Three factors that drive student success

Three factors that drive student success

A recent Gallup Poll has found that students’ levels of hope can be more indicative of graduation than standardised testing.

The 2016 Australian Student Poll, released during Term 1, measured “non-cognitive metrics” of students from Years 5 to 12 that predicts student success in academic and other youth development settings.
The survey, which involved more than 11,000 Australian students, found:
  • 48% of students were hopeful for the future
  • 59% were engaged with their studies
  • 63% were “thriving” in terms of their well-being
It shows that hope, engagement and well-being are key factors that drive students’ grades, achievement scores, retention and future employment.

Students were asked questions like whether they know they will find a good job when they leave school, or if they can resolve a problem in multiple ways.

Anne Lingafelter, Gallup's Learning Solutions Consultant for Australia and New Zealand, told The Educator that the survey’s findings have significant value to principals because it gives them another metric to consider when thinking about student outcomes in their school.

“These findings are getting an enormous level of interest because they have come out at the same time as the NAPLAN results, at a time when there is a lot of talk about what leads to better academic outcomes,” she said.

“People are realising that there are other factors that need to be considered on top of the traditional metrics. This poll provides a snapshot of where students are in terms of health, well-being and engagement. It gives schools a comparison that is an Australian benchmark and comparison to other countries, which I think is very important.

“This data can be used by principals and teachers for strategic planning, benchmarking, pastoral care programs and leadership development.”

Lingafelter added that there is a shift that is happening in education globally that needs to be recognised. She pointed to the recent release of a paper – called The Real Data Revolution – by her colleague, Brandon Busteed.

Murphy said the paper argues that the “real data revolution” is about the voices of consumers and constituents in higher education and defined by the addition of behavioural economic measures – not just classic economic measures.

“Schools need to focus on the behavioural economic side as well as the classic economic side of schooling, because when you look at the root of the decisions we make, 70% of them are based on emotion while 30% are based on logic,” she said.

“It’s interesting to see that the measures that we’ve had of our outcomes have been so fully based on the classic economic as opposed to the behavioural economic criteria.”

Principal puts theory into practice

Darren Cox, the principal of St Philips Christian College at Cessnock, has been using “strength-based learning” with senior students since 2015.

Cox told The Educator that his school has applied the insights gained to creating more fit-for-purpose study environments, and by matching complimentary student personalities in group work.

“I would definitely encourage other principals to consider taking on board a strengths based approach to education,” he said. 

“Student and staff wellbeing is a vitally important aspect of schooling and one in which most schools are grappling with how to approach, however for us this new approach has been positively received by the entire school community.” 

Cox added that as a result, students now a better understanding of themselves and a new appreciation for their unique skills and talents.

“It has also assisted in eradicating the comparison game so many teenagers make. Staff have been able to interact and engage with students in an intentional and positive manner leading to a more conducive learning environment,” he said.

“We are only fairly new into the implementation of strengths based approach to education and as such do not have data in regards to improved grades, however student retention rate is higher and there has been a noticeable improvement in student engagement.”

Cox said the next part of the school’s journey will continue to embed this new approach into its language and will in time seek to gather data in regards to improved student outcomes and engagement. 

“Students and families have provided the school with positive feedback as to the difference it has made to their engagement which has in turn lead to a feeling of more positive wellbeing,” he said.