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ACT Tessera Methodology

Assess Accurately. Act Knowledgeably.

How Does ACT Tessera Measure Social and Emotional Skills?

Tessera's advanced assessment methodology goes beyond traditional self-reporting to yield more reliable, valid results. Our online assessment tool integrates three different methodologies:

Self-Report Rating

Students rate the extent to which they agree with several statements.

Situational Judgment

Students are presented with scenarios and five possible responses to each. 

Forced-Choice Items

Students select statements that are “most like them” and “least like them.”

Why Does ACT Tessera Measure These Particular Skills and Strengths?

ACT Tessera is based on the Big Five personality factors framework, which studies have demonstrated is the most widely used and useful approach globally for classifying SEL skills.

Decades of research have shown the Big Five personality factors predict a host of important outcomes across different ages, countries, and cultures, including academic performance, career success, and well-being.

Each of the six SEL strengths that Tessera measures is crosswalked to one of the Big Five facets:

  • Conscientiousness (Tenacity/Grit, Organization/Responsibility)
  • Agreeableness (Teamwork/Cooperation)
  • Emotional Stability (Composure/Resilience)
  • Openness (Curiosity/Ingenuity)
  • Extraversion (Leadership/Communication).

Students who are high in tenacity and grit tend to be:

Characteristic and Example Behavior

Persistent Xavier checks all of his math problems for mistakes before turning his homework in. Effortful Joann practices a difficult piece of music for several hours at home for her upcoming band concert.
Goal-Oriented Jasmin tries to finish all her math problems a day before they are due so she has time to do extra practice problems before her next class. Mastery-Oriented Melinda always wants to get better at something even if she is already better than her friends.
Those Who Exceed Expectations Elke runs a mile and then makes a goal to improve her time the next time she runs it. Those Who Pursue Challenges Darnell signs up for the most challenging classes he can find for the upcoming semester so he can learn more.

Example Assessment Questions

Self Reported

  • I am determined to achieve goals that I set for myself.
  • I will refuse to abandon an assigned task until it is complete.
  • I practice to get better at things that are difficult for me.

Situational Judgement Test Example

The deadline for the art show is four days away and you haven’t finished the tile mosaic you were planning to enter. Due to illness and trouble finding the right materials for your piece, you are behind schedule. Now, your friends and family are suggesting that you enter the art show at another time. What are you most likely to do?

  • Work as much as you need to complete your planned artwork on time.
  • Find a piece of artwork you completed months ago and enter that.
  • Change the design of your mosaic so you can easily finish it on time.
  • Decide to enter next year because you have been sick and it would be nice to relax.
  • Find another art show to enter later in the year so you have time to finish your work.

Potential Strategies for Intervention

Help students think about and formulate ambitious goals Help students recognize roadblocks that get in the way of success so they can avoid them Remind students about times they worked hard to accomplish something and show them that they can do it again

 

Students who are high in organization and responsibility tend to be:

Characteristic and Example Behavior

One Who Pays Attention to Detail Xavier checks all of his math problems for mistakes before turning his homework in. Thorough Sydney asks her friends to check her writing for spelling and grammar mistakes.
Reliable Nathan works on his classwork even when other students are messing around. Responsbile Hillary complete her daily chores even when her parents are out of town.
Prepared Kevin keeps a list of the due dates for all homework assignments for the week. Consistent Chloe is always on time for her classes.

Example Items

Self Reported

  • I never turn in my homework late.
  • I always check for any mistakes in my homework.
  • I always plan time in my weekly schedule to complete all of my chores at home.

Situational Judgement Test Example

The director of your outdoors club has given you the task of assigning the supplies each student must carry with him or her on an upcoming hiking trip. The task is complicated: each student must be assigned at least two items to carry, some of supplies should be provided by more than one student, and no student should bring two of the same item. What are you most likely to do?

  • Make a sign-up sheet that allows each student to choose their own preferred items to carry.
  • Make a chart containing each supply and assign each at random.
  • Quickly assign each supply to a student and assume you will fix any mistakes when the students complain.
  • Make a chart, assigning the supplies carefully, then double-check your work to be sure you haven’t made any mistakes.
  • Assign each item to a student and tell the director that they can trade if they are unhappy with what they have been assigned.

Potential Strategies for Intervention

Help students learn how to use calendars Help students learn how to use to-do lists Help students to think about how they may inconvenience other people if they do not fulfill their responsibilities

 

Students who are high in teamwork and cooperation tend to be:

Characteristic and Example Behavior

Pleasant Aliyah usually has something nice to say about everyone. Cooperative When two of her friends are arguing, Paula helps them to get along again.
Sensitive to Others Because she doesn't want to hurt her mom's feelings, Ariana tells her mom that she likes her birthday present, even though she is not very excited about it. Helpful Jarrod helps a younger student pick her books up when she drops them.
Easy to Get Along With Jeremy is good at working with other people. Caring When she sees a classmate being teased by other classmates, Evie tries to make her feel better.

Example Assessment Questions

Self Reported

  • I enjoy working with a small group on an assignment.
  • I offer to help those who need assistance.
  • If one of my classmates seems unhappy, I ask them if they are okay even if we aren’t close friends.

