Emoticons Can Help Kids Talk About Feelings in Classroom

U.K. researchers have developed a simple new questionnaire to help teachers and others who work with children assess happiness and well-being in the classroom.

The How I Feel About My School questionnaire, designed by experts at the University of Exeter Medical School, 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 children as young as age four on complex emotions.

Professor Tamsin Ford led the design team. Researchers asked children to give feedback on which style of questionnaire they could relate to best.

Said Ford, “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.”

The questionnaire is now the subject of a paper in the journal 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 fromĀ a study in which Ford and her team of researchers were tasked with determining whether a course designed to improve teachers’ classroom management skills is effective.

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.”

Source: University of Exeter