The Wellbeing Data Wheel: Case studies from schools around the world
Matthew Savage

 


By Matthew Savage

 

In December 2021, I wrote an article for Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine about what I called the Wellbeing Data Wheel.

Interest in the article, since republished by CIS Perspectives and School Management Plus, continues to be significant, so I am expanding upon it here, using compelling case studies to demonstrate practical examples and advice about how this wheel of data works in reality.

We are finally managing to put #wellbeingfirst in our schools; however, unless we fully understand the obstacles that lie in the way of our students, we cannot ensure we implement the appropriate support and interventions.

Children and young people are messy, complex bundles of synapses and hormones, plastic and shifting out of sight and before our eyes.

It is too easy for us to listen to the story we have written in our own minds about each student, and it demands humility and reflexivity even to acknowledge that their actual story may be slightly or even significantly different, let alone to embrace that dissonance as an opportunity for us to learn.

In truth, the Wellbeing Data Wheel is essentially quantitative.

Wheel with 5 spokes representing Matthew Savage's Wellbeing Data Wheel

© Matthew Savage 2022 © #themonalisaeffect®

 

Important and powerful though this is, it must be coupled with and complemented by a qualitative, ethnographic collection and curation of students’ authentic stories.

However, I remain convinced that we need the numbers too.

And the reason I identified five different spokes on my wheel of data was because each one makes it less likely a student can fall through the cracks which invariably exist within the large and complex learning communities we inhabit.

It is a question of visibility: some students might be seen only through highly skilled observation, and some only through the safety of a virtual check-in; some only through the wide net of the wellbeing survey, some only on the radar of the counsellor’s data machine, and some only through a sophisticated understanding that pastoral data is but the tip of a wellbeing iceberg.

I have asked leaders from each institution below to share some of their insights and experience. They each focus on a different ‘spoke’ of the wheel so that educators worldwide can see how to do the same in their schools.

_______

 

Wellbeing Data Wheel. Spoke 1: Observation Data

 



Fiona Carter, Director of International Business Development and Academics, Wellington College China

 

Why did you decide to use the Leuven Scales of Wellbeing and Involvement to measure and improve wellbeing?

Recognising and monitoring a child’s levels of well-being and involvement is about understanding the process of what’s going on inside the child and, as such, enables the observer to move from a product-oriented approach to a process-oriented one.

The best way of doing this is by observing behaviours and verbal and non-verbal communication in various everyday contexts—from the classroom to information we receive from home.

As we judge pupils against the rubric in the Leuven scales, any scores that fall at <3 (out of 5) are cross-checked in a different setting to ensure a holistic view of the pupil and consider any external factors influencing their levels of engagement or how they are feeling about school life. 

The rationale is that the higher a child’s levels of wellbeing and involvement, the greater the rate of progress in all areas of their development.

Since starting to observe and assess this way, wellbeing has increased across all our schools. 

How did you go about doing so?

We asked ourselves why levels are lower and which children are not under what we call ‘the heat lamp’ and therefore not thriving.

The focus is on the educator’s responsibility to raise the levels and swiftly change the teacher’s mindset from what is wrong with the child to what we don’t know about them and/or what they are not yet doing well enough.

If a lower level persists, parents are very much part of the discussion and are always very willing to embrace such a personal and insightful approach.

If there is a significant period of low wellbeing and involvement for a particular child, we then look at extra causes such as an undiagnosed learning need in communication and language, social-emotional development, or significant changes in the home.

Triangulation with other forms of assessment data runs alongside all of these on a summative and formative basis.  

What has the impact been so far on the wellbeing of your students?

Teachers, TAs and leaders use this alongside attainment data to scrutinise what barriers there might be to a child fulfilling their potential.

Does low wellbeing mean the task is too easy or too hard? How can we adapt or change the conditions for learning to enable higher levels of engagement?

Also highly effective have been considering the rhythm of the day through the child’s eyes, conversations with children and families about specific interests and fascinations and using objective-led planning techniques to support second language acquisition within play.

