Student wellbeing in secondary schools: an exploration of opportunities and challenges in the greater Ōtautahi Christchurch region. (2021)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree NameMaster of Science
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
There is a growing movement, both nationally and internationally, to support the integration of wellbeing and related concepts into the core work of educational institutions, both at the primary and secondary levels. In Aotearoa, New Zealand, the government has made wellbeing a key policy focus (New Zealand Treasury, 2019), and the Education Review Office (ERO, 2013, 2015a, 2015b, 2016a, 2016b) has published a series of reports designed to help inspire and assist schools in developing and implementing school-wide wellbeing initiatives. Although many educators recognize the potential value of wellbeing provisions for both students and staff (Hoare, Bott, & Robinson, 2017; Shoshani, Steinmets, & Kanat- Maymon, 2016), there is very little research that has examined the practical implications of implementing wellbeing-related initiatives. Given the tremendous variety of wellbeing- related approaches (e.g., Social-Emotional Learning, Positive Psychology, Positive Education, Positive Youth Development), how do schools go about this process? To address this lacuna, the present study explored the development and implementation of wellbeing strategies in secondary schools in the greater Ōtautahi Christchurch region. This geographic region has faced substantial natural disasters and human tragedies over the last 12 years.
Twelve participants representing key wellbeing staff from eleven secondary schools were interviewed about the theoretical underpinning and composition of their school’s wellbeing strategy and their experiences with implementation, including cultural sensitivity, effectiveness, and challenges. Although there was evidence of individual differences in participants’ perceptions of how school-based wellbeing strategies facilitated student wellbeing, the results identified several commonalities in theoretical underpinning, strategy composition, cultural responsiveness, necessary follow-up support, and perceptions of effectiveness. The findings show that the schools represented in this study have attempted to facilitate several immediate and long-term positive wellbeing outcomes using a whole-school approach, providing opportunities for life skill development, creating opportunities for youth empowerment and self-determination, promoting positive student-teacher relationships, and partnering with whānau and the wider community. These findings are discussed in light of recent national and international research, which calls for research-informed, ecological, and culturally responsive implementation strategies in school contexts to support the wellbeing of all young people. Further, this research highlights opportunities for future research in this area to explore the effectiveness of specific strategy components and barriers to development and implementation across participant populations (e.g., school leaders, teachers, students).
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