Exploring MDI Data

Before you begin planning how you will share your data from the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) with a wider audience or explore the data together with stakeholders, an essential first step is that you familiarize yourself with the MDI reports and middle years research context.

Get familiar with the MDI Reports

An important first step to understanding the MDI data summarized in your report is becoming familiar with the MDI survey and all of the dimensions. Learn more about the Five Dimensions of Well-Being, the MDI Well-Being Index, and the MDI Assets Index.

Make space and time

The MDI reports provide a rich source of data on multiple factors reflecting childhood well-being and assets both inside and outside of school. Because the information provided in the MDI reports is substantive, it is recommended that you set aside a block of time to review your MDI reports or review the reports in chunks, such as reviewing one section at a time (for example, Social and Emotional Development or Use of After-School Time).

Take the research into consideration
When you are exploring the MDI data, you may be interested in digging into some of the research on children’s development during the middle years in order to provide context and help you understand what is being measured. Note that the development of the MDI was informed by research in areas such as resiliency, neuroscience, social and emotional learning, and positive psychology. The MDI team has created a number of resources, such as MDI Quicksheets and the MDI Research Brief, to help you contextualize your exploration of MDI data.
Consider your context

MDI data are best understood in context. By taking local contextual factors into consideration, you can gain a better understanding of the factors that may be affecting children in your community. What has been happening in your particular school, across the district, and in the broader community in the last few years? What programs, initiatives, and policy changes have been implemented that may have had an impact on your MDI data? What impact might COVID-19 have had on the results?

Be curious

What data from your MDI reports stand out to you? Is anything surprising? What are the strengths of your children? What challenges do they face? Resist jumping to conclusions, seeking explanations, or moving to action right away: focus first on reviewing the data and noting your observations and curiosities about the results. Remember these data represent children’s perspectives on their lives inside and outside of school and might differ from your perspectives.

“The MDI has taught us that there are multiple factors in a community that influence those strengths or challenges—and not just socio-economic factors—and it is important to take the time to look beyond pre-conceived notions and ask more questions about what might be going on.”

Marna Macmillan, Coquitlam School District, BC

Questions to consider as you explore MDI Data & Reports

MDI School Reports

Are the MDI results for your children in the expected direction? What is surprising? 


What are the areas on which your children are strongest? What are some of the challenges that you see your children are facing? 


If your school is part of a larger school system, how do the MDI results from the children in your school compare with the results from the average of all children in your school system?

MDI School District Reports

If you are examining MDI School District reports from a province or territory that provides a provincial or territorial average, how does your school district’s average compare with the average for all participating school districts?

MDI Community Reports

If you are examining MDI Community Reports, neighbourhood maps and profiles can provide a window into the distribution of children’s MDI assets and well-being across a neighbourhood/community. Some questions you can ask include: 

  • What is the range of scores between neighbourhoods? 
  • How does a particular neighbourhood’s scores compare to the school district average? 
  • In what ways are neighbourhoods similar to one another? 
  • How do neighbourhoods in your community differ from one another? 
  • What are some possible explanations for these similarities and differences? 
MDI Data Over Multiple Years

If you have access to multiple years of your MDI data, you can examine stability and change in children’s well-being and assets over time. For example, you may ask whether there are differences in children’s well-being and assets over the years and engage in dialogue to consider some of the factors that might account for these differences.

Align the MDI with existing goals and plans

Aligning Information from MDI Well-Being and Assets Indices Data

Does your school, school system, or community already have goals that are related to children’s well-being and assets, such as their mental health, social and emotional learning (SEL), physical health and nutrition, and participation in after-school time? MDI data may provide important information to help understand how children are doing in these areas; these data may also help you better understand how your work is helping promote positive development in children.

Align the MDI with Frameworks, Standards, or Competencies

Consider how the MDI might align with any frameworks, standards, or competencies that your school or organization uses. For example, the MDI aligns with the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning’s (CASEL) framework for social and emotional learning (SEL). The MDI also aligns with a number of the British Columbia Ministry of Education’s Core Competencies, and the MDI also aligns with the BC Ministry of Education’s Mental Health in School’s Strategy including Trauma-Informed Practice. Understanding how the MDI aligns with these and other frameworks, standards, and competencies that your school or organization uses, can inform your existing work and help others understand the value of the MDI in relation to their work

The MDI can be a catalyst towards setting new goals

What if your school or organization does not have specific goals that are related to children’s well-being and assets yet? Individuals and groups that approach MDI data with curiosity can help catalyze schools and communities around an area or areas to focus their change making efforts.

Resources that can help you explore

The team at HELP has created two worksheets to help guide you through this initial exploration. The first worksheet, Exploring MDI Data is for anyone working with MDI data, such as staff from community organizations, school and community coalitions, and health authorities. The second worksheet, Reflecting on MDI School Reports is designed specifically for a school-based audience.

Additional Resources to help your exploration of MDI Data