It’s also worth mentioning the impact on staff wellbeing—this has been significant as teams appreciate how assessment systems reflect our vision and values as a group of schools.

Rather than a meaningless piece of data collection, they understand that observing well-being and involvement is an additional and meaningful angle to identifying children who need special attention and that to maximise the conditions for teaching and learning, these are vital components.

What advice would you give other schools trying to adopt a similar approach?

  • Ensure it isn’t seen as another type of form filling but as a vital part of the jigsaw within your assessment policy. Teams will see that it reflects your values as a school and is integral and the first aspect of how teachers evaluate the child’s educational, social, and emotional health.
  • Work with parents at induction sessions and explain the significance of WB levels to progress, attainment and attitudes to school. 
  • Use the data as the first part of any data conversation, from parent meetings to Pupil Progress conferences. Which child is or isn’t under ‘the heat lamp’, and what else do we need to learn to determine the reason? 
  • Triangulate! Establish data habits that become second nature to teachers, TAs and leads alike and that use wellbeing and involvement as the check and balance for any information or questions on attainment, progress, and the quality of teaching and/or leadership. 
  • Finally, don’t fall into the trap of just measuring wellbeing and not focus as well on the following interventions or the ‘So What?’. If not, it will become another assessment project or initiative rather than central to school strategy and reporting. 

 

_______

 

Wellbeing Data Wheel. Spoke 2: Check-in Data

 



Kathryn King, Assistant Principal, GEMS Founders School, Dubai

 

Why did you decide to use check-in data from an app like Upstrive to measure and improve wellbeing?

We already had in-depth data from the PASS attitudinal survey, which was already helping us impact positively on student well-being.

However, it is important to remember that wellbeing data is extremely dynamic, and we wanted a way to check in on student wellbeing more frequently so that we could take the appropriate action if needed.

On a whole school scale, the Upstrive app gives us a quick snapshot of how the student body is feeling on a daily/weekly basis, and it highlights specific areas of concern.

On an individual student level, it means we can provide quick and effective support for those who engage with the app regularly.

How did you go about doing so?

We decided to start with a trial with some year groups and tested the app’s features and the student and staff response.

Once we were happy that we had found the right tool, we developed a whole-school rollout plan, which became derailed a few times due to Covid-19 and school closures.

At the beginning, we kicked off with staff training and encouraged staff teams to use the app for their own wellbeing check-ins.

It was aimed at all teachers, support staff and leadership. We then pushed it out across the school with students.

What has the impact been so far on the well-being of your students?

Of the students who have engaged with the app, we have gained some really positive feedback: it helps them take a moment to themselves, reminds them to reflect, and means they can ask for help if they need it.

We have been able to offer support to multiple students who have shared that they need support on the app, and we are currently developing features with the team at Upstrive to expand this feature further.

Unfortunately, we have not yet been using the app for long enough to have a lot of statistics, but I am confident the impact will be increasingly positive the greater the uptake from students and staff alike.

What advice would you give other schools trying to adopt a similar approach?

  • Getting buy-in from staff is the most crucial part of ensuring this works.
  • Absolutely everyone needs to be on board and encourage students to do their well-being check-ins, whatever platform they use.
  • If the teachers don’t see value in it, they won’t encourage their students to use it, so everyone really needs to drive it.
  • At the same time, it’s really important that we also encourage staff to do their own wellbeing check-ins.
  • As adults, we can be cynical, but it is a really healthy practice once this becomes a habit.
  • We have already had some success with staff who have flagged well-being concerns for themselves which we have been able to act upon.

_______

 

Wellbeing Data Wheel. Spoke 3: Survey Data

 



Luci Willis, Head of Secondary, Raha International School (Khalifa City Campus), Abu Dhabi

 

Why did you decide to use the PASS Survey to measure and improve wellbeing?

As a startup school with students from many different backgrounds, we didn’t have much other data on our learners, but we needed to get to know our students thoroughly and quickly.

