Student wellbeing is front of mind for any teacher.
With schools around the world facing uncertainty and changing learning environments, it can be hard to know how to best support students.
Despite this, teachers must continue to create learning environments that promote student wellbeing, safety and positive relationships so that students can reach their full potential.
Below are 3 steps to improve student wellbeing, with practical examples of how these may be applied in your classroom and links to helpful resources.
- Support an inclusive and connected classroom culture
- Empower authentic student participation
- Provide visible leadership to inspire positive school communities
1. Support an inclusive and connected classroom culture
Encourage all students to be active participants in building a culture that values diversity and fosters positive, respectful relationships.
Recognise the contribution of students, staff and families
Celebrating academic achievements and contributions towards classroom culture not only encourages continuing positive behaviours, but can present opportunities for shared happy moments.
Even if your school community is apart, you can still find ways to celebrate at a distance.
Have high expectations of all your students.
Research shows that students respond better when they feel that their teacher has faith in their abilities and is not focusing on their inabilities.
It is more helpful to ask, ‘How can I teach these students this content?’ rather than “Can I teach them?’
and ‘How will they learn best?’ rather than ‘Can they learn?’
Setting high expectations for students can be achieved by:
- Conveying confidence in your students
- Giving opportunities to contribute
- Providing specific feedback
- Providing high levels of support
- Setting the right tasks difficulty level
Read more about these approaches here.
Create an environment which is personalised to students’ needs
This can be done through Individual Learning Plans (ILPs), and short and long term goal setting by the learner so that they feel they have ownership of their learning. If you provide students with opportunities to tell you what is working and what needs attention, you will have a better idea of what to focus on.
Free tools like Ziplet let you check in with students on a regular basis in a way that feels safer for the student to give authentic answers.
2. Empower authentic student participation
Students should be active participants in their own learning and wellbeing, feel connected and use their social and emotional skills to be respectful, resilient and safe.
Include students in decision making
Provide opportunities for authentic student decision-making over matters that affect them.
Asking students for feedback about their learning or the classroom environment can provide better insight into the impact of any changes and give students a sense of ownership in the decision being made about their education.
The recommended questions in Ziplet provide a good starting point if you’re unsure what to ask. The following examples are taken from the Learning Environment and Wellbeing set:
- Do you feel safe and comfortable in your learning environment?
- Do you feel comfortable voicing your opinion in this subject?
- Do you feel supported by the other students in this subject?
Login to your Ziplet account to view the full library and try them out yourself.
Use strength-based approaches to teaching
The strength-based approach is an approach to people that views situations realistically and looks for opportunities to complement and support existing strengths and capacities as opposed to focusing on, and staying with, the problem or concern. The problem and the person are separate; however, the problem is never minimised.
The underlying principles of the strength-based approach include:
- all children have strengths and abilities
- children grow and develop from their strengths and abilities
- the problem is the problem—the child is not the problem
When children and those around them (including educators) appreciate and understand the child’s strengths, then the child is better able to learn and develop.
Social and emotional skills
Explicitly teach social and emotional skills using evidence-informed practices related to personal safety, resilience, help-seeking and protective behaviours across the curriculum.
Collaborate with students to develop strategies to enhance wellbeing, promote safety and counter violence, bullying and abuse in all online and physical spaces.
Regular check-ins with students can help catch issues early. You can use Ziplet to ask questions about mood or wellbeing and allow students to reply using emojis. This approach can be less confrontational for students, especially those who are shy.
3. Provide visible leadership to inspire positive school communities
Wellbeing doesn’t start and stop at the classroom door. Principals and school leaders should play an active role in building a positive learning environment where the whole school community feels included, connected, safe and respected.
Develop School Vision and Values
Develop the school’s vision and values, building on existing strengths, to enhance student learning and sustain the safety and wellbeing of the whole school community.
Communicate the priorities for student learning, safety and wellbeing and encourage collaborative partnerships to enact the school’s vision and values. This includes families as well as students and teachers.
Build links with the community
Build links with community organizations, services and agencies to assist schools in the early identification of need and to collaboratively plan targeted support for all students and families, including those from vulnerable groups.
Community organizations that provide support for families to ensure students are able to attend school and have equitable access to resources are important connections. During covid these have extended for additional support services and are an important part of the school community network.
The wellbeing of children and young people is enhanced and their learning outcomes optimized when they feel connected to others and experience safe and trusting relationships.
Students who feel connected, safe and secure are more likely to be active participants in their learning and to achieve better physical, emotional, social and educational outcomes. Educators who feel valued and supported are more likely to engage positively with students and build stronger connections within the school community.
Enhancing the wellbeing of students and their educators delivers overall long-term social, health and economic benefits to the whole community.
30 Fun Ways to Celebrate the End of the School Year from a Distance
Australian Student Wellbeing Framework
What Does It Mean To Have High Expectations For Your Students
79 Examples of School Vision and Mission Statements