Ohio Appalachian Collaborative Blog

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Student Measures of Hope, Wellness, and Resilience – Why We Should All Pay Attention

by | Oct 10, 2013
By Tracy Nájera

Interest in what has been called non-cognitive student measures has picked up momentum in recent years as more research points to the relationship between a student’s self-perception on a variety of concepts and positive academic outcomes.  Many education researchers have found that these features are increasingly important to a student’s academic performance and impact their future success.  

Hope Matters

On October 1, Gallup hosted its third annual Student Measures Summit in Washington, D.C. Researchers, practitioners, and thought leaders in the education field gathered to share and discuss student measures that matter most, including those non-cognitive measures such as hope, wellness, and resilience.  Shane Lopez, the chief research scientist from Gallup, released a book called Making Hope Happen in which he discusses the importance of hope as a determinant of future success and positive outcomes for children (especially academic outcomes).  

Determination Matters

Angela Ducksworth, a researcher from the University of Pennsylvania, was named a MacArthur Fellow for her work on student “grit” and resilience. As a former teacher, she has brought this concept to the forefront of education research because “grit” is a characteristic that can be taught and learned. Additionally, a recent Education Week blog post by Justin Minkel makes reference to recent research regarding the importance of perseverance, collaboration, and goal-setting in successful academic outcomes of children.  

Why is this important? If students can learn to be resilient, have grit, be hopeful, etc. then we can influence positive behaviors and choices resulting in positive student outcomes. Pretty powerful!

How do we, as educators, use this information to affect change? 

There is no single answer to this question, but we identified a group of dedicated educators interested in researching how the students’ education experience impacted their academic outcomes. The design team is led by Jackie Miller from Georgetown Exempted Village Schools and Kim Davidson from New Miami Local Schools, and was developed to support the goals of the Ohio Teacher Incentive Fund (Ohio TIF).

To start, the team began examining student survey data and the various uses in Ohio TIF school districts. To guide their work they conducted a gap analysis by asking seven questions: 
  1. What does the research say about student surveys and the relationship between student perceptions and positive academic outcomes? 
  2. What districts around the country are using student surveys to encourage teacher/building level activities and behavior through evaluations, compensation, professional development, etc.?
  3. What surveys are currently administered in Ohio TIF districts? 
  4. How are the surveys being used (e.g. to direct professional development investments)?
  5. What concepts/constructs are these surveys measuring?
  6. How accessible are these surveys in terms of cost, technology requirements, scoring, etc.?
  7. How do student perception concepts/constructs that are being measured align with individual, building-level, and district-level goals?  
The team found that districts are using a variety of surveys that measure many different and meaningful student perceptions concepts, including satisfaction, hope, safety, wellness, engagement.  From there they:
  • Shared information about the surveys and asked districts to share their experiences, including how they use the data and the types of strategies they are implementing to positively influence student perceptions.
  • Focused on making the information relevant to teachers, suggesting ways educators can use this information to support goal setting and improve professional growth in the new teacher evaluation system.
  • Examined the teacher observation rubric of the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System with sample questions from various student perception surveys to demonstrate how alignment can be achieved.

Where do you start?

We recommend districts start with the seven questions the Ohio TIF design team used. The information you gain will provide a foundation for next steps and will guide discussions moving forward.

After that? Use the information you received to establish systems, structures, and behaviors to make positive changes for student perception and their educational experience. Some examples from the field include: 
  • In elementary schools, many districts use the “bucket” metaphor to instill positive behaviors among students. 
  • In middle schools where students change classes, there are often homerooms that meet at the beginning of each day.  Teachers in the homerooms are expected to make a personal connection with each child and follow their progress throughout the year.  
  • In high schools, teachers provide encouragement and challenge expectations towards academic, personal, or professional goals beyond earning a diploma. 
What is your district doing to improve your students’ sense of hope, wellness, and resilience?  Comment below.