Therefore, along with wanting a measure of externally validated student wellbeing, we also wanted to explore a triangulated approach to our data analysis.

When we audited the types of data we had collected, it mainly measured attainment or progress.

As a school, we decided to expand this by finding some measures of aptitude (we selected CAT4) and attitudes and well-being (we selected PASS).

I had also used PASS previously and found it very useful to uncover patterns that we may have missed or to validate ‘hunches’ we had about individual students or cohorts.

How did you go about doing so?

Our first administration of the survey was a little rushed, as we wanted to complete it during the first term, and we didn’t want it to clash with other well-being surveys being administered by the counselling team.

At this point, the teachers were not yet sufficiently skilled in what PASS is and how to use it, which meant that they could not fully support the students as they attempted it.

However, the data we got from it was still extremely useful and enabled us to engage fully with Matthew when he visited.

After working with him, we spent time in teams looking at the data together and sharing thoughts and actions.

I am now having individual meetings with secondary staff to study the data and plan for the future.

As we continue to use the survey, both teachers and students become more comfortable with it. Seeing the results over time will allow us to study patterns and trends and ensure the impact of our interventions.

What has the impact been so far on the wellbeing of your students?

Immediately, the teaching staff recognised the ‘masks’ some of the students wore.

Even the discussion around this was useful in exploring the idea that what the students present to us is not always how they are feeling.

Our counsellor could triangulate the PASS data with her caseload and check it aligned, enabling her to pick up some of the students on the periphery.

I think the power of PASS is that it reminds us of the whole person.

It gives us another perspective on the learners in front of us in the classroom, and it creates a space for the students to share how they feel about themselves as learners, giving us a sense of what barriers might be in place.

As a school embracing UDL (Universal Design for Learning), PASS also gives us important information about accessibility we might otherwise miss.

What if the barrier is the student’s attitude to themselves as a learner? How should we design for that?

What advice would you give other schools trying to adopt a similar approach?

  • Do it!
  • PASS is an inexpensive way to get essential data about your student’s wellbeing and learning.
  • No matter how well we think we know our students, those masks are there.
  • In addition, it is a very strong reminder that data is about so much more than attainment, and that attainment and progress data on its own can never give you the full story.  

_______

 

Well-being Data Wheel. Spoke 4: Counselling Data

 

 

Christine Shepherd, experienced school counsellor, and psychotherapist at Streams in the Desert Therapy and Coaching

 

Why did you decide to use counselling data to measure and improve wellbeing?

As a trained school counsellor from the USA, I learned the importance of data in informing the counselling program and services.

Honestly, I was doubtful when I first started putting it into practice. But then, after studying the data each year, trends became apparent, and it was obvious that we needed to make changes based on the data and what student and staff needs were at the time. 

How did you go about doing so?

It wasn't easy to start. We went through many systems before finally landing on one that worked best for us.

The final system included surveys of all stakeholders at the beginning of the year (students, staff, and parents), and then the same one at the end of the year.

Our counselling team recorded all their sessions, classroom lessons, wellbeing room visits, trainings, workshops, and actions in a Google form to easily tell where they were using their time and where changes needed to be made.

It also helped us realise when our numbers meant we needed to add a member to our team.

We also looked at PASS data to see how it informed the data we had collected ourselves.

What was the impact been on the well-being of your students?

It took years, but in around the fourth year, we started seeing referrals to counselling go down (a big win!), pastoral staff working closely with the counselling team to support students and less stigma with the counselling program in general.

We were also able to build a strong Peer Helpers Program that was also data-driven.

What advice would you give other schools trying to adopt a similar approach?

  • I would suggest sending a counsellor from your team to the annual ISCA conference and having them trained in the ISCA International Model, which is a very data-driven model of school counselling.
  • If this isn’t possible, have your team research best practices in schools with strong counselling programs and learn the importance of data in informing what your program does and plans to do for the year.
  • Most of our plans for the year were based on the data from the year prior.
  • Since we kept such detailed data, we were also able to make changes each term based on trends developing during the term before.
  • It helped us be more preventative, which is the goal of any strong counselling program.

