By Ben Mark
Outreach Director, Panorama Education

There’s no question that social emotional learning (SEL) is essential to students’ success in school and life. Extensive research from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) shows that students who participate in SEL programs demonstrate 11 percent gains in academics, improved classroom behavior, better stress management, and higher attendance.

As the body of research on SEL grows—and with the release of standard SEL competencies from the Michigan Department of Education (MDE)—district and school leaders across the state have increasingly focused on infusing SEL into the classroom through different programs and activities.

For many districts, however, measuring social-emotional learning remains a challenge. Without clear and actionable data on students’ SEL competencies—such as self-management, social awareness, and growth mindset—it’s difficult to determine where to start or how to best support students’ needs.

A survey-based approach to SEL measurement can be a valid, reliable way to gather baseline data and understand how students perceive their SEL skills. These assessments are an easy and scalable way to learn how supported students feel in school, and how empowered teachers feel to implement SEL in the classroom.

In Panorama’s work with over 400 districts nationwide and millions of students, here are the five keys we’ve found to assessing social-emotional learning:

1. Choose which topics to measure.
Which social-emotional skills, competencies, or indicators matter most to your community? If your district chooses to measure the SEL competencies outlined by MDE, you might opt to use a research-backed survey instrument that aligns with the CASEL framework.

2. Gather baseline data with an SEL assessment.
Most SEL assessments can be conducted online or by paper, and should take students 10 to 15 minutes to complete in class. During the survey, students will reflect on their mindsets and behaviors related to the key SEL competencies that your school or district chooses to measure.

3. Analyze the results.
Once the survey is complete, compile the results to identify students’ SEL strengths and areas for growth. We recommend analyzing the data at the school, district, and individual student levels to gain a comprehensive understanding of SEL across the district. In addition, compare your SEL data to national benchmarks in order to contextualize your results.

4. Take action to improve SEL.
Working collaboratively in school and district teams, design a plan for improvement based on the data. In which areas do students need additional support? For example, your team might decide to implement small group SEL instruction for students who need support in specific competencies.

5. Evaluate and adjust.
Did the interventions and supports work? Conduct another round of surveys to examine the effectiveness of your school or district’s SEL initiatives. Many districts have found that administering SEL surveys at the beginning and end of the year is an effective way to benchmark progress.

By using this process, educators can gain a deep understanding of how to best support their students’ SEL skills and competencies. To learn more about how districts are measuring social-emotional learning to support the whole student, download this guide.

Panorama Education partners with K-12 schools and districts across the country to collect and analyze data about social-emotional learning, school climate, family engagement, and more. To learn more, visit

Ben Mark is Outreach Director for Panorama Education. Contact him at or 617.380.7762.