26 September 2023

Students find well-being the key to results

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Students’ NAPLAN results are linked to far more than their time spent on homework, according to new research from the Australian National University (ANU) and Gradient Institute.

Study Author and Researcher at ANU’s College of Health & Medicine, Diana Cardenas said the study, Youth well-being predicts later academic success, found subjective well-being had a significant impact on academic performance.

Dr Cardenas said that, in a study of 3,400 students, her team found self-reported levels of depression had a large, negative effect on students’ NAPLAN results months later.

“This research has a far more wide-reaching effect than just NAPLAN tests, it shapes the way education professionals should approach teaching as a whole,” she said.

“Our findings show that teaching for test scores isn’t enough.

“There is great benefit when schools care about the head and the heart of their students.”

Dr Cardenas said subjective well-being, how a person perceived their emotions and experiences, was an under-explored area in education.

She said previous studies had focused on depression and anxiety from a medical viewpoint and excluded the experience of the vast majority of students who may experience low well-being, but lacked a professional diagnosis.

“Quantifying these relationships taking many other factors into account has been a major challenge for researchers, but now there is clear evidence,” she said.

“The research found that students who self-report lower well-being perform worse academically.”

The Researcher said she and her team aimed to use the research to shape the education system in Australia.

“Better understanding the relationship between well-being and learning performance will help prioritise resources and new innovations to ensure the best outcomes for children and youth and ultimately Australia’s future success,” Dr Cardenas said.

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