Thursday, 19 March 2015

Social and emotional learning: the problem of measurement

Character Scotland is an educational charity formed in 2009 by a group of academics, educationalists and local entrepreneurs. They are "dedicated to supporting the cultivation and recognition of character attributes in Scotland" and have recently posted about the OECD report Skills for Social Progress: The Power of Social and Emotional Skills.

Drawing on the OECD report for an answer, they ask how do children get these skills?
At a young, impressionable age children are likely to learn from two adult role model environments: their parents and at school. The report suggests a stronger relationship between educators and parents and children and increased learning of these skills through extra-curricular activities as well as in the curriculum.

The OECD reports that there is unanimous agreement on the need to develop a "whole child` with a balanced set of cognitive, social and emotional skills so that they can better face the challenges of the 21st century...

That sounds very much like the whole child approach in Scotland, GIRFEC and Curriculum for Excellence.

Having set the scene by insisting that social and emotional learning is necessary for successful outcomes the OECD`s emphasis turns to the problem of measurement. 
Yet, there are considerable differences across countries and local jurisdictions in the availability of policies and programmes designed to measure and enhance social and emotional skills such as perseverance, self-esteem and socialability. Teachers and parents may not know if their efforts at developing these skills are paying off, and what they could do better. These skills are seldom taken into account in school and university admission decisions. [!] 
One possible reason behind these gaps is the perception that social and emotional skills are hard to measure. While measuring these skills reliably is indeed challenging recent developments in psycho-social assessments point to a number of instruments that can be used to reliably measure relevant social and emotional skills within a culture or linguistic boundary, and they are already employed in selected local school districts....
There are reliable measures of social and emotional skills that can be used across age groups at least within a cultural and linguistic boundary. They include self-reported personality, behavioural characteristics and objective psychological assessments. Some of these measures have been demonstrated to predict numerous indicators of educational, labour market and social success. 

Scotland`s child protection system and school curriculum have been drastically altered to accommodate this. Everywhere you look organisations are pushing to obtain children`s data, all the better to monitor, control and predict their outcomes. [To be studied as human capital for the global workforce]

The PISA and Pearson`s connection
The OECD will continue contributing to this process by building on efforts made in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) as well as the new phase of the ESP project which will focus on assessing the distribution and development of social and emotional skills.

Pearson will be developing the PISA assessments. This is the company that has recently caused a scandal when they were caught spying on children in New Jersey.

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