Four Approaches to Using Wellbeing Data

By Phil Slade


It’s one thing to be able to see the data, it’s a whole other thing to know what to do with it at times. When it comes to student wellbeing data the basic rule I follow is if in doubt, do something, because something is always better than nothing. When in doubt our brain has a natural tendency to hesitate, to think that if you just leave it alone it might go away. This might be true sometimes, but it is rarely a great approach. Sure, there are times when I think I could have done things better, but never have I made things worse by asking a question, offering to help, or just checking in with someone to see if they are ok.

However, if you want to find the best, most effective thing to do, there are four approaches to responding to wellbeing data that I have found work really well. The trick is choosing the best approach for the situation (keeping the basic rule of ‘action is better than inaction’ in mind of course…).


1. The Baseliner. This is an individual approach where you notice patterns that deviate from a child’s normal routine. For example, a child might regularly report a happiness intensity level of 1 (peaceful), but all of a sudden start to register low level negative emotions – this would be worthy of keeping an eye on. Another particular child might generally report happiness intensity levels at a 3 (cheerful) or 4 (sensational), and then dip to a level 1, and this also could be something that you think is worthy of a chat. The point here is that it’s not about extreme emotions, flags, or energy levels, it’s about departure from the norm that is the issue. Usually, this is an individual approach, which leads to a discussion and often a wander through the Switch4Schools app to find a switch that helps bring the student into a better mindset.


2. The Empathiser. This approach looks for the extreme emotions, and then attempts to connect with the student by expressing a lower intensity version of that emotion with them. For instance, if a student is furious at someone else, the teacher would choose to be irritated at the action which is causing the anger to calm things down. If a student is panicking, the teacher will be concerned about the thing that the student is anxious about, to help the student reclaim control over their thoughts. This is all about making the other person feel seen, feel heard, and feel validated. Using the Switch4Schools emotion wheel to help identify what the low level emotions are is a great guide to building empathy. Once you have validated their feelings you are in a much better position to redirect and challenge their thoughts, and channel their energy towards something more helpful.



3. The Ying-yang-er. This is where you use a switch designed for a positive emotional state (happy or excited) to counter the effects of a negative emotional state (anger, anxious, scared or sad) or the other way around. This approach works best when you already have empathy and rapport with the individual. For instance, if you have a student who is feeling hopeless, you might decide to get them to do a Thankfulness or Journaling activity switch which can be found in the catalogue of happy switches. Or, if you have a student who is overwhelmed with anxiety about something, you might try a Trace Breathing or Listen Out switch activity found in the excited switches. This approach can be very useful because it tricks the mind into a different emotional state based on what is occupying its attention.


4. The Collectivist. This is when you step back from the individual data to look at the class as a whole. We know that emotion is contagious, so having 3 or 4 anxious students at the start of the day might be enough reason to do a class activity to help build anxiety buffering capability and make sure the unhelpful energy doesn’t transfer to other students. This is where the lesson plans that are found in the top right corner of each of the switches come in incredibly handy. These don’t have to take long and you can easily print out any worksheets you might need directly from the program. This means you can decide to do something without a lot of planning and it is all laid out, ready to go. Kids are feeling great, it hasn’t taken a lot of energy to do, and the rest of the day is on track! Win-win!


Of course, there are many other approaches when choosing how to respond to your class data, but these are a great start. If you have another approach be sure to let us know and we’ll share it with the Switch4Schools community!