Emoticons Help Gauge School Happiness Levels in Young Children

Summary: A new questionnaire that uses emoticon-like facial expressions could help teachers to communicate complex emotions with young children.

Source: University of Exeter.

A simple new questionnaire based on emoticon-style facial expressions could help teachers and others who work with children as young as four to engage them on their happiness and wellbeing levels in the classroom.

The How I Feel About My School questionnaire, designed by experts at the University of Exeter Medical School, is available to download for free. It uses emoticon-style faces with options of happy, ok or sad. It asks children to rate how they feel in seven situations including on the way to school, in the classroom and in the playground. It is designed to help teachers and others to communicate with very young children on complex emotions.

The project was supported by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula ( NIHR PenCLAHRC).

Professor Tamsin Ford, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Exeter Medical School, led the design, involving children to give feedback on which style of questionnaire they could relate to best. She said: “When we’re carrying out research in schools, it can be really hard to meaningfully assess how very young children are feeling. We couldn’t find anything that could provide what we needed, so we decided to create something.”

Image shows a happy face, a sad face and a neurtral face.

Face scale of the HIFAMS questionnaire is shown. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to How I Feel About My School (HIFAMS) questionnaire.

The questionnaire is now the subject of a paper in Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry. It finds that parents and teachers consistently score children’s happiness levels slightly higher than children score their own. The team consulted children to find a format that they could relate to and engage with. Once completed, the questionnaire has an easy scoring system, out of 14. An average score is around 11 or 12, with children who are encountering particular difficulties at school scoring lower. Those experiencing suspension or expulsion from school, for example, typically scored around eight or lower.

The need arose from the Supporting Teachers and Children in Schools study, led by Professor Ford, which is analysing whether a course designed to improve teachers’ classroom management skills is effective. Professor Ford said: “We needed a simple way for children of all ages to tell us how they are feeling in relation to different areas of schooling. Our new resource makes that possible. More than 2,000 children in Devon have now completed the questionnaire. It has proved a very useful tool, and I hope schools will take advantage of this free resource to open up conversations with children in talking about their feelings and to give them a voice, particularly around key decisions that may affect them.”

About this psychology research article

To find our more and to download the questionnaire, visit the Medical School website.

Source: Louise Vennells – University of Exeter
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to How I Feel About My School (HIFAMS) questionnaire.
Original Research: Full open access research for “‘How I Feel About My School’: The construction and validation of a measure of wellbeing at school for primary school children” by Kate Allen, Ruth Marlow, Vanessa Edwards, Claire Parker, Lauren Rodgers, Obioha C Ukoumunne, Edward Chan Seem, Rachel Hayes, Anna Price, and Tamsin Ford in Neurology. Published online January 30 2017 doi:10.1177/1359104516687612

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
University of Exeter “Emoticons Help Gauge School Happiness Levels in Young Children.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 4 February 2017.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/emoticons-happiness-children-6059/>.
University of Exeter (2017, February 4). Emoticons Help Gauge School Happiness Levels in Young Children. NeuroscienceNew. Retrieved February 4, 2017 from http://neurosciencenews.com/emoticons-happiness-children-6059/
University of Exeter “Emoticons Help Gauge School Happiness Levels in Young Children.” http://neurosciencenews.com/emoticons-happiness-children-6059/ (accessed February 4, 2017).

Abstract

‘How I Feel About My School’: The construction and validation of a measure of wellbeing at school for primary school children

There is a growing focus on child wellbeing and happiness in schools, but we lack self-report measures for very young children. Three samples (N = 2345) were combined to assess the psychometric properties of the How I Feel About My School (HIFAMS) questionnaire, which was designed for children aged 4–8 years. Test–retest reliability was moderate (intraclass correlation coefficient = .62). HIFAMS assessed a single concept and had moderate internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha values from .62 to .67). There were low correlations between scores on the child-reported HIFAMS and parent and teacher reports. Children at risk of exclusion had significantly lower HIFAMS scores than the community sample (mean difference = 2.4; 95% confidence interval (CI) = [1.6, 3.2]; p < .001). Schools contributed only 4.5% of the variability in HIFAMS score, the remaining 95.5% reflecting pupil differences within schools. Girls’ scores were 0.37 units (95% CI = [0.16, 0.57]; p < .001) higher than boys, while year group and deprivation did not predict HIFAMS score. HIFAMS is a promising measure that demonstrates moderate reliability and discriminates between groups even among very young children.

“‘How I Feel About My School’: The construction and validation of a measure of wellbeing at school for primary school children” by Kate Allen, Ruth Marlow, Vanessa Edwards, Claire Parker, Lauren Rodgers, Obioha C Ukoumunne, Edward Chan Seem, Rachel Hayes, Anna Price, and Tamsin Ford in Neurology. Published online January 30 2017 doi:10.1177/1359104516687612

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