Mawi Learning and ACT Tessera: Achieving Our Mission Together

Now that ACT has acquired Mawi Learning, a recognized leader in educator professional development and student curriculum focused on building social and emotional skills, the goal is to integrate the Mawi curriculum with ACT® Tessera®, ACT’s social and emotional skills assessment. Why would we do that? To help achieve our ACT mission: “Helping people achieve education and workplace success.” Let’s break that statement into two parts, starting at the end.

…achieve education and workplace success.

We have long known that the achievement of education and workplace success is influenced by several factors. Of course, knowledge of academic content is a necessary, but not a sufficient component. Several other factors can be just as important. Many of these fall under the umbrella of “social and emotional skills,” which can be thought of as interpersonal (e.g., teamwork), self-regulatory (e.g., coping with stress), and task-related (e.g., work ethic) behaviors. Recent research has found that these skills do indeed predict performance at school and at work.

Helping people…

How can ACT and Mawi Learning help students? By teaching them these essential social and emotional skills. Several meta-analyses have now demonstrated that social and emotional learning (SEL) programs are effective at teaching social skills and improving academic outcomes. Importantly, Mawi Learning has recently been selected for inclusion in CASEL’s Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs Guide. The requirement for guide inclusion is demonstrated evidence of program efficacy.

How we can become even more effective at helping people? Integrate Mawi Learning and ACT Tessera

You may be asking yourself, “If Mawi Learning is already being used and has been included in the CASEL program guide, then why integrate with ACT Tessera?” If you are asking that, great question! If not, that’s okay, I’ll tell you anyway. Let’s start by using our imaginations.

Imagine intervention without measurement.

  • Imagine trying to lose weight without a scale. How would you know if your diet and exercise program is working? Answer: You wouldn’t.
  • Imagine conducting a new marketing campaign without surveying customer attitudes about your product. How would you know if the campaign is effectively influencing attitudes? Answer: You wouldn’t.
  • Imagine instituting a district-wide reading program and never assessing student reading levels. How would you know if the program is helping students become better readers? Answer: You wouldn’t.

Imagine measurement without intervention.

  • Imagine weighing yourself daily on a scale without doing anything to purposely lose, maintain, or gain weight. Would there be a point to weighing yourself?
  • Imagine surveying customer attitudes without doing anything to influence them. Would the survey be useful?
  • Imagine assessing student reading levels without instituting programs to improve them. Would the assessment ultimately be a waste of valuable school resources?

Clearly, we can see that it would be suboptimal to conduct an intervention (in the case of Mawi Learning – administering an SEL curriculum) without subsequently measuring the efficacy of that intervention. On the other side of the coin, it may be largely a waste of valuable resources to measure social and emotional skills without a plan or program in place to influence those skills. It follows that a maximally effective SEL program should include both a curriculum with demonstrated efficacy and a fair, valid, and reliable assessment.

And thus the Mawi and ACT Tessera marriage (i.e., integration) – a marriage that is, to the best of our knowledge, unique within the SEL world.

The Mawi Learning and ACT Tessera Marriage: Advantages for Schools

The integration of Mawi Learning and ACT Tessera will provide schools with a powerful tool for improving student social and emotional skills. For example, adding a valid and reliable assessment component – ACT Tessera – to the already robust Mawi Learning programs:

  • Equips educators with an extra tool in their toolbox for speaking to students about social and emotional skills. The ACT Tessera assessment and accompanying reports provide educators and students with a new set of language and insights around which to have productive conversations. These conversations can help students learn more about social and emotional skills while giving them specific and actionable information on their strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Empowers teachers with information on where their class social and emotional skill stands at a group level, which can be used to inform future instruction.
  • Empowers administrators with information on where their school social and emotional skill stands, which can be used to inform future decisions on school policy and programming.
  • Provides administrators with further efficacy evidence for the Mawi curriculum, which can be used to justify funding decisions from external funding agencies.

Management consultant and author Peter Drucker once famously stated, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” We would add that, at least in the case of SEL, if you’re not trying to improve it, then you don’t need to measure it. Both curriculum and measurement are necessary for a complete SEL system, and these two should be integrated. We at ACT see the integration of Mawi Learning and ACT Tessera as a crucial step in our quest in helping people achieve education and workplace success.

Jeremy Burrus, PhD

Jeremy Burrus, PhD

Senior Director, Center for Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning Research Jeremy Burrus is the Senior Director of ACT’s Center for Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning (SEALs). Before coming to ACT, he was a Principal Research Scientist at ProExam’s Center for Innovative Assessments, and prior to that he was a Research Scientist at Educational Testing Service. He graduated with a PhD in Social Psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2006, and was a post-doctoral research scholar at Columbia Business School in New York City from 2006-2008. His main research interests are in developing innovative assessments of social and emotional learning skills, cognitive biases, and cross-cultural competence.