Striving Together for Tools and Methods

January 27, 2014 Jonathan E. Martin
Striving Together for Tools and Methods

As we continue SSATB’s exploration of the future of assessment, it is important that we learn as much as we can from other organizations that are identifying the non-cognitive attributes so critical to academic achievement and life success – and, equally important, are compiling the resources available to assess them!

The StriveTogether Network is one such group and has recently published, online and freely available, a tremendous set of resources on this subject. Any school or educator wishing to implement non-cognitive assessment, whether in admissions or overall program, will find this compendium of enormous value.

Strive logo

Like SSATB, Strive Together formed a task force on the subject to:

● Determine a menu of social and emotional competencies that meet the following criteria: [1] are well related to achievement, [2] are malleable, and [3] that cradle-to-career partnerships can track and measure as part of their work
● Identify a set of scalable measures / assessments of these competencies

This “Task Force on Measuring Social and Emotional Learning” engaged Philliber Research Associates to assist in preparing a comprehensive report, titled Beyond Content: Incorporating Social and Emotional Learning into the StriveTogether Framework.

What did they find? Five attributes met their criteria:
1. Academic Self-Efficacy: the belief that one can succeed in a particular academic pursuit

2. Growth Mindset or Mastery Orientation: the belief that intelligence can be improved, much like a muscle that is exercised

3. Grit or Perseverance: the ability to stay focused on a goal despite obstacles along the way

4. Emotional Competence: the ability to deal with emotions in a constructive way, whether they are your own or others’

5. Self-Regulated Learning and Study Skills: those academic behaviors and use of study strategies that allow a student to focus on and meet academic demands

In the first volume of the three volume report, each of these competencies is briefly analyzed, covering definition, relationship to academic achievement, and malleability. An excellent bibliography is also provided for each item; for academic self-efficacy, which regular readers of this blog will remember is one of the three attributes measured in the Choate Self-Assessment, the report cites a study by Pajares (1996) to the effect that “the empirical connection between self-efficacy and academic performances and achievement has by now been reasonably secured.”

The greater value of this study, in my opinion, comes in Volumes II and III, where readers are directed to the available measures for each competency. For example, 32 measures are cited for Self-Efficacy; for each, the report indicates:

- for which age or grade range the measure is designed;
- who completes the survey (student, teacher, etc);
- the data collection strategy (observation, survey, or essay);
- what is measured (self-rating, beliefs/attitudes, behaviors, skills);
- dimensions measured;
- amount of time to complete;
- cost of survey;
- psychometric properties such as reliability and validity; and
- special qualifications required to administer, if any.

The authors of this report clearly intend to do more than inform – they mean to prompt and support action. If we are to take these non-cognitive attributes seriously, to work inside our organizations to evaluate our students’ strengths and needs, and to measure the effectiveness of our programs in developing these critical attributes, we need the tools to do so – and here they are.The report also organizes available measures by age. Evaluating the resilience of 11-13 years olds? There’s a table of options for that. In Volume III, readers are able to access many of the survey instruments themselves, and for those not embedded, there are links. For example, the resilience scale referenced above can be found in its entirety on page 113. (It should be noted that this resilience scale, like about a third of the provided measures, is copyrighted.)

About the Author

Jonathan E. Martin

Principal Jonathan E. Martin Educational Services (AZ) Jonathan Martin has 15 years experience as an independent school head, most recently as Head of St. Gregory College Preparatory School (AZ). He holds degrees from Harvard University (BA, Government, cum laude); Starr King School for the Ministry (M.Div., Unitarian ministry preparation); and the University of San Francisco School of Education (MA, Private School Administration). In 2008, he was a Visiting Fellow at the Klingenstein Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. He previously headed Saklan Valley School (CA) and Maybeck High School (CA). In the first stage of his educational career, he taught History, Social Studies, and English at Maybeck, and served in a role equivalent to Dean of Students. From 2010-12 he was a member of the board, and Program & Professional Development Chair, of the Independent School Association of the Southwest (ISAS). He was a contributor to the new National Association of Independent Schools publication A Strategic Imperative: A Guide to Becoming a School of the Future.

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