General FAQ

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What is your definition of social emotional learning (SEL)?

The SSIS SEL assessments and intervention program has been influenced by a number of definitions of social emotional learning, but the most salient definition of SEL is the “process of acquiring knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs to identify and manage emotions; to care about others; to make good decisions; to behave ethically and responsibly; to develop positive relationships and to avoid negative behaviors” (Elias & Moceri, 2012, p. 424).

What is the relationship between social skills and social emotional learning skills?

Both social skills and social emotional skills are behaviors students use to successfully complete a social task such as entering a peer group, asking for assistance from a teacher, making friends, or playing a game with another person. Some researchers would say they have evolved from different theoretical traditions, yet characterize a very similar set of behaviors. Our research in social skills has identified 7 domains of skills: communication, cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, engagement, and self-control. Subsequent research has shown the discrete skills in these domains can also be reorganized to represent common SEL competency domains of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. In summary, social skills and social emotional learning skills are very highly related and for most purposes, can be thought of as the same types of behaviors.

How does the CASEL SEL Competency Framework relate to the SSIS SEL assessments and intervention program?

The CASEL Competency Framework features five SEL domains: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making. In 2016, this framework inspired research that lead to a new empirically derived interpretative framework for the SSIS social skills and the development of the SEL edition of the SSIS assessments and Classwide Intervention Program. In summary, the SEL skills measured by the SSIS Edition assessments and taught in the CIP are 100% aligned with the competencies valued in the CASEL Framework.

What are the most important SEL skills to teach children?

The most important SEL skills to teach children are the skills determined to be relative weaknesses amongst the domains of Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making. By using an assessment like the SSIS SEL Rating Form or the SSIS SEL Screening and Progress Monitoring Scales, one can reliably determine a student’s relative SEL skill strengths and weaknesses. Ten of the most important SEL skills for students based on teachers and parents ratings are Listens to others, Says please and thank you, Follows the rules, Pays attention to their work, Asks for help, Take turns when talking, Gets along with others, Stays calm with others, Does the right thing, and Does nice things for others. These 10 SEL skills represent the 5 SEL skill domains and make up the Core Skills taught in the SSIS SEL Classwide Intervention Program (CIP).

Developmentally, when is the best time to teach SEL skills?

Children are learning social behaviors via adult and peer models as early as one year of age. Most children can benefit from SEL instruction by three years of age and actively engage in learning core SEL skills by age six. Research with 1st and 2nd graders has documented significant increases in SEL skills from weekly lessons focusing on core skills (i.e., Listens to others, Says please and thank you, Follows the rules, Pays attention to their work, Asks for help, Take turns when talking, Gets along with others, Stay calm with others, Does the right thing, and Does nice things for others). In addition, as students learned more SEL skills, many showed decreases in problem behaviors, and concurrent increases in reading and mathematics achievement. In summary, most children are ready to be taught core SEL skills when then entry school. The sooner they learn these skills, the greater the benefit socially and academically.

How do most students learn SEL skills?

Based on research and real-world observation, most students learn their social emotional behaviors from observing peer and adult models. Frey and Kaiser (2012) found that in studies with positive, statistically significant effect sizes, children learned SEL skills through observing adult models, practicing the target skill, receiving immediate feedback, and discussing their experiences after practicing the target skill. Elliott and Gresham (2007; 2017), as part of the SSIS SEL Classwide Intervention Program (SSIS CIP), also reviewed the social emotional skills intervention literature and existing school-based programs, across all ages, and identified six components children needed to learn social skills. These components have become the practical instructional steps of Tell, Show, Do, Practice, Monitor Progress, and Generalize featured in the SSIS SEL CIP. In summary, children learn SEL skills best when they have an opportunity to engage with adults and peers and talk about SEL skills, watch others model the skills, and then have multiple opportunity to practice the skills with feedback and reinforcement.

How much time does it take to use the SSIS SEL assessments and intervention program?

Time is important to every educator. Therefore, we have designed our assessments and intervention program to be very time efficient. Our most comprehensive assessment, the SSIS SEL Rating Forms (teacher, parent, and student versions) takes about 20 minutes to complete. Our brief version of these forms, the SSIS Brief SEL Scales, requires most users less than 8 minutes to complete. Finally, the SSIS Screening and Progress Monitoring Scales, a classwide screener completed only by teachers, takes about 30 minutes the first time it is used, but less than 20 minutes for subsequent uses.

            The SSIS SEL Classwide Intervention Program (CIP) includes 30 SEL Skill Units; however, most users select 10 Skill Units to teach over a 12-week period. Each Skill Unit is comprised of 3 lessons, each of which is 25 to 30 minutes long. So this means to teach a 10-Skill Unit requires 900 minutes, which translates to 1.5% of the allocated instructional time in most U.S. schools. To learn to implement the CIP requires most users 5 to 6 hours, which includes reading instructive chapters, watching a video, and implementing the first entire Skill Unit. Thus, to learn how to implement and then implement 10  Skill Units to a class requires less than 21 hours or 2% of one’s entire school year.

What school courses best accommodate SEL instruction?

In theory, SEL programs like the SSIS SEL Classwide Intervention Program (CIP) fit into any course where there is time for 3 25-minute lessons per week for  10-12 weeks. The focus of the CIP is on skills that facilitate cooperation, rule following, peer support, and responsible decisions, all part of an effective classroom environment. The CIP has been proven to increase engagement in learning and provides many students an enriched language experience, thus it fits nicely in English Language Arts courses. It contributes to one’s intrapersonal and interpersonal health, so it also logically fits into health-related courses. When there is a homeroom structure in place, some schools like to emphasize SEL skill building as part of this support feature.

Can the SSIS SEL assessment and intervention work well within a PBIS model of support?

Absolutely. In fact, PBIS provides a strong framework and focus on support for students. SEL assessments and intervention programs like those of the SSIS add significantly to this support structure by assessing, teaching, and monitoring the development of many of the desired supportive behaviors embraced by PBIS programs.

Can the SSIS SEL assessment and intervention fit into a MTSS system?

The SSIS SEL assessments and intervention program represent content aligned and integrated products. The family of SSIS SEL assessments was designed to provide data that directly facilitates decision making regarding students’ support needs and their responses to interventions. The SSIS SEL CIP Skill Units can be used at any MTSS level – Tier 1 for entire classrooms, Tiers 2 and 3 for small groups of children with specialized needs – without modifications. As illustrated under the Guiding Frameworks section of this website, all the SSIS SEL products work together to activate an MTSS model that wants to include a strong focus on students’ SEL skills.