Measuring student wellbeing
Both research and anecdotal experience tells us that a large proportion of our students are struggling with wellbeing, mental health and social connection. We cannot deny the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic, global warming, economic crises, international conflicts and political unrest is having on adolescent development and the unique life experience they are living through. Thankfully, this has resulted in a global movement where society is recognising the importance of safeguarding and protecting our students and young people.
We know that primary, secondary and international schooling associations are encouraging and, in some circumstances mandating, that schools adhere to safeguarding and child protection laws and protocols (Appleton, 2013; Struthers, 2021). Accreditation is becoming reliant on schools producing evidence of their student wellbeing monitoring and solutions. The process of monitoring and collecting data, to be able to measure outcomes and therefore effectively manage student wellbeing can sometimes seem like a daunting, resource expensive task but the reality is that this can be broken into a three step process that continues to move in a cyclic nature - monitor, measure and manage.
Once we have considered how and what we are going to monitor, the second step is to consider what type of measurement will provide schools with the most meaningful data. The key question here is, what type of data do you want or need to make a meaningful difference?
What type of data to use in order to make a meaningful difference?
When it comes to data collection in the wellbeing space, schools can look at three different types of data collection and the choice of which to use depends on what data results you want.
- Regular or pulse surveys will give you regular patterns and longitudinal trends over time
- Benchmarking will give you a singular data point and if you continue to administer this you will eventually get longitudinal data
- Standardised psychometrics will give you more clinical information or categorical data.
So when to use which?
Regular or Pulse surveys
Regular surveying or “pulse” surveys is exactly that, regular opportunities to collect student data and measure the pulse of the school. We know that the life of an adolescent can be much like that of a rollercoaster ride, so regular surveying allows schools to stay on the pulse of the students and as a result, are able to be intervene early or even prevent situations arising. The one thing to be aware of in regular surveying is frequency and cadence. We don’t want to survey so often that student experience survey fatigue and disengage from the process (Anderson & Graham, 2016). Conversely, we don’t want students to feel as though wellbeing surveys are a “one-off” and are meaningless.
Benchmarking is a term used to describe a school's performance against a national or local average (Kelly, 2004). Benchmarking surveys are surveys that are done typically on an annual or biannual basis. Generally speaking, in the wellbeing space, these take longer to complete and a wide selection of wellbeing metrics or categories. This can be great for collecting school-wide data and a snapshot in time of what is going on for students. This can also be useful if school data is contributing to wider research or local/national data (Kelly, 2004). However, as we said before adolescence is often a rollercoaster so we need to be mindful about the accuracy of benchmarking data - we need to consider the timing of this type of data collection. An example of this is if you do a benchmarking type survey the week prior to exams, you may become alarmed at the level of stress or anxiety reported in your student body whereas if you give the same survey a month prior to exams your results may look quite different.
A standardised psychometric is a survey type that has been tested and researched and as such has a standard administration and evaluation process that must be followed for it to be reliable and valid (Kline, 2015). This type of measurement gives you standards or categories that students can be classified as against a normed population. We will often see pastoral care staff, counsellors and psychologists use standardised psychometrics to measure progress in therapy or for clinical purposes. The data from this type of survey is often triangulated with other data sources to make clinical and diagnostic decisions.
How do you decide?
- What is the function?
- What do I want to get out of this data, what do I want to measure?
- What type of data would make a meaningful difference?
We work with many international schools to help them implement tailored, best-in-class student wellbeing strategies. If you’d like to learn more about how we can support yours to best evidence and support your students’ wellbeing, get in touch today!
- Appleton, J. V. (2013). Safeguarding in education. Child Abuse Review, 22(2), 75-79.
- Anderson, D. L., & Graham, A. P. (2016). Improving student wellbeing: Having a say at school. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 27(3), 348-366.
- Kelly, A. (2004). Benchmarking for school improvement: a practical guide for comparing and achieving effectiveness. Routledge.
- Kline, P. (2015). A handbook of test construction (psychology revivals): introduction to psychometric design. Routledge.
- Struthers, A. E. (2021). Protecting invisible children in England: how human rights education could improve school safeguarding. Human Rights Education Review, 4(3), 45-64.