The Scottish Office is currently funding a project at Dundee University on promoting social competence which aims to help schools foster "emotional intelligence" and self-esteem among pupils.
Mr Wilson was speaking at a conference run jointly by the Audit Unit and St Andrew's Secondary in Glasgow, one of the Government's favourite schools which has made dramatic improvements under the headship of Bruce Malone.
The minister embraced a theme that was at the heart of Michael Forsyth's thinking during his tenure at the Scottish Office. "Raising expectations of pupils, teachers and parents is central to the pursuit of excellence in our schools. Helping young people set high standards for themselves and for their schools increases both individual intelligence and the corporate intelligence of the effective school. There is a coming together of staff and pupils, a common understanding and a shared vision, or what the emotional intelligence researchers call the beginning of flow.
"This flow, this sense of belonging, is almost unstoppable in schools with a resilient culture of high expectations."
Mr Wilson said schools do not improve simply by more effective management or more inspired teaching. "Improving schools are schools which listen to young people. They make opportunities for young people to contribute ideas, to take initiatives, to surpass the expectations of their teachers, to surprise themselves into achievement. Improving schools make things happen for young people."
All 10 secondaries in Glasgow's east end are taking part in activities to mark Scottish Mental Health Week, which starts on Monday.