Evaluation and Assessment

As schools around the world roll out RULER, it’s important to understand how RULER gets carried out in practice as well as how it affects learners. Our evaluation research helps us improve how we teach and assess emotional intelligence skills in people of all ages. Our assessment research focuses on how best to assess emotional intelligence in different contexts, as well as growth in emotional intelligence skills across the lifespan.

With evaluation research, we unpack RULER’s implementation and effects through careful studies. For example, we design and conduct randomized controlled trials of RULER in diverse school contexts. What those trials teach us will inform not just RULER, but the entire field of social and emotional learning (SEL). This work will help propel the movement to include emotional intelligence in teacher-preparation programs and preK-12 education.

Our assessment team leads the field in studying how to best measure implementation fidelity of RULER and other SEL approaches. We focus on assessment tools that both researchers and educators find helpful.

In addition, the decades of research focused on measuring emotional intelligence in both children and adults continues today. Our expertise in this area positions us to make significant practical and theoretical contributions.

RULER Effectiveness

We conduct both quasi-experimental and experimental studies to examine RULER’s efficacy. One randomized controlled trial, for example, found that fifth- and sixth-grade RULER classrooms had better emotional climates than control classrooms did. Specifically, they had higher connectedness between teachers and students, more support for student autonomy and leadership, and a greater focus on students’ motivations and interests. We also found that better emotional climates, like those created by RULER, went hand in hand with better academic achievement because students were more engaged in the classroom. We continue to design and execute rigorous studies of RULER’s effects on students, educators, and schools.

RULER Implementation Fidelity

Rolling RULER out at a school is a complex and challenging task, and we don’t yet have a complete set of tools to measure fidelity of implementation–that is, how closely leaders adhere to recommended protocols. Yet students and teachers alike will benefit when we know not only what effective SEL practice looks like, but also how best to put it in place at a school. So our assessment team is leading the effort to understand this crucial series of events. We’re gathering data to answer questions like:

  • Do schools apply SEL approaches consistently and with quality so students reap the benefits?
  • What school characteristics tend to help or hinder implementation?
  • Should RULER be tailored to different contexts (e.g., high need, well resourced, rural, urban)?

By studying the components of practice, we can pick out and strengthen key elements of RULER and other SEL approaches.

RELATE Validation

Funded by foundation grants, we observe and measure how teachers of students with special learning needs cultivate emotionally supportive learning environments. Using a mixed-methods approach, we constructed the RELATE Tool for Observation in Special Education. RELATE stands for Recognizing Excellence in Learning And TEaching. We’re using RELATE to study 100 classrooms that exclusively serve students with emotional and behavioral challenges.

Assessments of Emotional Intelligence

Figuring out the best ways to assess emotional intelligence at various ages is another Center goal. Assessing children and adults across the lifespan allows us to study changes in children’s emotional intelligence skills due to interventions like RULER.