INSIGHT - Research Update Volume 9, 2024

8 March 2024

Welcome to another volume in a series of communications that seeks to provide CSA member schools with updates, findings, commentary, and important school-based implications of a diverse range of research and innovation projects and articles of interest relating to Christian schooling.


Student Flourishing in Australian Christian Schools Research Project

Data Collection Phase

The CSA capstone research project entitled:  Student Flourishing in Australian Christian Schools is now completing the first wave of data collection across participating schools.
 
Over 60 CSA member schools across Australia have registered for the project which represents a potential sample size of approximately 24,000 students. The researchers at the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard and Research Schools International are very encouraged by the number of registrations and participants.  Whilst the project team recognise that through consent processes and absences this final sample will be less than these enrolment numbers, they are nevertheless excited and very thankful for what potentially could be one of the largest adolescent samples they have collected.
 
The response rate from students within each participating school during this first round of data collection has been excellent and prior to data cleaning there are over 21,000 completed surveys! I want to personally thank every school principal and coordinator in these participating schools for their commitment to the project and their engagement of so many students in this first round of data collection.

USA Project Team Engagement and collaboration

During January and February 2024, I have been working with the project team and have had a number of face-to-face meetings whilst in the US, including working closely with Dr Christina Hinton, Research Associate at the Human Flourishing Program Harvard and CEO Research Schools International; Catherine Glennon – Director of Research Schools International; and Dr Noah Padgett – statistician and Postdoctoral Fellow with the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard. We have discussed in detail the project research questions, coordination and proposed processes for analysis and specifically how the data is shaped by the Australian context in general, and Australian Christian schools in particular. We have explored the preferred ways to interrogate such large data sets and identify possible findings that seek to move beyond descriptive associations and correlations to stronger evidence of trends and patterns using the longitudinal data. We have also sought to identify how to best  “tell the story” of the evidence through peer review co-authored works and more accessible reports to policy makers, educational leaders and politicians. 

I also met with Dr Tyler VanderWeele, the John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Epidemiology in the Departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Director of the Human Flourishing Program and Co-Director of the Initiative on Health, Religion and Spirituality at Harvard University; and worked with Dr Matthew Lee -  Research Associate and Program Director of the Global Study of Human Flourishing research team and Director of the Program's Flourishing Network. Matt is also Professor of the Social Sciences and Humanities at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University and a Distinguished Visiting Scholar of Health, Flourishing, and Positive Psychology at Stony Brook University’s Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics. Matt is one of the leaders of the Global Flourishing Study, a longitudinal study exploring adult human flourishing across 22 countries and 240,000 participants. You can read more about this exciting project here: https://hfh.fas.harvard.edu/global-flourishing-study

Next Steps

  • As the first wave survey window is now closed, the focus of the project now turns to preliminary data analysis. During March, April and May 2024, the project team will be interrogating the first wave of data and will be identifying trends, patterns and themes from this very large sample. School profiles and points of significance, contrast and difference reading to size of school, locale, demographics and a range of other school data will be incorporated into the survey sample results that will be first aggregated by school, year level and gender.
  • Students in participating schools will complete a second survey at the commencement of Semester 2, 2024 (mid-late July/ August) with the live link Harvard Qualtrics window for Wave 2 closing on August 29. A dedicated and unique student survey ID was generated at the completion of each wave one survey which will be used for the second wave survey that students will complete.   
  • It is important to reiterate that all information gathered from students is anonymous and kept confidential. Only aggregated data will be used in the analysis and reports and only  general patterns from this research will be reported in any future research publications and reports.

 


New Release: CSCP Parent Survey School Reports re-Route!

The 2023 Christian Schools Community Profile: Parent Survey is now completed with reports at a national and school level being compiled and expected to be disseminated to participating schools over the next 2 weeks.
 
A total of 61 participating member schools from across the nation registered for the survey. This second iteration of the Christian Schools Community Profile follows on from the baseline 2021 survey which had an initial research sample of 101 schools and 8500 parents.

For the 2023 survey data collection, 6238 families across the nation completed the survey (22% of invitations sent by schools to their families in 2023 compared to 25% in 2021. These are very consistent and proportionally very high numbers for surveys of this kind according to ORIMA).
 
State by State Breakdown of 2023 survey respondents:
 
NSW/ACT: 1209
VIC/TAS: 2190
QLD: 1769
SA: 636
WA: 434
 
The CSA Christian Schools Community Profile survey assists schools in gaining an understanding of parents’ choice of school, their satisfaction with their children’s learning, and their engagement in the school community.
 
Due to the longitudinal nature of the survey, the new results will enable schools to compare their outcomes with other Christian schools and use the survey results to inform the future direction of the school.
 
A preliminary analysis of the trends and patterns within the 2023 sample reveal that there has been a remarkable consistency and stability of the findings – which according to ORIMA is both extraordinary given the extremely large sample size of both surveys and highly affirming of the validity and trustworthiness of the findings within both the 2023 and 2021 samples.
 
Some specific findings in the 2023 national summary report reveal:

The most important practices in the school their child attends had an expanded range of options in 2023.  This highlighted that over 90% of families perceive learning support, enrichment and wellbeing programs as extremely important or very important for families in Christian schools.  Work/career guidance practices were also much higher in the 2023 sample (89%) than in the 2021 data sets (83%). Student leadership development programs (86%) and academic rigour (84%) were also perceived as extremely important practices in the 2023 sample.

