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What is the EMOTERS?


Surprisingly little is known about specific strategies teachers use to support children’s social and emotional development. Students’ social and emotional learning (SEL) is certainly valued, especially in early childhood. Indeed, with its focus on the whole child and origins apart from formal school systems, the field of early childhood has long recognized that children’s social-emotional skills feature prominently in their ability to establish healthy relationships and attain desired goals in preschool environments. Yet, scant research has documented the teaching behaviors teachers engage in that support children’s SEL. With funding from the U.S. Department of Education, we have engaged in an iterative development process to produce a new observational measure of preschool teacher practices that support children's emerging emotional competence. We call this instrument the EMOtion TEaching Rating Scale or the EMOTERS.


In developing the EMOTERS, we intentionally partnered with a variety of preschool settings (community-based, Head Start, and private) and recruited a sample of teachers from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. However, we acknowledge that we sampled relatively few programs and we encourage more work to expand our understanding of the instrument’s functioning in additional contexts, both in and outside the U.S.


Intended Use


The EMOTERS was designed to be used both as a reflection tool for professional development and as an assessment tool for research. Ratings can be made following either live or video-based observations of preschool classrooms (rooms serving children ages three- to five years old). The instrument was iteratively developed to support reliable scoring across numerous coders from different backgrounds and valid inferences into teachers practices and children’s classroom experiences. At the same time, as with all observational rating tools, raters are expected to vary to some degree in their scores, and validity evidence is continually accumulating. We encourage users to follow sound measurement practices and examine reliability and validity in their local context. We also emphasize that the EMOTERS was not designed to be used for high-stakes accountability monitoring or decision making.


Many early childhood classrooms and care centers include diverse learners, including children who are neurodivergent, have an individualized family support plan (IFSP) or individualized education plan (IEP), or have other support needs. While there is limited research on emotion socialization processes in these populations, teachers’ interactions with diverse learners have the same potential to include emotion-focused teaching elements. The EMOTERS should be applied as usual to teachers interacting with these children. However, please note that the EMOTERS captures emotion-focused teaching at the teacher level.  Future research may be able to distinguish how emotion-focused teaching may need to manifest itself differently or be differently effective at promoting emotional competence for different children.

Want to Learn More?


Fill out the Interest Form on our Contact page. You'll receive an email with the Instrument Description and Manual, a downloadable Scoring Form, and instructions for accessing the Training Portal.

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