Surveying students wellbeing: an overview of questions, frequency and insights

Rosa Cirrottola

Mental health and wellbeing is not an easy topic for anybody to open up and speak freely about, let alone students undergoing a myriad of ever changing challenges. From coping with academic expectations and social media pressures to maintaining meaningful relationships with their peers and conducting a healthy lifestyle, students today are facing a completely new set of pressures and stressors compared to previous generations.

Due to its subjective nature, along with the numerous factors that can trigger change throughout the year, understanding students wellbeing at a school-wide level is no easy task even for the most experienced educators. School staff members who play a key role in overlooking children’s wellbeing need effective systems and tools in place in order to gain visibility over how every single student is doing across all assigned houses/classrooms, on a regular basis and in a timely manner.

Research shows that regular check-ins provide a comfortable environment for students to open up about their concerns and voice their needs. When talking about check-ins, it is likely that one is referring to one or many of the following:

  • Wellbeing surveys
  • Open comments/feedback
  • Urgent check-ins

Surveying students is key to finding out if anything is troubling them - from academic pressure to sleep issues, bullying, social relationships, connectedness to the community and other factors. Research shows us that for adolescents, data collected via self-reports is the most accurate and representative of their internal world and lived experience.

Information is powerful and self reported information gives staff an accurate insight into wellbeing and difficulties students face which provides opportunity for prevention and early intervention. Knowing what to ask and how often to ask for feedback is important to collecting the right information to gauge their level of happiness and wellbeing. Selecting reliable and valid questions to address potential issues is the first step towards gathering the crucial information. The Komodo question library represents a collection of evidence-based psychometric questions and surveys. This includes but is not limited to the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), Difficulties with Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS) and Student Resilience Survey. Library questions cover a wide range of topics such as: how students feel about attending school, socialising with their peers or major transitions like starting high school or getting ready for university. Questions can also be selected to be more targeted to meet the needs of the individual school or cohort such as: direct screening of mental health difficulties, home sickness, sleep and eating patterns. The team at Komodo work alongside each school to create questionnaires that meet the needs of their wellbeing strategies, frameworks and guiding values.

The Komodo platform also has the option to include open comments at the end of each survey. This provides the opportunity for students to open up about a matter that may not be directly surveyed but is personally troubling them. This communication is able to occur in a medium that is familiar to students and removes the barriers that can come with having to directly approach staff members. It is a simple yet powerful tool to voice any concerns in an environment that feels safe and free from judgement. In a similar way, but outside of the timely boundary of surveys, the urgent check-in feature allows students to immediately request interactions with staff so that they may voice their difficulties in a timely manner. All it takes is accessing the dedicated feature in the profile saved on their phone and fire through a request to the staff member of choice. The staff member is then notified in real-time and can take action right away. With the combination of open comments and urgent check-ins, staff can keep on top of what their students are going through and intervene when required with a proactive approach.

Now to the bigger question, how often should you survey?

The reality is, there is no right answer. How frequently surveys ought to be sent out really depends on your school. However, there is a spectrum to explore and different frequencies bring both positives and potential downsides. To survey more frequently, say once a day, brings with it more data and insight (in theory) which enables you to capture more acute changes in student wellbeing. It goes without saying that the more you survey, the more opportunities you’re providing to students to give their feedback. The downside of a daily survey is that at some point or another, students will become “over surveyed”, and what was once a great way for them to provide feedback and reflect on their wellbeing becomes just another chore. On the other hand, sending surveys out too seldom like twice a year isn’t enough to enable regular, accurate visibility of students’ wellbeing. Staff won’t be able to detect potential issues before they turn into actual problems, and, therefore, solve those problems. In addition, students won’t have a regular opportunity to express their concerns or reflect on their wellbeing.

At Komodo, our schools use our wellbeing surveys tool differently, However, there are some common themes. We typically see that most of our schools survey somewhere between weekly and fortnightly. For those just beginning to utilise regular wellbeing surveys, a monthly cadence is also a good frequency.

Would you like to learn more about wellbeing surveying? Get in touch today, we’ll help you plan out the best approach for your school needs.