  • The most important practices in the school their child attends had an expanded range of options in 2023.  This highlighted that over 90% of families perceive learning support, enrichment and wellbeing programs as extremely important or very important for families in Christian schools.  Work/career guidance practices were also much higher in the 2023 sample (89%) than in the 2021 data sets (83%). Student leadership development programs (86%) and academic rigour (84%) were also perceived as extremely important practices in the 2023 sample.
  • Across the nation, more families were now meeting with a deputy principal/ head of primary/secondary (53% compared to 46% in 2021) during enrolment interviews.
  • Outcomes parents hoped for their children from attending Christian schools showed an increase in strong character and Christian values (52% in 2023 compared to 46% in 2021) with the 2023 data also revealing that quality academic outcomes (42%), love for God and others (38%)  and love of learning (32%) were also highly rated outcomes. There was also a notable increase in parents hoping for the discovery of a vocation, calling and purpose as an outcome for their children in 2023 (16%) compared to 2021 (9%).
  • There was also a notable increase in families feeling that the connection to their school communities was excellent or good in 2023 (56%) compared to 2021 (51%) although this finding needs to be interpreted in light of the COVID lockdowns which were prevalent in 2021.
  • Families in the 2023 sample rated their experiences of quality teaching (69%) slightly less than in 2021 (74%) as well as the perceived quality of behaviour management (64% in 2023 compared to 70% in 2021).
    There was also a notable increase in the use of communication via school portals (45% in 2023 compared to 32% in 2021) and use of school apps (39% in 2023 compared to 30% in 2021). Email remained the most common and preferred means of communication (84%).
  • The religious and denominational breakdown of Christian school families across the nation remained largely consistent with 2021 data with 79% of all respondents attending a religious service at least infrequently or sporadically in any given year.
  • Outcomes parents hoped for their children from attending Christian schools included: strong character and Christian values (52%) academic outcomes (42%), love for God and others (38%), and love of learning (32%).
  • There was also a notable increase in families feeling that the connection to their school communities was excellent or good in 2023 (56%) up 4% from 2021. There was also a notable increase in the use of communication via school portals (45%) and use of school apps (39%). However, email remained the most common and preferred means of communication for parents (84%). 
  • The religious and denominational breakdown of Christian school families across the nation remained largely consistent with 2021 data, with 79% of all respondents attending a religious service at least infrequently or sporadically in any given year.

Schools who participated in the 2023 survey should receive their own individual school (and where appropriate campus/ group of schools) report in the coming two weeks. A full National Report and range of Infographics will be published in late 2024 to fully capture the CSCP: Parent Survey findings. These documents will be available to all members.

Members can also access the 2023 Christian Schools Community Profile National Report and Summary Infographic for schools by clicking HERE.


National Church Life Survey: Schooling Matters: Perceptions of Christian Church Attenders about Christian Schooling


The National Church Life Survey (NCLS) / CSA sponsored research: Schooling Matters: Perceptions of Christian Church Attenders about Christian Schooling is available and can be accessed by members by clicking on the image below.

The Report was based on the results from the 2021-22 National Church Life Survey across more than 20 denominations, and it provides the most comprehensive picture of church attender attitudes in Australia. These findings further reinforced the significant benefits of faith-based schooling experiences, graduate satisfaction and holistic outcomes for church attenders and the important work of formation and holistic development that are characteristic of these school communities.

All CSA member schools have been sent both electronic and fully published versions of the Report late last year. These reports are also available to members from the CSA website in the Research section: https://www.csa.edu.au/CSA/Our-Services/CSA-Research/Schooling-Matters.aspx  


 


Research Updates from the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard

Better Together: How we can build connected communities | Tyler J VanderWeele.

This research update from the Human Flourishing Program discusses the important effects of social isolation and loneliness on health and well-being, and efforts that might be made to improve social connectedness. 

Social Connection
Humans, Aristotle observed, are political animals. We do not typically live alone, but in community. We receive many of the conditions for our survival as a gift from others: no one chooses his or her mother tongue, or the caregivers who provide nurture and support in infancy and childhood. One result of this profoundly communal way of being is that we long for connection and belonging. We need others. We desire to be loved. Our social connections are part of who we are – they are a part of our flourishing.
 
There are both objective and subjective aspects to social connectedness. On the one hand, there is the set of relationships and communities that we have, the time we spend with and in them, and the objective support that they offer. On the other hand, there is also a subjective sense of connection and belonging, of being loved and cared for, and understood. Both the objective and the subjective sides of social connectedness are important. Both are a part of, and shape, our health and well-being.
 
Read more by clicking the button below.


Making the Religion-Health Research Foundation Even Stronger  | Tyler VanderWeele. 

The latest article by Tyler VanderWeele is available now on the Psychology Today website.

Religion and Health Key Points

Over the last decade, research on religion and health has become increasingly rigorous;
Religious participation benefits longevity, social connection, well-being, and purpose;
Religious participation lessens depression, substance use, and suicide;
Religion is a powerful social determinant of health and well-being.
  
We essentially all long for that which is of ultimate significance, that which can imbue meaning, and that which gives us a sense of connectedness. Many long for what is transcendent, or for a truth, beauty, and goodness that extends beyond everyday experience. In such longings, we effectively have an at least implicit spirituality as we seek what transcends beyond ordinary life. That longing for the transcendent has found various forms of communal expression as well, within the various world religions. Systems of beliefs and practices unite people together in a community with a shared vision for the experience of, or union with, the divine or transcendent. And that effectively is what constitutes religion.

Decades of prior research has indicated that such religious participation is also associated with a wide range of temporal health and well-being outcomes. 
 
Read more by clicking the button below.


  This content was drawn from the Insight Update published by Dr Darren Iselin on March 8, 2024.

 


Catch up on our latest blog posts and articles:

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