Understanding your Social-Emotional Wellbeing survey data

Tuesday, 25 Jul 2023

The Social-Emotional Wellbeing (SEW) survey is a useful tool for schools to assess their students’ wellbeing to inform interventions, target resourcing and communicate to parents and the school community. Marc Kralj, ACER’s Education Consultant, and Gregory Hazelwood, Surveys Project Director, discussed the survey at length in a recent webinar. The session included a detailed discussion of the surveys, what they cover and how they can be administered, as well as how to read your results and what to do with your valuable data.  

What you need to know

As with all of ACER’s assessments, the SEW survey is underpinned by the Progressive Achievement approach. The survey was originally developed by Professor Michael Bernard whose continuing research alongside ACER has revealed important insights in determining the level of social-emotional wellbeing in young people.

In practice, the SEW survey is a confidential, strength-based survey for students aged 3 to 18 that is administered on an annual or biannual basis to show development over time. It can be administered to all students or be targeted at specific year levels or groups of students. Hosted online, it provides an environment where students feel comfortable answering honestly and enables the generation of instantaneous reporting for teachers.

The surveys

SEW surveys use an ‘ecological’, positive-psychology model of the social and emotional wellbeing of young people. The three surveys catering to the needs of different age groups are summarised in the table below.

Early Years (Prep–Year 1) Primary  (Years 2–6) Secondary  (Years 7–12*)
Completed by teachers Completed by students Completed by students
20 minutes to complete 50 statements 20 minutes to complete 42 statements 30 minutes to complete 76 statements
Four-point Likert scale: strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree Two-point Likert scale: agree, disagree Four-point Likert scale: strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree

Areas reported:

  • Overall SEW
  • Indicators of SEW
  • Emotional skills
  • Social skills
  • Learning skills

Areas reported:

  • Overall SEW
  • Feelings and behaviours
  • Internal strengths

Areas reported:

  • Overall SEW
  • Feelings and behaviours (positive and negative)
  • Internal strengths (social skills, emotional skills, learning skills and values)
  • External strengths (home, school, community)

*The Secondary survey has been used successfully in Years 5 to 6 with students with a higher comprehension level.

Using the results

SEW survey data helps teachers to target resources into specific areas of need and identify the social-emotional needs of student groups.

The data can support taking informed next steps which could include setting stretch targets, developing teachers’ capabilities and using learning resources. Once interventions are applied, their impact can be measured.

'Doing pre- and post- surveys can allow teachers to see the effectiveness of their interventions,’ Mr Hazelwood explained.

These results allow schools to monitor growth of student achievement over time and report on wellbeing to parents and the school community.

Mr Kralj also outlined how teachers can:

  • compare their school against all schools to get a sense of what’s happening generally in the population
  • break the data down into genders to see if trends are evident in the specific groups 
  • look at the number of students responding at a certain point on the Likert scale 
  • track trends across year levels by following the same cohort of students to see if they are emerging over time.

When examining results of the SEW survey, teachers should remember that knowing their students and the context of their school is the most effective way to interpret the data and is critical in determining next steps. Outside of the survey, teachers should be alert to day-to-day observations they’ve made, other product data available to them and conversations they’ve had. 

Mr Kralj supplied a list of fantastic and impactful resources that can be used as tools to provide support to teachers and parents. These resources focus attention on the background of students – First Nations students, EALD students, students with disabilities or special needs, or students from a low socio-economic background – to help identify those who may be at risk and look at the protective factors that can work towards supporting both the teacher and students’ families.

The final takeaway from this webinar was that teacher wellbeing is vital. ‘Self-care is an important component of wellbeing in the workplace, but perhaps more challenging is how schools can implement systemic, long-term change so that the system and the people in it are not constantly trying to operate beyond capacity.’ (Sue Webb, Teachers Cry Too)

Find out more

Learn more about the Social-Emotional Wellbeing survey at acer.org/sew or request a copy of the webinar from school.engagement@acer.org.

Also, find out more about fostering wellbeing at your school with Leading Improvement in School Community Wellbeing by Donna Cross and Leanne Lester.