If schools focus on student wellbeing, a good education will follow.
Almost 11,000 students participated in Gallup’s Australian Student Poll this year, which focused on measuring students’ hope for the future, engagement in studies, wellbeing and even entrepreneurship - rather than more traditional metrics of literacy and numeracy.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald the poll of students from Year 5 to Year 12 found that 48 percent were hopeful for the future, 59 per cent were engaged with their studies, and 63 percent were thriving in terms of their wellbeing.
This is significant, says Anne Lingafelter, Gallup’s Learning Solutions Consultant for Australia and New Zealand, because levels of hope, engagement and wellbeing are linked strongly with graduation rates and future success.
‘Levels of hope can be more indicative of graduation than standardised testing,’ she says.
‘We all know kids who are super smart and test well but because their hope levels are low, their wellbeing and engagement off, they are not resilient and do not succeed.
‘When the needle doesn’t move on results, we have to ask if all the factors that matter are being addressed. What’s the impact of these non-cognitive measures on academic outcomes, which are not being measured in a widespread way?’
Darren Cox, the principal of St Philips Christian College at Cessnock, has been using “strength-based learning” with senior students since 2015. Students’ individual strengths are identified through a survey - they might be strong on something like communication, analysis, winning people over, competition, or responsibility - and then teachers work with that information to get the best out of each child, he explains.
‘When you’re operating in your strengths you feel more engaged and empowered and feel better about yourself and what you’re doing,’ he says.
‘The data we have so far is that our student retention rate is better, and we put that down to students being more engaged, being more supported and known as an individual.’