Student Subjective Wellbeing Questionnaire


  1. Overview of the SSWQ
  2. Using the SSWQ
  3. Download the SSWQ
  4. Scoring the SSWQ
  5. Interpreting the SSWQ
  6. Licensing
  7. Support
  8. References

Overview of the SSWQ

The Student Subjective Wellbeing Questionnaire (SSWQ) is a free, brief, evidence-based rating scale for measuring youths' wellbeing at school. It taps into five aspects of student subjective wellbeing that are centered around positive emotions, positive relationships, positive values or meaning, and positive performance:

  • Joy of Learning (JL) refers to experiencing positive emotions and cognitions while engaged in learning tasks.
  • School Connectedness (SC) refers to relating well to and feeling cared for by others at school (both peers and adults).
  • Educational Purpose (EP) refers to valuing school and academic tasks as important and meaningful.
  • Academic Efficacy (AE) refers to evaluating academic behaviors as effectively meeting school demands.
  • Student Wellbeing (SW) is a composite of JL, SC, EP, and AE and refers to youths' overall perception of their wellbeing at school.

Here are other important things to know about the SSWQ:

  • Informant: self-report
  • Total items: 16
  • Age/grade range: 11–18 years/grades 6–12
  • Item readability: 3rd–4th grade reading level
  • Scales: 4 subscales, 1 total scale
  • Completion time: 3 minutes
  • Administration: paper-and-pencil or online
  • Scoring: manual or calculator
  • Cost ($): FREE

Using the SSWQ

The SSWQ is intended for use in school mental health research and practice. Here are some ways people have used the SSWQ across different levels in schools:

  • Tier 1/universal level. Schoolwide wellbeing screener to compliment mental health problems screeners; outcome monitor for evaluating schoolwide social-emotional learning or wellbeing promotion programming.
  • Tier 2/targeted level. Wellbeing progress monitor to compliment problem-oriented progress monitoring tools.
  • Tier 3/intensive level. Wellbeing progress monitor (same as Tier 2); strengths-based measure for informing comprehensive psychoeducational assessments.

Download the SSWQ

You can download a free PDF version of the SSWQ via the Open Science Framework. If the link is not working, send me an email to request a copy of the SSWQ. Or try clicking this button instead:

Scoring the SSWQ

SSWQ scale scores are produced by simple sum scoring:

  • JL subscale = items 1 + 5 + 9 + 13
  • SC subscale = items 2 + 6 + 10 + 14
  • EP subscale = items 3 + 7 + 11 + 15
  • AE subscale = items 4 + 8 + 12 + 16
  • SW total scale = sum all 16 items

Average-item scores for each scale can be produced by dividing the scale score by the number of items in the scale:

  • Subscale example. If the JL scale score = 8, then the average-item score is calculated like this: 8 (scale core)/4 (# items in scale) = 2.
  • Total scale example. If the SW total score = 50, then the average-item score is calculated like this: 50 (scale score)/16 (# items in scale) = 3.13.

Interpreting the SSWQ

Higher SSWQ scale scores are interpreted as indicating greater levels of student subjective wellbeing. More specifically, higher scores suggest students experience wellbeing at school with greater frequency.

There are two methods for interpreting SSWQ scale scores: (1) response-referenced interpretations and (2) norm-referenced interpretations. You can choose one or the other, or both.

Response-Referenced Interpretations

Response-referenced interpretations take the average-item score and map it onto the closest anchor from the 4-point response scale. For average-item scores with decimals .50 or greater, round up to the response anchor associated with the next highest whole number; round down if the decimal is .49 or lesser.

Here's an interpretation guide for mapping average-item score ranges onto their respective item response anchors:

  • 1.0–1.49 = almost never
  • 1.5–2.49 = sometimes
  • 2.5–3.49 = often
  • 3.5–4.0 = almost always

Going from average-item scores to simple sum scores, here is an interpretation guide for the JL, SC, EP, and AE subscale scores:

  • 4–5 = almost never
  • 6–9 = sometimes
  • 10–13 = often
  • 14–16 = almost always

And summing all of the subscale scores, here's an intepretation guide for the SW total score:

  • 16–23 = almost never
  • 24–39 = sometimes
  • 40–55 = often
  • 56–64 = almost always

Following are some examples to illustrate the response-referenced interpretation method, showing how higher scale scores are interpreted as experiencing wellbeing with greater frequency at school.

  • Subscale example. If the SC scale score = 12, then the average-item score = 3. The interpretation of the response anchor "3" is that, on average, the student often experiences school connectedness.
  • Total scale example. If the SW total score = 29, then the average-item score = 1.81. Given the decimal is greater than .49, we round up to the item response anchor associated with "2," which is sometimes. The interpretation is that, on average, the student sometimes experiences wellbeing at school.
  • Comparison example. Imagine we have two students with different AE scores. Student 1 has an AE sum score = 5; Student 2 has an AE sum score = 14. The interpretation is that, on average, Student 1 experience academic efficacy almost never whereas Student 2 experiences academic efficacy almost always. Depending on the assessment purpose and context, this might suggest a practically meaningful difference between Student 1 and Student 2's academic efficacy.
  • Multiple time points example. Imagine we have two SW total scores for a student from two different time points. At Time 1, the SW total sum score = 36; at Time 2, the SW total sum score = 45. The interpretation is that, on average, the student reported sometimes experiencing wellbeing at Time 1 whereas often experiencing wellbeing at Time 2. Depending on the assessment purpose and context, this might suggest improvement in student wellbeing over time.

Norm-Referenced Interpretations

Norm-referenced interpretations take the scale score and transform it to show how it relates with scores from other students within a comparison sample. More specifically, these scores are understood in terms of how they relate to the average score from the comparison sample: scores can be below average, in the average range, above average, and so on.

Comparison or "norming" samples can be collected at different levels: global, national, regional, and local. We don't currently offer norm-referenced interpretations for SSWQ scale scores at any of these levels.

Instead, we recommend SSWQ users create their own local norms, at either the building or district or regional level. Researchers can also create their own norms at whatever comparison level is important to them. We believe this approach allows for norm-referenced interpretations of SSWQ scores that are more meaningful and insightful for understanding student wellbeing in context.


The SSWQ is a "free cultural work" licensed under the Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0). There is no need to obtain permission prior to using or sharing. Please just cite appropriately when you do. And if you adapt any of the SSWQ materials, please note your changes. However, if you need a permission letter, below is one you can download.


Got questions about the SSWQ? Send me an email and I'll reply when I can.

Looking for other free resources for supporting school mental health work? Check out my "Resources & Tools" page on this website.


Here are key references to cite when using the SSWQ in research or practice. The first reference is to the SSWQ's original development and validation study. The second reference is to the current version of the SSWQ you can download from the Open Science Framework.

  1. Renshaw, T. L., Long, A. C. J., & Cook, C. R. (2015). Assessing adolescents’ positive psychological functioning at school: Development and validation of the Student Subjective Wellbeing Questionnaire. School Psychology Quarterly, 30(4), 534–552.
  2. Renshaw, T. L. (2024). Student Subjective Wellbeing Questionnaire (SSWQ). Publicly available measure.