Small Group Data: Beyond Pre-Post Surveys
Typically when counselors do a small group, the go-to strategy for collecting data to measure group effectiveness is a pre-post assessment. Usually this is a short survey of about 3-5 questions with a brief rating scale that is given on the first session and then again on the last session. The results are then compared to determine if there was any positive change. This is great information and I think it is good to do, but what are we doing in between to monitor progress and assess if our kids are benefitting from the group?
This is where self-assessment comes in as a valuable formative assessment strategy. According to John Hattie, author of Visible Learning, self-assessment is one of the most valuable strategies to increase student learning in the classroom. I believe this strategy can also be applied effectively to Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and is a great way to encourage students to develop greater self-awareness of their social and emotional skills. I have utilized self-assessment strategies in my small groups grades K-5th for the last few years and I have found it to be very helpful in keeping our group focused on our goals and it creates a great tool to help students self-reflect on their strengths and areas for growth. It is also a great formative assessment tool that helps the counselor see which goals or skills need more attention throughout each group session.
In order to actually create a self-assessment tool that the students can use, you must first be clear about what your goal is for the group and what you want to students to learn or take away from their experience. This is where Learning Targets and Success Criteria come in. Learning targets can be formed as simple "I can..." statements, such as "I can solve problems respectfully". To make your goals even more meaningful, you can develop standards-based learning targets by aligning them with specific ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success (If you want to go the extra mile, you can even design your small group referral form to align with SEL standards too). In this case, a learning target related to problem-solving skills could be aligned with the standard B-SS 8. Demonstrate advocacy skills and ability to assert self, when necessary.
This will then be followed by success criteria or things you want students to demonstrate to show that they are meeting the learning target. Usually 2-3 success criteria is adequate. The success criteria for being an effective problem solver might include skills such as being a good listener or using a strong and respectful voice. Once you have established your learning target and success criteria, you can compile them into a self-assessment sheet for each student. You may end up with a form that looks something like this:
For easy organization, you keep all of the self-assessment sheets for one group in a file folder and write down the name of the group, as well as the day and time on the folder. Review the learning target briefly at the beginning of each group session and then have the students complete the self-assessment by circling the emoji that they think represents how they performed that day in pencil. I like to have them do it in pencil because sometimes students might want to erase to change an answer. Sometimes students will rate themselves too low or higher than they probably should, and these create great moments to ask the students about why they chose to give themselves a particular rating, which may lead them to reflect and adjust their rating accordingly. At the end of the group, you could even compile the data into a progress report for each student to see their overall growth. This could look something like this:
This approach is also versatile as you can choose to have one goal for the entire group, or you can differentiate and students can have more individualized goals that are tailored to address specific skills they need to work on. You could even have the same overall learning target, but the success criteria could be different for certain kids too. For example, both kids might need to work on problem-solving, but one might need to work more on calm down strategies, while the other needs to be more assertive. As you progress through the group, the data from the self-assessment can be used to inform you of what the students' strengths and areas of need are, and will enable you to develop mini-lessons or activities for targeted skill practice to ensure a more meaningful and equitable small group experience for your students!
Overall, when we are using data to determine the effectiveness of our groups, it is important to look at multiple data points. In addition to pre-post surveys and looking for correlations between group participation and data, such as attendance rates, academic success, or behavior referrals, student self-assessment of progress towards standards-based goals is another strategy you may wish to consider adding to your data toolbox!