June 8, 2022

Student Intelligence: The key to understanding and empowering your students

The better you understand your students, the more you can equip them with the tools they need to be happy, healthy, and successful.

These days, students’ lives are happening online, disconnected and away from the eyes of educators and their families, so understanding your students and knowing what a student needs to succeed can be challenging. 

The key to creating impactful learning environments lies in truly understanding your students’ well-being and social experiences, both online and offline. However, educators often hit three major roadblocks when trying to connect with their students.

Roadblock 1: Nationwide shortage of school counselors 
As the number of students struggling with anxiety and depression is rising, counselors are struggling to keep up. The National Association of School Psychologists’ recommends a ratio of 1 school counselor for every 500 students. However, in 2020, only 8 percent of districts nationwide met that ratio. Moreover, nearly 40 percent of all school districts did not have a school psychologist. While many schools rely on counselors to best understand students’ unique needs and challenges, it’s increasingly difficult to do that school-wide. 

Roadblock 2: Schools rely on one-off conversations
Too often, school leaders are reacting to student needs around well-being and decision-making too late because they aren’t effectively informed about their community as a whole. They rely on one-off conversations that may not be truly reflective of what the larger community is experiencing. Or, they try to keep a pulse on the students through their conversations with teachers, who are unequipped to identify data-driven, community-wide trends. 

Roadblock 3: Survey fatigue is higher than ever 
Throughout the pandemic, many schools have turned to data-gathering through surveys as a powerful way to keep a pulse on students, parents, and/or educators. However, many survey tools give schools so much information and not enough insights, and educators find themselves drowning in the data. With all this data they can’t make sense of, it’s difficult for schools to make meaningful, impactful decisions that immediately benefit students.

So, how do schools overcome these challenges?

Schools across the country are developing a new intelligence where the entire school community fully understands their students. This includes everyone from teachers to administrators to counselors understanding student experiences, the current events and trends impacting their lives, and their behaviors, both online and offline. At The Social Institute, we call this level of understanding: Student Intelligence. And yes, it ranks right up there with the importance of EQ and IQ. 

With Student Intelligence, you can navigate roadblocks, build stronger relationships with students, and enhance school culture. 

What is Student Intelligence?

Student Intelligence is the ability to understand students, relate to them, and address the trends and topics that most influence their lives. 

It means proactively talking with your students about popular trends and encouraging them to take the high road. Like the educators who flipped the script and encouraged students to participate in “Angelic Licks” as a response to the “Devious Licks” challenge that went viral on TikTok. Instead of only lecturing about not performing “devious licks’, educators brainstormed with students about how they can gather donations of hand soap and toilet paper for schools in need.

Student intelligence means respecting students and getting on their level. Sarah Morales, a guidance counselor at McDougle Middle School in Chapel Hill, NC is an excellent role model for this. When her students became obsessed with TikTok, she asked them to coach her on it. Then, when the COVID-19 Pandemic hit and the school went virtual, she could still connect with her students by taking part in the fun challenges, like performing the “Renegade” dance or launching the “Fridge Challenge.”

Student Intelligence is focusing on the whole student, beyond just academics. The Pegasus School in Huntington Beach, CA, believes that “It’s not enough to be smart,” and in 2017, the school unveiled a new strategic plan that enhanced student well-being education with an emphasis on student service, leadership, and non-cognitive skills.

Student Intelligence is recognizing that students will sometimes know more than you when it comes to social media and technology – and leaning into that. St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in Orange County, CA recently launched a “Digital Mentor” Program led by upper school peer counselors. This gives students the opportunity to teach younger students something they are passionate about and that teachers might not be as comfortable with.

As you look to empower your school community, consider your level of Student Intelligence. What are your students looking forward to? How are they feeling emotionally? What is a challenge they face regularly that they need help overcoming? And what do these insights look like across the entire study community?  

By cultivating strong Student Intelligence, schools can identify trends among their students and make meaningful decisions that enhance school culture and support the health, happiness, and future success of their students. 

Here at The Social Institute, we incorporate Student Intelligence and student voice into everything we do. Student voice is more important than ever for educators and administrators, and we’re thrilled to elevate student voice at schools across the nation. Contact us today to learn how we can help you grow your Student Intelligence and fuel your students’ health, happiness, and future success.


The Social Institute (TSI) is the leader in understanding student experiences and creator of #WinAtSocial, a gamified, online learning platform that equips students, educators, and families to navigate social experiences — online and offline — in healthy ways. Our unique, student-respected approach incorporates topics like social media, technology use, and current events that have a significant impact on student well-being.  Lessons teach life skills for the modern day to inspire high-character decisions that support the health, happiness, and future success of students. For schools, our turnkey technology allows for easy implementation and a comprehensive game plan to support the well-being of school communities.