Monitoring student wellbeing - Step 1
Over the past twenty years, youth mental health has declined exponentially. Global research also tells us that all-life mental health disorders show up during adolescence. Nonetheless, all the complexities arising during this developmental stage such as the physical and cognitive maturation, the identity exploration, the striving for independence as well as the social interactions make adolescence a truly tough time to navigate.
Schools are in a privileged position to support students to become increasingly aware of their wellbeing and holistic health. By monitoring student wellbeing regularly, systematically and over an extended period of time, schools can take their first step to ensuring that their wellbeing strategy is actually driven from a student-first perspective.
However, the process of monitoring and collecting data can seem like a daunting, resource-expensive task. How to start and what to know before getting started? To help your school find their way to the best approach to evidence student wellbeing, we have compiled a comprehensive list of guidelines to follow through. Let’s take a look at this together.
First of all, what does ‘monitoring’ actually mean?
The dictionary definition of monitoring is to observe and check the progress or quality of (something) over a period of time; keep under systematic review. So this is where we start. We need to first make decisions on how you will monitor wellbeing and what you will be monitoring.
Who should be reporting on one’s inner feelings?
We know that children and adolescents are better able to describe their internal thoughts and experiences compared to their parents or teachers. Looking at self report methods rather than parent or teacher reporting methods enables us to better understand the internal world of an individual.
Evidence suggests that, for the most meaningful data, we look to triangulate the student self reports with observations of teachers or school staff. Together, this often gives us a more comprehensive understanding of their internal world and external expression of emotions and behaviours.
How to deliver surveys or questionnaires - is it better online, on paper or rather in-person?
Each method has its merits and pitfalls:
- Online delivery is easy to use and meets students on a platform that is familiar to them. Electronic distribution is convenient for staff and participants, providing they have access to the internet. This method is reliable and can allow for automated results and analysis. They can be made attractive and fun for students to complete and improve engagement results.
- Paper surveys can be attractive and simple to complete in any time or place. However, there are printing and distribution costs. They are more time-consuming to complete, manually collate and analyse. There is a high probability of survey fatigue.
- In-person surveys require experienced interviewers to question children and record answers. They can be used with young children because the interviewer can explain questions age-appropriately. The costs include interviewers, accessing children and collating results manually.
How can monitoring be embedded in the school day?
It is important that wellbeing monitoring doesn’t feel like an add-on, a chore, a tick box or a task that is not taken seriously. So, it is important at the start of your wellbeing journey to consider how this activity will be woven into the school day.
How to obtain informed consent and limits of confidentiality?
It is important for students to know why their data is being collected, who is seeing it and where it is stored. It is worth considering whether you talk through consent and confidentiality verbally, with a written resource and what your school or state legislation is around parental consent.
What to monitor?
So that is how we monitor, the next step is what we monitor. Again, this is important to define and strategise at the start of the school wellbeing journey. Ask yourself these questions:
- What are the wellbeing targets or priorities for our school? What do we know about the unique environment we are in and the student population we work with?
- What does research tell us about adolescent development and wellbeing trends, what can be expected to be important for this stage of development in 2022?
- What will our students benefit from?
We need to ask these questions otherwise we collect data for data sake. Data without direction causes distress - we need to be intentional with the information we choose to collect, and only collect data that we are willing to deal with.
It is important that your wellbeing strategy is driven from a student-first perspective.
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!
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