Unlocking wellbeing insights: The value of student self-reports in wellbeing data collection

Ilia Lindsay, Registered Psychologist, Komodo Psychology Lead


Unlocking wellbeing insights: The value of student self-reports in wellbeing data collection



It is clear that across the globe student wellbeing is now a top priority for schools. A strong foundation in wellbeing equips students with the resilience and tools needed to navigate challenges, fostering a positive learning environment and setting them on a path for lifelong success. So how do we measure student wellbeing? Should we rely on teacher observations or, do students hold the answers to their wellbeing?

Whilst there are numerous benefits to teacher observation perhaps we need to consider that students are in the best position to report accurately on their wellbeing strengths and challenges.* By letting students voice their experiences, emotions, and challenges, self-reports open a window into their inner world. That being said, student self-reports shine as a vital source of insight that can be used to guide wellbeing initiatives and programs in schools.

*At Komodo we acknowledge that the true value of data is seen when we triangulate teacher and student data (to read more about holistic data collection and triangulation see our article here).

Generally speaking, children as young as 5 or 6 years old may begin to provide basic self-reports about their feelings and experiences, but their capacity for accurate and detailed self-reporting increases with age and developmental stage. Around the age of 8 to 10, children typically become more capable of expressing their thoughts, emotions, and experiences in a more nuanced manner. As students progress into adolescence the research tells us that they are the best person to answer (with accuracy) questions about their inner world. One thing to consider with self-report is to ensure students of all ages feel safe to do this - what we mean by this is that the school environment needs to be psychologically safe for a student to answer questions accurately and; students need to know who will access their data. When we have psychological safety and informed consent at school we reduce the possibility of social desirability bias in answers.

Consider these key insights and benefits that can be gained from allowing students to express their perceptions and experiences through self-reported wellbeing data.

Subjective experience: Self-reporting allows students to express their own subjective experiences, feelings, and thoughts. This aspect is crucial as wellbeing is highly individualised (as is the adolescent high school experience) and students' internal experiences might not be accurately captured through external observations alone.

Removing barriers for communicating concerns: Self-report data can help identify concerns that might otherwise go unnoticed. Students may be facing challenges or stressors that they are reluctant to share openly but are willing to disclose in a confidential survey environment. This can include issues related to mental health, bullying, or academic pressures.

Empowerment and student voice: Allowing students to contribute to wellbeing assessments empowers them by giving them a voice in the educational process. This sense of ownership can lead to increased engagement and motivation to address their wellbeing concerns. To read more about student voice click here.

Early intervention: Self-report data can serve as an early warning system for potential issues or difficulties. By tracking changes in students' self-reported feelings and behaviours, teachers can identify trends and intervene promptly when wellbeing concerns arise. When this is collected across a cohort we can implement year-level or whole-school initiatives to support student trends.

Tailored interventions: Personalised interventions are more effective, and self-report data can inform the development of targeted support strategies. Understanding students' self-identified challenges, strengths and coping mechanisms enables pastoral care staff to offer relevant and meaningful support.

Longitudinal insights: Collecting self-report data over time allows for the tracking of changes in students' wellbeing. This longitudinal approach can reveal patterns and correlations that aid in understanding the factors influencing students' wellbeing at different times of the school year.

Program evaluation: Schools implementing wellbeing programs, curriculum or initiatives, can use self-report data to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions. By comparing pre- and post-intervention data, they can assess whether the programs are achieving their intended outcomes. Within this, we can also use student voice to make changes to programs where needed to improve effectiveness.

Data-driven decision-making: Integrating self-report data with other sources, such as teacher observations and academic performance, supports data-driven decision-making. This approach allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the connections between wellbeing and other aspects of students' lives. For a more comprehensive understanding of data-driven decision-makingread our blog here.

We cannot emphasise the importance of confidentiality, clear communication, and the use of evidence-based questions or survey tools when collecting self-report data. While self-reporting is a valuable tool, it's important to recognize that it is one piece of the puzzle and should be complemented with other data sources for a comprehensive view of student wellbeing.  At Komodo, we are big advocates for the integration of holistic data collection and triangulation in schools - if you would like to explore how we could help your school book a demo call with one of our team here.



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