Wellbeing is a critical part of our young people’s development. We know from research that student wellbeing affects the ability of students to engage with their learning. And, when students are engaged in their education, they are more likely to experience increased wellbeing in adulthood. Anything we do to help increase our student’s wellbeing will have a flow on effect, not only into their time at school, but their future as well.
Student wellbeing is a tricky concept – it’s multi-dimensional and holistic. Student wellbeing encompasses many different spheres of student life, some of which are outside our influence as school leaders. Nevertheless, there are clear indications that what we do at school can have enormous protective benefits for wellbeing.
Wellbeing within the school walls
Although it has long been accepted that improving wellbeing is an important goal, there is evidence to suggest that there are direct links between improved wellbeing and academic achievement in domains such as mathematics and reading. A recent meta-analysis conducted by Australian researchers showed that school-based wellbeing programs were associated with a one to three month gain in academic proficiency, depending on the subject area. (Dix et al., 2020). Other meta-analyses have found similar positive results on academic achievement (Corcoran, Cheung, Kim & Xie, 2018; Durlak et al., 2011).
The pillars of student wellbeing
Although academic achievement is important, it is only one component of the school experience, and arguably not the only thing we would like students to take away with them when they leave school. Providing students with an understanding of their wellbeing and how their wellbeing is shaped, should be an important part of their schooling. When schools invest in supporting student wellbeing, students reap the rewards. Take, for example, the idea of ‘school belonging’, which has been identified as a crucial dimension or ‘pillar’ of student wellbeing. To belong at school means that student’s feel like they fit in, they feel like school is a safe place for them and that they have positive relationships with teachers and other students.
In our search of the academic literature, we identified that when student sense of belonging is fostered, it can have enormous benefits on other areas of schooling. Across grade levels, students’ feelings of belonging at school are positively associated with their motivation and engagement (Furrer & Skinner, 2003; Gillen‐O’Neel & Fuligni, 2013; Goodenow, 1993a, 1993b). In turn, increased academic engagement is associated with better attendance at school (Anderman, 2003; Goodenow, 1993a, 1993b; Sánchez et al., 2005; Wang & Holcombe, 2010). When we can support students through prompting belonging in the school environment, we are able to directly influence their attendance, their motivation, engagement and prime them to learn well.
How to support student wellbeing in your school
Our work in this area has led us to conclude that the most important and impactful areas of student wellbeing that schools can measure and target are student’s sense of belonging, their level of resilience and their experience of safety within their school environment. Pivot have developed a Wellbeing for Learning tool to help schools to track and measure student wellbeing whilst providing dynamic reporting to school leaders, teachers and wellbeing staff about how their cohorts are doing. The Wellbeing for Learning tool is an evidence-based program, designed to build meta-cognitive skills in students as they learn more about how to support their own wellbeing.
Getting started with monitoring wellbeing in your school
Pivot is launching their beata version of the Wellbeing for Learning tool in Term 3. Register your school now and be an early adopter of this whole-school solution. Pivot is offering the Wellbeing for Learning tool to all schools for FREE till the end of the 2021 school year. For more information go to https://pivotpl.com/wellbeing-for-learning
Anderman, L. H. (2003). Academic and social perceptions as predictors of change in middle school students’ sense of school belonging. The Journal of Experimental Education, 72(1), 5-22.
Corcoran, R. P., Cheung, A. C. K., Kim, E., & Xie, C. (2018). Effective universal school-based social and emotional learning programs for improving academic achievement: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 50 years of research. Educational Research Review, 25, 56-72. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2017.12.001
Dix, K., Ahmed, S. K., Carslake, T., Sniedze-Gregory, S., O’Grady, E., & Trevitt, J. (2020). Student health and wellbeing: A systematic review of intervention research examining effective student wellbeing in schools and their academic outcomes. . Evidence for Learning. https://www.evidenceforlearning.org.au/assets/Uploads/Main-Report-Student-Health-and-Wellbeing-Systematic-Review-FINAL-25-Sep-2020.pdf
Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: a meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405-432. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01564.x
Furrer, C., & Skinner, E. (2003). Sense of relatedness as a factor in children’s academic engagement and performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(1), 148
Gillen‐O’Neel, C., & Fuligni, A. (2013). A longitudinal study of school belonging and academic motivation across high school. Child Development, 84(2), 678-692.
Goodenow, C. (1993a). Classroom belonging among early adolescent students: Relationships to motivation and achievement. The Journal of early adolescence, 13(1), 21-43.
Goodenow, C. (1993b). The psychological sense of school membership among adolescents: Scale development and educational correlates. Psychology in the Schools, 30(1), 79-90.
Sánchez, B., Colón, Y., & Esparza, P. (2005). The role of sense of school belonging and gender in the academic adjustment of Latino adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 34(6), 619-628.
Wang, M.-T., & Holcombe, R. (2010). Adolescents’ perceptions of school environment, engagement, and academic achievement in middle school. American Educational Research Journal, 47(3), 633-662.