3 Essentials in Measuring Well Being in Schools
Themes from advice given by Co-Creators, Jodi Miller, Kavita Tanna, Kristen Rhodes Beland, Una Giurgea, Dr. Madora Soutter & Marcus Strother
Measuring Well Being requires a holistic look at both individuals and a school’s climate, curriculum, and classroom practices. It is not about zeroing in only on the feelings and attitudes of individual students, staff or faculty at a given moment, but a holistic and balanced sense of being well that moves from self to community.
It is no simple matter to measure well being as an outcome. It is deeply challenging to distinguish between a student who genuinely feels joyful, safe, or engaged and supported and one who only appears so on the surface.
That said, if we want to ensure that schools are addressing well being for all, then we have no choice but to find ways to be intentional about measuring it. AND in doing so, we must be extremely careful in deciding which methods and tools to use, and how we are interpreting and using the data.
This month, our focus at School of Thought has been on measuring well being.
The Big Idea
We can, and should, measure well being-thoughtfully, and with intention and equity.
Why measure well being? The decision to measure well being sends an essential message to ALL that these things matter. And though clearly, there are things about well-being that cannot be boiled down to measurement, they must just be felt, measurement in its many forms can provide structure, evidence and story. Measurement can demonstrate whether and how specific well being approaches, policies and programs are effective, and if so, for whom. Measurement can also aid in ensuring that the needs of students are being met.
We are grateful to those in the School of Thought community of researchers, wellness practitioners, coaches and teachers who have provided their insights, images and recommendations for how to measure well being in schools.
Making Big Ideas Usable: 3 Essentials to Consider When Measuring Well Being
#1 Frame it multi-dimesionally.
Take a multi-dimensional approach to defining well being.
A first step in measurement is defining the construct.
What is well being? Global educator, Kavita Tanna, of Globally Reconnect, reminds us that our collective global experience has heightened our sense of wanting to be well. And when we define well being, we frequently up front the mental and physical well being.
While those aspects of well being are essential, research has found that it is not only physical, emotional, social, but also intellectual, financial, spiritual, environmental, occupational and the interconnectivity of all that define our holistic sense of well being. Schools or programs do not need to measure every dimension but should consider how these dimensions align with their mission.
Samhsa and others offer research-based multi-dimensional models.
How do we frame Well Being?
Join us in discussion. What are indicators or observable behaviors of well being in these dimensions? Contribute to our padlet: Globally Reconnect: Personal and Collective Well Being, or copy and use with your faculty, staff, or students.
Create your own definition of “wellness” as a community, class or individual for any of the dimensions. We created an example with “emotional wellness”.
I believe that _____________, ______________, and _______________ are necessary for me to enjoy emotional wellness.
When I am _____________, this is one sign that I might not be as emotionally well as I would like.
On the other hand, I can tell I am enjoying good emotional wellness when I ____________________.
As I continue my own emotional wellness journey, I will focus on spending more time/energy on ___________, and less time/energy on _____________
Listen to our consideranew/School of Thought Podcast: Supporting Well Being by veteran educator and founder of MentorCA, Marcus Strother
#2 Measure well being in different ways.
After defining well being, we need to consider how it might be measured.
Johns Hopkins PhD student and creator of WellCheq, Jodi Miller shares first that we need a well-balanced spectrum of solutions for measuring well-being. She emphasizes that there are always trade offs to consider in well being research and measurement. Jodi offers the following to consider when identifying well being measurement:
right now vs. overall Overall in our lives things can be going well, but we can have a bad day. The frequency and variety of capture matter in looking at both the present and the trends.
quick vs. comprehensive We need to see both a trajectory and the rich aspects of well being.
exposure vs. experience We are all differentially susceptible to our environments. We can all be exposed to the same stressors, but differentially respond. More here.
How do we collect a range of tools and methods?
Watch this video by Kristen Rhodes Beland. Kristen is a 2019-20 Teach Plus Rhode Island Policy Fellow and a 4th grade teacher in Rhode Island. She has worked with her school to make it trauma informed.
Check Jodi Miller’s free well being app, WellCheq. Consider the use of a variety of tools as a part of a well-balanced well-being measurement program.
Listen to our consideranew/School of Thought Podcast. Measuring Well Being by teacher, researcher and creator of WellCheq, Jodi Miller
#3 Measure both the individual and the collective.
Measure both the personal and collective to get a holistic and valid picture.
Dr. Madora Soutter, a professor at Villanova University, reminds us that traditional tools, such as climate surveys, elicit individual responses. For this reason, measurement can reinforce the false assumption that well being is entirely personal, having to do with an individual’s temperament, and not one’s environment or broader systemic influences.
“A holistic perspective can turn the focus from the one student who might be having a bad day, to the community helping that student through the bad day.”
Soutter recommends looking to tools that measure the ways in which a given school community (teachers, administrators, students, and others) affects students’ social and emotional development, including walk through tools and full climate reviews. She adds that we must also consider how external conditions (such as income, housing and social networks) and a person’s internal resources (such as optimism and self-esteem) can affect their wellbeing.
How do we measure both individual and collective well being?
Listen to our consideranew/School of Thought Podcast. Measuring Well Being with Una Giurgea
Measurement of well being must be done, but done with intention, and with consideration to the time, place, and modality so that it does not squelch very factors it’s trying to capture. Well being measurement in schools must not be reduced to a checklist, a surface smile, or a progress report. It is not just important, but necessary, to use authentic, varied, and intentional measurement tools, and methods that capture, measure and tell the story of well-being and support it in our students.
But sometimes, we also need to put those tools down, and listen to the laughter, feel the connection, see the care emanating from classrooms — and not try to measure it.
Join us for Gatherings
All gatherings are from 4pm-5:15pm
December 6th, Anti-Racist Storytelling
In this interactive workshop, a researcher and a practitioner talk about racial stress, what being actively anti-racist means in storytelling in schools. What can storytellers do to communicate these habits and methods to audience members? They will discuss urgent issues and the responsibility to create stories that reflect our communities with complexity and nuance. Dr. Whitney Polk and Mr. Gerald Dessus, MEd. Register here.
January 27th, Critical Creativity and Rigorous Whimsy with Dan Ryder.
February Student Agency through Social Media with Evo Hannan.
March 10, The Science of Resilience by Dr. Juna Bobby.
Details, facilitator bios and registration here.
Let us know you are out there by ENGAGING on Twitter. Tag us @Rvltnproject or @shorejaneshore and use the hashtag #schoolofthought ❤️