Placing Wellbeing at the Heart of Remote Education

Jessica Taylor

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Maintaining social connection in a world subjected to “social distancing” is complex. The demands being placed on our learners, our teachers and our parents are fast evolving in ways we never imagined. However, as educators, we all know that our focus remains on both the learning and wellbeing of our students.

The Institute has received positive feedback from around the world regarding our Remote Wellbeing Resources for Primary and Secondary, which are founded on our Positive Education Enhanced Curriculum (PEEC). In order to further support our teaching and learning community, we have now developed some additional PEEC Remote Resources for our freely-available PEEC sample lessons. These supplementary resources incorporate a range of activities from our curriculum, which have been adapted to enable you to deliver wellbeing lessons in an online and interactive way.

The unique contribution that PEEC Remote Resources offer is its synthesising of remote-learning best-practice and wellbeing science.

PEEC draws on our Positive Education Model(1), which comprises six associated domains that are central to the promotion of wellbeing. Simply put, wellbeing is what people most want for themselves, their students, and their children: good health, frequent positive emotions, supportive relationships, a sense of purpose and meaning, the accomplishment of worthwhile goals, and moments of complete immersion and absorption. This is a life in which we can use our character strengths in ways that support ourselves and others, and experience a sense of flourishing.

When focusing on studying wellbeing in an online or remote environment, research suggests that learning is most effective when we think of it as a system of dynamic and interrelated components(2). Together, these components (see Fig. 2) foster a learning community that is engaging, and supports students’ understanding and wellbeing. A table providing a brief overview of the interrelated components can be found below. 

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PEEC Online and Remote Learning Model

The following Table provides a brief overview of the interrelated components of the PEEC Online and Remote Learning Model and its connection to wellbeing, best-practice teaching, and online learning.

Wellbeing Research and Content

With 1-in-7 primary age students living with a mental health concern(3), and 26% of young people with mental health problems(3), evidence suggests that the explicit teaching of Positive Education and wellbeing can mitigate some mental health concerns(4).

Explicit lessons about wellbeing help students understand the pathways to wellbeing, achievement and engagement. Positive Education aims to teach students valuable life skills that increase their learning capacity and help to form a foundation on which to build a successful, happy and meaningful life.

Collaboration

Evidence suggests that, in online environments, collaborative learning is more effective than individual learning and, in fact, that interaction is essential(5). Additionally, as one of the High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS)(8), collaborative learning provides a pathway to engagement and achievement, whilst providing opportunity for connection and belonging.

Belonging and connection are fundamental and universal needs that contribute to our overall wellbeing. When engaging in an online environment, collaboration is not only best-practice pedagogy, it is fundamental to our wellbeing(5, 6).

Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning

When learning remotely, synchronous and asynchronous learning help support students’ engagement and wellbeing(7).

Synchronous learning refers to online or distance education that happens in real time. This type of learning provides a sense of community and connection with peers, can support student engagement and provide further opportunities for collaboration.

Asynchronous learning occurs through online or remote channels without real-time interaction. This provides students with opportunities for independent learning and agency, as they become the conductor of when and how their learning happens. Students are able to work flexibly and at a self-guided pace, providing them with further time to reflect on their learning.

Questioning

Teachers use questions for many purposes. For example, to engage, revise, challenge, encourage reflection and deep understanding, or provide the teacher with feedback. Questioning is an effective High Impact Teaching Strategy(8) and can be used to spark curiosity in students, which can lead to enhanced wellbeing. Curiosity as a source for wellbeing can promote self-efficacy, self-esteem, resilience and creativity(9).

Assessment

Assessment and feedback are significant components of learning. Formative assessments provide teachers with relevant information regarding students’ understanding, in order to shape the trajectory of the lesson. Summative assessments are used to evaluate students’ understanding.

Self-assessments and reflections can be powerful for helping students develop metacognitive strategies, i.e. assisting them to understand the way they learn, and enhancing their sense of engagement, accomplishment and wellbeing(10).

