SEL Strengths Builder Method
The SEL Strengths Builder Method is designed to help afterschool program staff assess and reflect on how well their program supports the growth and development of youth’s social and emotional skills.
The SEL Strengths Builder Method is an extension of the evidence-based Assess-Plan-Improve continuous improvement sequence (YPQI). Watch a video of an overview of the Strengths Builder here. The Strengths Builder Method includes three areas of assessment designed to focus OST staff on a program’s SEL strengths:
Assessing SEL Curriculum Design: Build a better understanding of your curriculum sequence in two parts – the youth-driven learning project at the heart of the offering (e.g., build a boat), and the parallel SEL content sequence that fosters SEL skill growth. Read more here.
Assessing SEL Practices: Reflect on the intensity and quality of the responsive practices you implement to support youth in building their social and emotional skills. Read more here.
Assessing Youth SEL Skills: Create a baseline profile of the social and emotional skills of the youth you serve and what it looks like when these youth are demonstrating SEL in your program. Read more here.
Using the SEL Strengths Builder Method in a Continuous Improvement Cycle
1. Assess your SEL Curriculum Design.
Follow the steps for Assessing SEL Curriculum Design ( Download Here, Video Available Here). Hold a conversation with program staff and create a visual representation of the sequence of content in your program. This process should also start to build a common vocabulary around SEL. As you use Preparing Youth to Thrive to get a better understanding of the curriculum features, consider the following questions:
- What is the project content sequence for your offering? What is the main goal or “work” of the offering?
- What is the SEL content sequence for your offering? Where and when do the SEL practices surface?
- How do the project and SEL content sequences interact over the course of the offering?
- What staff supports do you provide to encourage staff’s own SEL and their ability to support youth’s SEL?
2. Assess your SEL Practices.
Follow the steps for Assessing SEL Practices ( Download Here, Video Available Here.) Engage the staff in your program to complete the assessment independently to identify practices that are prominent in your program and those that are missing. Hold a meeting for program staff to discuss their results, and have a conversation about what is most important in your program. This process should also start to build a common vocabulary around SEL practices. Use Preparing Youth to Thrive to get a better understanding of each of the practices. Consider the following questions:
- Which of the youth key experiences and staff practices implemented by the SEL Challenge programs are similar to what you do in your program?
- Which could you do more of?
- Which are high priorities for you, based on the youth you serve and the goals of your program?
- Which are less of a priority, and why?
3. Assess Youth SEL Skills.
The conversation can be extended by asking staff to Assess Youth SEL Skills ( Download Here, Video Available Here.) Have staff complete the SEL Staff Rating of Youth SEL Skills ( Download Here) for a few program youth and produce a performance report. With these ratings in hand, staff can ask a number of important questions:
- Who are our youth and which social and emotional skills could help them achieve greater agency in their lives? What does it look like when these youth are demonstrating these skills in our program?
- Are there opportunities for these youth to practice these skills in our program? What changes to the curriculum would increase opportunities to practice these social and emotional skills?
- How do our current youth experiences and staff practices compare to those described in the standards? Which standards do we perform well on? Where are our weaknesses? Given the needs of our youth, where do we need to do better?
- Are we biased? Is there any systematic reason why we might rate one youth lower or higher than another?
4. Implement an Improvement Cycle.
The assessment conversations feed into a cycle that can lead to an improvement plan focused on modifications to the offering curriculum and clearer thinking about moments in the curriculum where opportunities to use responsive practices occur. Watch the video Planning for Improvement (Available Here). for guidance on creating an improvement plan. (Download the Goal Setting Form Here).
It is important to return to the improvement plan and to check in regularly on progress towards goals. Watch the video Reflecting on Progress (Available Here). for guidance on how to keep staff focused on improvement year after year.
5. Identify System Supports.
For sustainable change, professional development and assessments should be aligned and integrated into the annual cycle. Visit cypq.org/SELchallenge for guidance on implementation including additional resources available for training and technical assistance.
Join the Discussion
How did you use the Strengths Builder Method to start conversations with staff?