The Student Motivation Questionnaire


The Student Motivation Questionnaire – the SMQ

Introduction: Measuring Students’ Emotional Wellbeing

The SMQ identifies which students need support, to what degree and how quickly. Student happiness can increase with intervention at the appropriate moment with the right referral to a counsellor or to another member of the pastoral team for motivational support or tutoring. There is a proven correlation in a student’s emotional wellbeing with a motivated student who achieves more academically at school.

The Philosophy and Thinking behind the SMQ

The SMQ philosophy is very simple – “happy students are more motivated and achieve more”. As “Happiness” is sociologically less than precise and difficult to singularly define, we talk about it as “emotional wellbeing”.

The SMQ bases its measurement of emotional wellbeing on the levels of satisfaction and frustration in a student’s life. The level of balance between the two enables the questionnaire accurately to pinpoint the sources of difficulty for a student so that appropriate support can be given. Additional, deeper questions add to the understanding of the mental/emotional health of a student and clearly denote whether it is at school and/or life in general outside school, where major difficulties arise. The results also point to the type of support suitable for each student. Very unhappy students usually need professional counselling before they can be encouraged to work harder, whereas moderately happy students can be given more motivational support or coaching, and happy students can be pushed to do better.

The Simplicity of SMQ

Students complete the online questionnaire themselves.  When completed, the SMQ algorithm quickly and dynamically analyses the data and generates reports. There is no complicated analytical work to do by staff. The reports are self-explanatory and can be shared with colleagues and relevant professionals. We strongly recommend re-administering the SMQ after a period of time, when it will show either an improvement or decline in the student’s emotional wellbeing so you can see whether your support work is working.

The Reports are easy to understand

The SMQ provides two kinds of report, ‘Individual’ and ‘Group’, which can be used in a number of ways.

  • The Individual Report provides an analysis of each student under a number of themes
  • The Group Report allocates groups of students (within their Tutor Group/Home Room) into bands of emotional wellbeing, clearly identifying those most in need of support.

Both types of Report give answers in numerical form under a variety of different themes and are also colour coded in green, amber and red, quickly indicating the urgency of need. The individual Report also gives brief written summaries of the themes for each student.

The following pages describe the types of SMQ Reports giving examples and analyses. They also indicate appropriate actions, depending on the questionnaire results, which are also indicated.

Individual Reports

Sample of Individual Report – Example 1

Results of SMQ test for The Best College
Individual Student Report

Name: A N Other (a real student)

Overall Summary 69% Might be OK, but likely some issues needing attention

Satisfaction Total 72% Above average satisfaction, outwardly at least, school life should be fine
Frustration Total 35% Might be OK, but likely some issues needing attention
Coping Ability 67% Critical
“Good Day” 76% Probably Fine
“Bad Day” 60% Critical
Total Uncertainty 30% Indefinite about a number of issues/feelings. Maybe a need for clarity
School Outlook 80% Happy, fulfilled and resourceful
Life Outlook 75% Happy, fulfilled and resourceful
Life – School 5% General accord – with School Outlook somewhat more positive than Life
Self Motivation 90% High Motivation
Self Esteem 71% Healthy
Integration – School 75% Integrated
Integration – Peers 50% Questionable
Support 80% Supported
Self Control 50% Questionable
Stress Concerns 63% Distressed
Anxiety 41% Some
Implosion 50% Far from OK
Explosion 50% Far from OK


Good Bad Inflexible
School better than life matched Life better than school

The main use of the Individual Reports

The main use of the Individual Report is as a major aid to Form/Home Room Tutors and the School Counsellor.

As seen in Example 1 above, there are a number of themes scored with percentages and highlighted with the green/amber/red colour scale.

Analysing the Example 1 above (taken from a ‘real’ student) shows a person who gets by most of the time (see Overall Summary in chart) with a significant difference between good and bad days (Coping Ability).  On the plus side, motivation for school work is at least satisfactory (Self Motivation) and the student feels reasonably well supported.   However, there appear to be unresolved issues that cause considerable stress (Stress Concerns) which show themselves in behavioural problems, both internal and external (Implosion and Explosion).  This student integrates well with peers but much less well with school (Integration/Peers/School).   These problems need addressing, as without some intervention the situation is likely to worsen.   The Report shows a good level of self esteem (Self Esteem) and a flexible approach to life (Total Uncertainty).   This student responded well to sensitive help and support.

These Reports are invaluable for deciding the right support programme for students, – who you can push and who needs more careful support/counselling.   In the latter case where problems are indicated, as it is the student who has, in effect, made the analysis, they will recognise the feedback and be amenable to talking about it and finding a way forward.

If used carefully alongside academic achievement data the SMQ can also help identify ‘the hidden middle’ – those students who do ‘alright’ and keep their heads down so get less attention than either the gifted and talented or the obvious under-achievers. Specific learning programmes can be devised to enable the ‘hidden middle’ to do much better than ‘alright’.

The next section, Group Reports, details some specific actions suitable for different categories of students.

Group Reports

The Group Report groups students by levels of happiness/emotional wellbeing. Again, graded by percentages and the green/amber/red colour scale, this Report enables simple identification and urgency of the support suitable to students in the various groupings thus making targeted responses much easier.

Possible actions indicated by the Group Report

1.     Refer for Counselling

Typically, the SMQ will identify a significant number of students (red on the Group Report) who could benefit from counselling. These should be referred to the School Counsellor where there is one, or an external counsellor.

2.     Refer for additional pastoral support

Usually the majority of students (amber on the Group Report) will not be referred for counselling, but typically there will be a number who might benefit from extra care and attention from the Form/Home Room Teacher or perhaps the Head of Year. It is suggested that those staff offer ‘little chats’ from time to time, (asking open ended questions, showing interest) because these are the sort of things that will help this group of students feel more confident and perhaps ready to work a bit harder.

3.     Refer for Motivational Coaching

There is normally a group of students (green on the Group Report) who are emotionally stable with no requirement for the kind of further support described above. However, some may not be working as hard as they could and are certainly strong enough to be pushed or, even better, ‘listened to’ about their work and helped to find a plan of their own choosing on how they might work harder, rather than simply being ‘told’. This way is much more motivating and thus likely to bear more fruit.

Sample of Group Report – Example 2

Results of SMQ test for XYZ School, 2015, #1

TUTOR: Susan Smith

Janet R 88
David A 82
Cem M 80
Claire F 78
Marcel S 76
Amir W 86
Ayomide D 71
David H 71
Clare P 70
Penny F 69
Nina H 65
Jamal L 63
Joao G 58
Kadir O 57
Susan F 57
Henry A 52
Elektra S 47
Kevin P 46
Claudia Y 38