as a whole person is a critical part of ensuring that students are ready and prepared for their next steps in life after school. Using social-emotional development can be a good way to better understand where students are and may help provide SEL targets or next steps. 

While developing SEL assessments may seem challenging, using technology such as TAO testing can help to make the process smooth and give educators the power to look at data holistically to make informed decisions. Online SEL learning can help students learn about themselves and how they relate to others in the world while providing opportunities for growth in social-emotional learning. 


learn more about TAO digital assessment platform integrations and tools for social emotional development assessment and assessing SEL.