Measuring Wellbeing: Current & Future Direction
What you measure affects what you do. If you don’t measure the right thing, you don’t do the right thing
– Joseph Stiglitz, 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.
While this may be a quote from an economist it is pertinent in all realms of life. As you well know, the importance of implementing and practising Flourishing @MCM is embedded throughout the College. As we tell ourselves everyday, these are trying times, and as we flit between being in school and online, we need to have strategies to measure our well being consistently and regularly.
To this end, I would like to share one of the forms of tracking that we do at MCM and how this is implemented across the school. This has been a work in progress for the past few years and, like all great things, continues to adapt and evolve through feedback from colleagues, pupils and Diane, our researcher in residence.
In Pre Prep we start to build and understand the vocabulary of wellbeing, what key words mean and how we can recognise how we are feeling. Simple daily tracking occurs on a physical display in the classroom where the children choose whether they are feeling tired, happy, sad, excited, or ‘something else’. This immediately lets any adult in the room know their start point for the day and we can respond accordingly, allowing the children to share why they are feeling that way. This is also recorded so that we can monitor any patterns.
As the children enter Year 3 we introduce a 4 strand online tracker; a gentle introduction to a practice that will continue throughout their time at the College. Each week, they give themselves a ‘mark’ from 1 (very good) to 5 (very poor) into an online document as to how they feel they are managing themselves in four health categories: sleep, diet, exercise and emotion.
Once the children join Year 5 we add another 2 categories for them to reflect on each week, namely, productivity and headspace. In measuring productivity, we want children to identify how efficient they believe they are with regards to time spent on completing tasks. The headspace marker enables them to reflect on whether they are feeling overwhelmed, either from expectations or assignments, since these emotions are not conducive to good learning outcomes.
Data is received by the form tutor so they can monitor entries on a regular basis, as well as identify ongoing patterns and trends. The expectation is that this feeds into dialogue between the tutor and pupil, enabling private, more reflective and supportive conversations. Intervention is noted and support can be upscaled to the Head of Year or Deputy Head Pastoral as required.
Whilst in Prep the trackers are monitored and reacted to by staff. However, it is important that our children learn to reflect on and self regulate their wellbeing, without adult intervention, and this process is supported and introduced in the final term of Year 8 in order for pupils to work more independently in the Senior School. Here the process becomes far more self managed, although the trackers are still monitored by HMs and are used by personal tutors as a basis for their meetings with tutees. There is an additional focus on digital use and digital health behaviours (which we are also looking at introducing further down the school).
While both pupils and staff also complete termly stand alone ‘wellbeing questionnaires’ this weekly tracker enables all of us to embed that regular and constant reflection on how we are managing these important aspects of our lives and where we need to make improvements for our own wellbeing day to day.
The Future of Our Wellbeing Trackers
Reflecting back on Joseph Stiglitz’s quote, we also recognise that measurement needs to be tied to desired outcomes in order to assess if we are “doing the right things”. As such, we are in the process of determining our “outcomes” both at the individual level with pupils and at the collective level of the College as a whole. The following are some of the ways we are working to evolve our tracking tools over the next year.
Defining Parameters. When pupils are asked to reflect independently on their wellbeing on a scale of 1 to 5, what are they communicating? What does a 1 (very good) actually mean in regards to self-assessment of sleep or productivity? It is important that some parameters are defined based on validated questionnaires and data to ensure that the measures are consistent. Looking at each of the categories: sleep, exercise, diet, emotions, productivity, and headspace, independently we aim to determine what the ideal or desirable values are and communicate those with our pupils. Understanding what a “good” score looks like in terms of actual behaviour will be key to getting accurate measures of success and useful reflections that can spur actions where needed.
