Student Wellbeing at Junior-Cycle Level: Teachers’ perceptions of relevant policies and curricula

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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

Presentation at the Ireland International Conference on Education, October 2018, Dublin.


1. Background

A review of the literature identifies that Irish second level students are at significant risk of experiencing negative affect in their academic lives. Studies have shown that, in addition to academic stress, students are susceptible to issues of anxiety, poor body-image, and poor self-concept. This risk to students varies contextually. For example, although rural students would tend to experience greater exposure to variables which are beneficial to wellbeing (such as teacher/parental interaction), they are more likely to present with negative affect than urban students. The risk of negative affect is also gendered, with girls being more likely to demonstrate lower measures of wellbeing than boy. Previous research has demonstrated that initiatives aimed at promoting the development of emotional and social wellbeing in second level students can produce positive outcomes such as higher academic achievement, improved self-efficacy and reduced attrition[1][2].

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) have recently published new wellbeing guidelines which will mandate all Irish secondary schools to allocate 300 hours of junior-cycle instruction to the promotion of students’ social and emotional wellbeing from September 2018. Schools will be largely autonomous in the execution of these guidelines, representing a significant change for educators who are delivering the Junior-Cycle curriculum. However, while much is understood globally about the potential benefits of such programmes for students and educators alike[4], little is known about the attitudes and views of educators in this respect and how the information might help to inform the development of appropriate and effective school-based programmes and interventions.

2. Aims and objectives

The purpose of this study is to address this gap in knowledge by analysing the attitudes and opinions of second level educators as to how best to promote students’ wellbeing.

3. Method

This research will examine several generalised variables, such as the student/teacher relationship and gendered differences in students’ levels of wellbeing, with contextual sensitivities such as the urban/rural divide and same-sex vs co-educational practices. The research will be conducted in two phases using a sequential mixed-methods design. Phase one will be quantitative in nature and will consist of a large-scale survey of second level educators. This survey will be utilised to identify the opinions of educators as to the most prominent strengths and weaknesses in current educational policy and curricula with regard to the development of student wellbeing. The survey will also be used to identify which aspects of students’ social and emotional wellbeing teachers believe to be most at-risk. For phase two, participants will be stratified into focus groups according to several variables including (but not limited to) urban/rural and mixed-sex/co-educational school-types. The focus groups will be informed by the analysis of phase one data and will be aimed at providing a subjective understanding of teachers’ attitudes/opinions towards the promotion of student wellbeing. Phase two will also be used to garner detailed information on what teachers believe would represent best practice with regard to the development of student wellbeing.

4. Expected outcomes

The information garnered from this study can be utilised to assist in possible refinements of the NCCA wellbeing guidelines and ultimately facilitate educators in the delivery of the developing wellbeing curriculum. Educational curricula as a whole may also benefit and/or be updated as a result of the outcome of this study. As such, in addition to a possible positive impact on educational standards, there is the potential for a holistic positive impact on student wellbeing in both the short-term (academic attainment, development of resilience, increased self-worth) and long-term (adult social adjustment, life satisfaction, productivity)[3].

5. References

[1] Duckworth, A. L., & Seligman, M. E. (2005). Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents. Psychological Science, 16(12), 939-944. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2005.01641.x

[2] Durlak, J. & Weissberg, R. (2005). A major meta-analysis of positive youth development programs. Presentation at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. Washington D.C.

[3] Goleman, D. (1996). Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. London: Bloomsbury.

[4] Spilt, J. L., Koomen, H. M., & Thijs, J. T. (2011). Teacher Wellbeing: The Importance of Teacher–Student Relationships. Educational Psychology Review, 23(4), 457-477. doi:10.1007/s10648-011-9170-y

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