When learning in an online or remote environment, having activities that act as mastery checkpoints, and provide immediate feedback to students, can aid their learning.

Brain Breaks and Mindful Moment

Sedentary habits are a key cause of health-, learning- and behaviour-related issues. Unfortunately, the increased use of online learning also brings an increase in sedentary behaviours and associated negative correlations. Brain Breaks support enhanced engagement and learning by providing opportunities for short, energising physical activities. Taking part in Brain Breaks can help regulate neurotransmitters that are responsible for mood, attention and learning(11, 12)

Mindfulness is linked to several social, emotional, cognitive and behavioural wellbeing indicators, including: increased attention, reduced anxiety, increased levels of emotional regulation, enhanced academic achievement, and improved working memory and metacognition(13). Engaging in both Brain Breaks and Mindful Moments helps to support the wellbeing of students involved in online and remote learning.

Reflection

Reflections help students to become more independent with their learning and create an environment which centres on the learner. Reflective practices can inspire greater levels of innovation and confidence in students and teachers. They also assist students to become more engaged with, and responsible for, their own learning.

Research suggests that effective teachers use metacognitive strategies to help students develop an awareness of their own learning, and that this can help to build students’ self-regulation, sustaining their motivation to learn(8).

When students are learning remotely, their success and wellbeing can be dependent upon their ability to reflect on obstacles to learning and strategies to overcome them(14).

 

We hope these PEEC Remote Resources are of support as you continue to create positive learning environments both within, and outside of, the classroom where students not only learn, but flourish.

References:

(1) Hoare, E., Bott, D., Robinson, J. (2017). Learn It, Live It, Teach It, Embed It: Implementing a Whole School Approach to Foster Positive Mental Health and Wellbeing Through Positive Education. International Journal of Wellbeing, 7(3).

(2) Picciano, A. G. (2018). Online education: foundations, planning, and pedagogy. Routledge.

(3) Lawrence, D., Johnson, S., Hafekost, J., Boterhoven de Haan, K., Sawyer, M., Ainley, J. & Zubrick, S.R. (2015). The Mental Health of Children and Adolescents: Report on the second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.

(4) Institute of Positive Education, Geelong Grammar School (2019). Research Discoveries at Geelong Grammar School: Our contributions and discoveries to date. Geelong: Geelong Grammar School.

(5) Cherney, M. R., Fetherston, M., & Johnsen, L. J. (2018). Online course student collaboration literature: a review and critique. Small Group Research49(1), 98-128.

(6) Simonson, M., Schlosser, C., & Orellana, A. (2011). Distance education research: A review of the literature. Journal of Computing in Higher Education23(2-3), 124.

(7) Gregori, E. B., Zhang, J., Galván-Fernández, C., & de Asís Fernández-Navarro, F. (2018). Learner support in MOOCs: Identifying variables linked to completion. Computers & Education122, 153-168

(8) High Impact Teaching Strategies (HITS). Retrieved from: https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/teachingresources/practice/improve/Pages/hits.aspx

(9) Kashdan, T. (2009). Curious? Discover the missing ingredient to a fulfilling life. William Morrow & Co.

(10) Marzano, R. J. (2010). On excellence in teaching. Teacher Librarian37(4), 74.14.

(11) Jensen, E. (2000). Brain-based learning: A reality check. Educational leadership57(7), 76-80.

(12) Liu, A., Hu, X., Ma, G., Cui, Z., Pan, Y., Chang, S., ... & Chen, C. J. O. R. (2008). Evaluation of a classroom‐based physical activity promoting programme. Obesity Reviews9, 130-134.

(13) Zenner, C., Herrnleben-Kurz, S., & Walach, H. (2014). Mindfulness-based interventions in schools—a systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in psychology5, 603.

(14) Evidence for Learning. Retrieved from: https://evidenceforlearning.org.au/

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Jessica Taylor


Jessica Taylor is a Trainer and Consultant with the Institute of Positive Education. Jess has completed the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology, and has extensive teaching experience across all school levels, both within Australia and Internationally.