Situational Judgement Test Example

A new student has recently been assigned to your study group. They are unfamiliar with everyone in the group and with the material you are all studying, and now the rest of the group is unhappy and annoyed with them. What are you most likely to do? 

  • You encourage the whole group to positively work together by pointing out each person’s strengths and contributions.
  • You take some time to get to know the new student and find out how you can best help them catch up with the rest of the group. 
  • Ask one of the other study group members to help the new student catch up with the material. 
  • You ask the teacher to move the student to a different group, since your group has no extra time to help this student.
  • You ignore the new student and make sure the rest of the group is happy. 

Potential Strategies for Intervention

Encourage students to practice seeing things from others’ perspectives Teach students about emotions and how they influence behavior
Have students imagine the negative consequences of selfish behavior for everyone

Students who are high in composure and resilience tend to be:

Characteristic and Example Behavior

Poised Jonah holds his temper even when things do not go his way in his soccer games. Flexible Kayla's teacher teaches her a new way of doing math and she adjusts well to this new technique.
Good at Dealing with Stress Tony is having trouble understanding his math homework but tries not to get stressed out about it. Restrained A bully is picking on Taye but he does his best to avoid getting angry.
Good at Dealing with Criticism Cecelia does not take criticism from her science teacher personally. Good at Dealing with Setbacks Luke's computer stops working while he is doing his homework and he tries not to get angry about it.

Example Assessment Questions

Self Reported

  • When a problem comes up, my first response is to panic.
  • When someone doesn't agree with me, I get angry.
  • I am comfortable with last minute changes to plans.  

Situational Judgement Test Example

You have studied hard to qualify for your local spelling bee, and you really want to win. You have reviewed flashcards, and your family has quizzed you on difficult words. During the spelling bee, you forget a fairly easy word you usually know. You are eliminated from the spelling bee. What are you most likely to do?

  • You tell yourself you did your best, but you're just not a natural speller.
  • You are disappointed, but recognize you studied hard.
  • You think about changing your study habits for next time.
  • You are angry that you did not review more.
  • You tell yourself you are stupid and you never should have tried.

Potential Strategies for Intervention

Have students practice gratitude by writing down things for which they are thankful Try to get students to be mindful by practicing meditation or quiet time Help students mentally reframe stressful situations so they see the positive side of challenges

Students who are high in curiosity and ingenuity tend to be:

Characteristic and Example Behavior

Creative and Innovative Kimani comes up with a new way to solve a math problem that her classmates had not thought of. Open-Minded Krista spends time learning about new things before she makes judgments about them.
Thoughtful Darius spends time thinking about what he learned in school while he's at home. Accepting of Differences in People Mirna enjoys learning about people who are different from her.
"Thinkers" and Problem Solvers Ameer likes to come up with new ways to fix things when they're broken. Interested in Different Types of People and Points of View Demarco often tries different kinds of ethnic foods because he's interested in how people from different cultures eat.

Example Assessment Questions

Self Reported

  • I am good at thinking up unique solutions to problems.
  • I want to learn more about how people, both the same and different, live.
  • I enjoy making art.

Situational Judgement Test Example

Your social studies class is studying the United Nations. You must create a project for the class that helps make clear how diplomacy works. What are you most likely to do?

  • Host a debate about a global problem and have each side explain its point of view.
  • Read from a report explaining the United Nations’ founding.
  • Invent a game in which students take on the roles of diplomats and try to solve a crisis.
  • Describe a specific problem that the United Nations has solved.
  • Ask each student about a major problem they have solved in their lives.

Potential Strategies for Intervention

Have students practice “counterfactual thinking” – thinking about things that could have happened but did not Expose students to a variety of experiences with different types of people Have students play games that require a lot of thinking and strategy, for example, chess

Students who are high in leadership and communication tend to be:

Characteristic and Example Behavior

Those Who Take Charge Maggie volunteers to be captain of her soccer team. Persuasive Wyatt tries to persuade his work group to do a presenation on the U.S. constitution
Assertive Terrance speaks his opinion in front of class when his teacher asks the class which book they want to read next. Cheerful and Optimistic Nat tries to have a good attitude in class even when it is not going well.
Those Who Express Themselves Easily Ameer likes to come up with new ways to fix things when they're broken. Confident Kiara is not afraid to talk to her teachers on the first day of class.

Example Items

Self Reported

  • I like to be in charge of group activities.
  • I can usually convince people to do things my way.
  • I think that a good attitude can help to improve any situation.

Situational Judgement Test Example

Your teacher has placed you in a group to work on a science report and several of the students have strong opinions about how the report should be done. Your teacher has asked you to coordinate the effort for your group. What are you most likely to do?

  • You let everyone else decide what they are going to do on the project, leaving you with whatever others do not want to do.
  • You listen to what the others have to say, then make your own decisions about how to divide the work.
  • You have the group vote on each decision so that you are not responsible for any of the decisions.
  • You tell the teacher that you would rather lead a different group.
  • You tell the group that you are in charge and will decide what they are going to do, and that you do not want to hear their opinions.

Potential Strategies for Intervention

Give students opportunities to lead small groups even if it might not come naturally to them Help students practice optimism and looking at the bright side throughout the day Teach students about assertive communication styles. For example, teach them to start sentences with “I feel….”