Concordia Shanghai High School’s wellbeing and happiness engineering (WHE) program is a year-long, data-driven program that looks at how students experience their daily lives. As a school we use this information to help remove roadblocks to student growth, and more effectively connect students to the amazing developmental opportunities available at Concordia.
Gaining a better understanding the high school experience for students
Concordia counselors were moved to create the WHE program after noting how students at Stanford University were graphing their experiences in their courses over time and using that info to better understand themselves and how they responded to the highs and lows of the school year.
To help them better understand the high school experience of their students, Concordia counselors looked to the “Happiness Engineers” concept previously developed by Wordpress Inc., which was designed to build trusting relationships with customers over time, understand who they are and what they are trying to accomplish, and guide them to better reach their goals.
This concept inspired our counselors to set up systems that allows us to deeply understand our students’ experience over time and helps the school be intentional about how each student is developing in every major area of his or her life.
Utilizing a program called Tableau, which is widely used in business informatics and analytics, the counselors were able to create interactive visualizations that lead us to the information that best predicts student growth and success.
Using data to help students find success
Concordia Shanghai has always used academic achievement data to inform teaching and learning practices. However, research done by Gallup/Purdue and many others has shown that non-academic factors are also strong predictors of college success and lifetime happiness.
By regularly looking at the whole student, high school counselors can better understand our students, more effectively guide their development, and truly prepare them for success and happiness in life.
Each week, we ask all of our students to tell us about their school relationships, their levels of happiness, sleep, energy, motivation, and stress. We also ask if they have any specific issues they would like to address with their counselor.
Once each semester we also ask students about the amount of homework they have for each class, focus during homework time, commute time, and teachers who they feel really care about them.
Student feedback data helps counselors and faculty better understand their students' needs
Understanding how students experience high school helps us to better optimize the learning environment. For example, we used to have a deadline for college applications that put a lot of pressure on our seniors. The first year we started collecting data, we noticed just how bad it was. We’ve changed that policy and for the past two years, college application deadlines are more spread out and result in less overall stress and better performance for students.
The importance of having a deeper understanding
Research shows that students do their best when they feel happy, rested, alert and motivated, are able to manage stress, and feel connected to people in their community.
Our administrators, counselors, and teachers think about these things every day and work to give students the chance to maximize these aspects of their lives. We’ve witnessed the social and emotional health of our students improve over time.
As a result, when students apply to college, they are more in touch with how they maintain wellness, use their character strengths, and best contribute to their community.