The transition into formal schooling is a crucial foundation that can set children on a cycle of success or failure in both academic and social domains. Throughout schooling, but perhaps most especially during these early years, a child's abilities to express healthy emotions, understand emotions of self and others, regulate emotion, attention, and behavior, make good decisions regarding social problems, and engage in a range of prosocial behaviors, all work together promote successful school experience. However, many children have deficits in these skills by school entry, and educators lack the requisite tools to identify, track and assess skills these children need to learn. Work to ameliorate these conditions may help children have the chance to fulfill their potential to live healthy and productive lives, a key mission of NIH. Thus, because social-emotional learning (SEL) is so crucial, assessment tools to pinpoint children's skills and progress are vitally necessary. The proposed research will adapt, via computerization, research-based SEL assessment tools with strong empirical predictive validity for school adjustment and achievement. These computerized tools will be used in early childhood educational settings, instructional and outcome-based purposes. Our overarching goal for this application, then, is to begin transforming this battery to maximize utility and feasibility in preschool, Head Start and prekindergarten classrooms. We see the future of this assessment battery, in its later, ultimate form, for both formative and summative child assessments and classroom or program evaluation;it will be used to inform overall classroom instruction and instructional plans for specific students, measure school readiness, and evaluate program accountability. Thus, our first aim in this exploratory/developmental project is to design a computer-based version of our SEL assessment battery. In Year 1 of the project, then, we will complete our computerization of game-like measures assessing self regulation, emotion knowledge, social problem-solving, and prosocial behavior, and pilot these early versions, examining their usability with teachers and 3- to 4-year- old children, as well as their relation to teachers'attitudes about computer, computer usage in the classroom, gender, age, and children's early school success and cognitive ability. We will revise the measures as necessary after holding a focus group with teachers to inform this process. With this foundation, in Year 2 of the project we will work toward validation of the complete computerized battery against the original noncomputerized assessment tools, and in relation to children's early school success. This work will provide a springboard to finalization of this battery and continued exploration of its usefulness.
The proposed research will adapt research-based social-emotional assessment tools with strong empirical predictive validity for school adjustment and achievement for practical instructional and outcomes-based use in early childhood educational settings. The adapted tools will address gaps in both school readiness and social-emotional learning (SEL) measurement.