A reduced version of SECTRS questionnaire shows reliability in assessing teachers’ social and emotional skills

The results were recently published in the International Journal of Emotional Education (Volume 16, Issue 1, pp. 70-87)
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A study coordinated by UniMiB Professor Ilaria Grazzani has evaluated the effectiveness and reliability of the Social-Emotional Competence Teacher Rating Scale (SECTRS) questionnaire, an instrument originally developed in 2012 by PhD student Karalyn M. Tom and validated in North America. The research was carried out and co-authored by Professor Baiba Martinsone of the Department of Psychology at University of Latvia and Professor Celeste Simões of the Facultade de Motricidade Humana at University of Lisbon. A 14-item version of the questionnaire has shown encouraging robustness in catching teachers’ social and emotional skills across the three different cultural settings, and as such it has potential for becoming a useful measurement tool in situations where it is necessary to investigate the influence of social and emotional competence of teachers on the implementation of learning programs for students and the resulting outcome of those programs.

The SECTRS questionnaire measures four latent constructs of social-emotional competence in teaching: quality of teacher-student interactions and relationships, teacher’s emotional regulation (the ability to manage their own emotions in challenging situations), teachers’ social awareness (the ability to reflect on the impact of their decisions and to keep social diversity in mind) and quality of relationships between teachers and other people linked with their students (school staff members or student’s families). The team administered the SECTRS to three cohorts of European teachers from Italy (324 teachers), Latvia (129 teachers) and Portugal (109 teachers), ranging from kindergarten to high school, with no preference on funding (public or private) and position (rural or urban) of schools. Recruitment was based on the participant’s own interest in taking part to the project. In all three countries, more than 90% of participants were female teachers.

The study developed four different structural equation models (SEM) that implement different degrees of correlation among the four latent constructs. Each model was used to predict teachers’ answers to the questionnaire and the predicted outcomes were compared with the collected answers to seek for the best fitting model. Results have given insight that, among the four different SEMs proposed, a reduced 14-item version of the questionnaire showed the best accuracy in measuring the four factors of emotional and social competence. This model features strong correlations among the four factors, as predicted by existing empirical evidence, meaning that the aforementioned latent constructs used to describe the social and emotional competence of teacher’s are indeed interconnected, although distinct and different from each other.

Further analyses suggest that the validity of the 14-item questionnaire has partial invariance across different cultural contexts, meaning that it could be used as an effective comparative tool only with the due precaution of acknowledging cultural and contextual differences, as well as linguistic discrepancies between translations of the same question, when using this tool. Moreover, the limited size of the teachers’ sample and the reduction of item count could undermine the evaluation of the tool in terms of comprehensiveness and applicability, compared to the original SECTRS. There is indeed potential for regional bias in the sample used, as well as the fact that some groups of teachers may be underrepresented, which could weaken the generalizability of the findings. Further studies are necessary to better understand the role of contextual variables in the interpretation of findings in comparative SECTRS surveys: for example, teachers’ scores on the social and emotional competence scale may differ significantly when collected in schools and socio-cultural contexts that subject teachers to intense emotional stress and put them at risk of burnout.

The study was conducted within the framework of the Promehs project, designed to promote school mental health with a special focus on social and emotional learning. It was supported by Erasmus+ KA3 (PROMEHS Project N°0.606689-EPP-1-2018-2-IT-EPPKA3-PI-POLICY) and coordinated by UniMiB Department of Human Sciences for Education. The Italian version of the instrument is available through Research Gate.

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