Choosing Appropriate Markers. We are also looking to determine if the six categories we monitor at present are accurate and reflective of our long-term wellbeing goals. Is there anything else that should be added, or anything that needs to be taken away? Decisions need to be made based on both research within the field of youth wellbeing and mental health as well as the specific cultural and contextual needs of our community. Here is where we place a great value on our pupil voice. Getting their reflections on what is important to them in terms of their own wellbeing is going to help us determine if we are aiming for the right goals.
Frequency. Another variable that is to be reviewed is the frequency of measurement. Moods and behaviours tend to change day to day and week to week. Does a weekly tracker give us accurate feedback on the overall level of wellbeing in our pupils and do they find it useful, or is there a more suitable alternative? Looking at ways that wellness has been measured within schools and in other contexts will serve as a guide for our own community.
Method. Finally, we need to look at how the use of technology will help with data collection and ease of administration. The College is examining the adoption of a secure, exclusively tailored smartphone application that will instantly connect tracker results to HM’s and Form Tutors and flag any needs for follow up. The use of devices might also help in delivering information and knowledge content related to self-regulating health behaviours.
Whole-School Measurement. As the College is currently working on creating a whole school wellbeing strategy, measuring “collective flourishing” is also top of mind. Martin Seligman and Alejandro Adler recognize that wellbeing measurements have improved over the past decade and it is now possible to measure wellbeing at both the individual and the collective level (Adler & Seligman, 2016). They propose that schools must move beyond test results to measure the value and progress of their policies and initiatives. In measuring outcomes using one of the many validated tools for whole-school flourishing (EPOCH; Kern, Benson, Stenberg, & Steinberg, 2014; PANAS-C; Laurent et al., 1999; Children’s Hope Scale; Snyder et al, 1997; Healthy Pathways Child Report Scale; Bevans, Riley, & Forrest, 2010), the College can show the value of its many practices aimed at improving wellbeing at the school level. Different measures can be adopted based on the context of the age, life stage, and demographics of students at particular moments in time.
Measuring wellbeing is crucial for MCM for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a tool that helps us to identify individuals and their concerns so we can act quickly to support their needs. Beyond that, looking at wider data helps us make evidence based decisions on how we can have the best positive impact for all our pupils. By aligning our trackers and measures to our intended outcomes, we will move towards a unified strategy of wellbeing for our community. Finally, it provides a snapshot of where we are as a whole College at any given time whether we are in school or online. In this way, we can begin to place a quantifiable measure on how Marlborough’s values of compassion, companionship, and conversation are impacting our community and our pupils’ lives.
Data as seen by a form tutor (Prep)
Extract from the Pupil Tracker (Prep)
Mrs Rachel Lockyer | Head of Wellbeing, Pre-Prep Form Tutor
Ms Diane Trif | Graduate Researcher in Residence
Adler, A. & Seligman, M. E. P. (2016). Using wellbeing for public policy: Theory, measurement, and recommendations. International Journal of Wellbeing, 6(1), 1-35. doi:10.5502/ijw.v6i1.429
Kern, M. L., Benson, L., Steinberg, E. A., & Steinberg, L. (2016). The EPOCH measure of adolescent wellbeing. Psychological Assessment, 28(5), 586-597. https://doi.org/10.1037/t50588-000
Laurent, J., Catanzaro, S. J., Joiner, T. E., Jr., Rudolph, K. D., Potter, K. I., Lambert, S., Osborne, L., & Gathright, T. (1999). A measure of positive and negative affect for children: Scale development and preliminary validation. Psychological Assessment, 11(3), 326–338.
Snyder, C. R., Hoza, B., Pelham, W. E., Rapoff, M., Ware, L., Danovsky, M., Highberger, L., Ribinstein H., & Stahl, K. J. , (1997)The development and validation of the Children’s Hope Scale, Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 22(3), 399–421.
Bevans, K.., Riley, A., & Forrest, C. (2010). Development of the Healthy Pathways Child-Report Scales. Quality of life research : an international journal of quality of life aspects of treatment, care and rehabilitation. 19. 1195-214. 10.1007/s11136-010-9687-4.