Can you envision a school community in which teachers, administrators, and students feel safe, supported, and connected? A school where trust is central to all relationships? Where the skills of emotional intelligence drive teaching and learning and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is infused into academics and the everyday life of the school?

A new journal article documents a multi-year project that utilized robust assessment tools to create an evidence-based approach that brought emotional intelligence to students, parents, faculty, and the whole school culture.

New Research: Data for Growing an Emotionally Intelligent School Community

by Susan Stillman

Multiple strategies exist for integrating Social Emotional Learning (SEL) into a school setting, so many educators wonder where to start? Teachers and administrators ask what’s the most important step and how long does it take? How vital is school climate and how can school climate assessments contribute to our understanding of next steps, our action plan?

To answer some of these questions, researchers at Six Seconds conducted a case study analysis of one school’s experience in SEL integration through multi-level, multi-year, school-wide strategies; key findings are below, along with a link to access the full research.

The Six Seconds definition of SEL adds to the literature by introducing the Six Seconds EQ Model (Freedman, 2012). This model, first developed in 1997, provides a useful action plan for learning and practicing emotional intelligence in daily life. This model begins with three important pursuits: Know Yourself, to become more aware; Choose Yourself, to be more intentional; and Give Yourself, to be more purposeful.

Under these three pursuits are eight EQ competencies that make up the full model. The eight competencies that comprise the EQ model are Enhance Emotional Literacy, Recognize Patterns, Apply Consequential Thinking, Navigate Emotions, Exercise Optimism, Enhance Intrinsic Motivation, Increase Empathy, and Pursue Noble Goals. The Six Seconds’ EQ Model serves as the basis for the development of social and emotional skills, referred to as EQ competencies, in both children and adults, and is a central focus of formal instruction, as well as informal coaching and classroom management at the school described in this study.

What is SEL?

SEL, short for Social Emotional Learning, is the process through which both children and adults acquire and effectively apply the skills of emotional intelligence (EQ) to learn to understand and use emotions wisely, set positive goals, establish and maintain positive relationships, and engage in responsible decision making (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, 2016).

A focus on the skills of SEL has been shown to dramatically improve outcomes for students, teachers, and the school’s climate.

To learn more about the research benefits of SEL, this “starter kit” includes The School Case for Emotional Intelligence and slides to facilitate a discussion of SEL & EQ in schools. Just click the button above! And… below, you’ll find the link to the journal article on assessments, which will be an excellent companion to the starter kit.

To conduct the research, we were pleased to work a school community committed to the Six Seconds EQ model as a central pillar. The case study explores the use of assessments to guide implementation of social emotional learning. The school used assessment data to build positive school climate and strengthen the EQ of students and all community members. The case explains how multiple EQ and school climate assessments were used, over several years, to acquire data to enhance individual success, enrich classroom practice, and provide a strategy for schoolwide improvement.

In talking with the school’s teachers who used data to help both youth and adults increase self-awareness, make better choices, and create a more supportive learning community, we learned that their student assessment results effectively guided curriculum development and classroom management.

At the same time, administrators examined their own effectiveness, both individually and as a team, and planned teacher professional development and parent workshops that contributed to the power of this school community.

This school also benefited from another important strategy developed by Six Seconds, the Benchmarks for Implementing an SEL framework. This three-part benchmarks framework for schoolwide implementation of social emotional learning is used to analyze a) student and adult competencies, b) classroom practices, and c) whole school approaches, including school climate and administrative team leadership.


Highlights from the research include:


EQ in Focus

EQ assessments provide meaningful data to improve student EQ competencies, SEL implementation, and teacher effectiveness.


Guide Instruction

EQ assessment and school climate data synergize to provide direction for learning environments and instructional practices.


Focus for Decisions

SEL integration is a multi-year, multi-level process involving all stakeholders in making decisions to improve outcomes.


Shared Vocabulary

Applying a consistent model over several years establishes a shared vocabulary and a theory of action for SEL integration


Community Vision

School climate assessments engage the entire learning community in the design and implementation of an SEL vision.

The article based on this research, authored by Six Seconds colleagues Susan Stillman, Paul Stillman, Lorea Martinez, Josh Freedman, Anabel Jensen, and Cherilyn Leet, was recently published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. Click the title to view it on Science Direct:

Strengthening social emotional learning with student, teacher, and schoolwide assessments

Next Steps:

If you are interested in learning more about SEL and the Six Seconds approach, please click here to view the Benchmarks for an EQ School.

To implement SEL in your school, the Six Seconds’ Certification Pathways offer options for becoming certified in Six Seconds’ education-related strategies and tools. 

Experts in our network are available to help you implement SEL in your school; contact Six Seconds here.

To learn more about the research benefits of SEL, this “starter kit” includes The School Case for Emotional Intelligence and slides to facilitate a discussion of SEL & EQ in schools. Just click the button above! And… above, you’ll find the link to the journal article on assessments, which will be an excellent companion to the starter kit.

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