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Contextualizing Social and Emotional Learning: Assessment

Wed, March 28, 11:30am to 1:00pm, Fiesta Inn Centro Histórico, Floor: Lobby Floor, Room B

Group Submission Type: Panel Session


Social and emotional learning (SEL) is increasingly seen as important for children’s education and development in general, yet studies addressing them in low and middle income countries are few. The development of social and emotional competencies is likely to have a strong cultural component and so contextually relevant research is particularly important in this domain
Several frameworks exist to conceptualize social and emotional competencies (CASEL, 2017) and a number of assessment instruments have been developed. However, the empirical work informing these frameworks and assessment instruments is almost exclusively based in high-resource settings. What considerations should be made when developing or adapting assessments in low and middle-income settings?
First, the constructs assessed by instruments may change from one context to another. Some have argued (Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010) that educated populations in Western countries are not only unrepresentative of the species as a whole, but that they are outliers on the spectrum of human behavior. How might an assessment developed from such populations be inappropriate for use in different contexts, such as in low and middle-income countries? Assessments may fail to include domains of development that are important for adaptive functioning in the home, community and school in different contexts. Similarly, domains can be conceptualized differently in each context. Even when assessments target appropriate domains, those domains may manifest differently by context; that is, competence in a given domain may be demonstrated by different behaviors from one context to another. The importance of these issues has been demonstrated in the development of culturally grounded assessments of mental health in Africa (Betancourt, Speelman, Onyango, & Bolton, 2009; Betancourt, Yang, Bolton, & Normand, 2014).
Second, lack of resources for development, implementation and training for SEL assessment can be a challenge. In many cases, simple low-cost methods are required to be practical in the field. we need tools that are easy to adapt and that are flexible. Relatedly, the results of assessments should be easily interpreted in order for them to be easily adapted to new settings.

Finally, assessments of social and emotional learning are increasingly being used across multiple contexts. This raises the issue of how to interpret results across contexts and how to develop assessments that provide comparable information from one country to another.
These issues are addressed in four presentations. Three of the presentations present an in-depth account of the development of SEL assessments in one context – RTI’s contextually derived assessment in southern Tanzania; Room to Read’s evaluation tool in Rajasthan, India and Save the Children's ISELA assessment in Malawi. Two of the papers present data on SEL assessments from multiple countries: Save the Children's IDELA
assessments and Room to Read's tool to monitor their Girls’ Education Program life skills component.


Betancourt, T. S., Speelman, L., Onyango, G., & Bolton, P. (2009). A Qualitative Study of Mental Health Problems among Children Displaced by War in Northern Uganda. Transcultural Psychiatry, 46(2), 238-256. doi:10.1177/1363461509105815
Betancourt, T. S., Yang, F., Bolton, P., & Normand, S. L. (2014). Developing an African youth psychosocial assessment: an application of item response theory. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, 23(2), 142-160. doi:10.1002/mpr.1420
CASEL. (2017). Core SEL Competencies. Retrieved from
Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(2-3), 61-+. doi:10.1017/s0140525x0999152x

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