_______

 

Wellbeing Data Wheel. Spoke 5: Pastoral Data

 



Jeni Dellman, Head of Primary, British School Muscat

 

Why did you decide to use pastoral data to measure and improve wellbeing?

Students do not learn in a vacuum, and they do not all learn in the same way or at the same time.

The more we understand the different factors that influence and impact a child, the more we can tailor our support to meet their needs and thus improve their emotional well-being.

Every day our children come to school having had a range of experiences at home or on the playground; without taking this into account, we risk dismissing the largest part of their world and not giving it enough weight when we plan the school day.

When we held conversations about children, we wanted to be able to talk holistically and with as much wraparound information as possible. 

How did you go about doing so?

We have a robust pastoral support system and several tools to track pastoral and safeguarding concerns at a class teacher and leadership level.

In addition, we have a ‘Wellbeing Button’ and 'The Box of Feelings'—student tools to share their concerns and worries with a trusted adult or peer.  

During our termly Student Progress Meetings, staff meet to discuss each child from academic and pastoral perspectives.

Where appropriate, interventions and support (pastoral or academic) are then put in place to give each child the opportunity to thrive on an intellectual, emotional, and social level. 

What has the impact been so far on the well-being of your students?

There has been an increase in the number of children using the well-being button and box of feelings to share their thoughts, concerns and worries.

The development of the Wellbeing Tree as a place to focus on different breathing techniques has been very popular with our Key Stage 2 students.

Students who have received targeted pastoral intervention support have subsequently shown improvements within the PASS data, especially in terms of their ‘Self Regard’ and their ‘Confidence in Learning’.

This approach links to our HPL philosophy, with teachers having conversations and asking questions about their students.

Why are they a reluctant learner? How does their achievement correlate with their attitudinal data?

While teachers have always looked at each child as an individual, this additional pastoral data allows for a deeper insight that considers more than just the academic and starts rich conversations and discussions around the child. 

What advice would you give other schools trying to adopt a similar approach?

  • You can put well-being first and still keep data in the mix!
  • Give time to this; make it a priority, and accept that this comes with a commitment to training and conversations.
  • If you do not, the data simply sits there and helps no one!

_______

 

Some might say this is a lot of data, but I would argue that it is nothing compared to the amount of intentionally academic data in which many schools have been drowning for too many years.

I was recently directed by Jacqueline Stewart, Head of Student Support Services at the Chinese International School in Hong Kong, to the work of Johann Hari and Rutger Bregman. They compellingly argue that if our basic human needs are not securely met, our mind's capacity to learn, focus and be productive is redirected to survival behaviours.

In other words, we must put Maslow before Bloom, and we can only achieve that if we are using the right data in the right way, measuring what really matters.

 


Matthew Savage is an educational consultant and trainer, speaker and writer, content creator and coach, architect of #themonalisaeffect®, and host of The Data Conversation podcast. In recent years, he has worked face-to-face or remotely with thousands of educators across hundreds of schools in more than 60 countries, helping them to use a triangle of assessment data to maximise student wellbeing and, as a result, student outcomes. Most recently, he was selected by ISC Research to contribute to their pivotal Future of Assessment report and the corresponding webinar panel discussion, was part of an assessment 'double bill' at the Outstanding Schools Europe conference with Professor Dylan William, has written for all three issues of Wellbeing in International Schools Magazine, and joined Diana Osagie, Priya Lakhani and Lord Jim Knight on the main stage at the COBIS Annual Conference. He is an Associate Consultant for LSC Education, in which role he coaches senior leaders in the UK and internationally, and also leads governance training with international school boards. And he is a passionate advocate for and ally of #deij worldwide, and member of ECIS’ #deij team; a member of the Diverse Educators network, and contributor to their new book; and host of the "Jack and Me" podcast.