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Mobilizing Academic Wellness for Children: Learning & Assessment Strategies 

According to national studies of mental health education in Canada, approximately 50% of issues with anxiety, depression, severe emotional disorder, and attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder emerge in childhood/adolescence (Rodger, Hibbert, Leschied et al., 2014; see Kirby & Keon, 2004 for other select countries). All these issues impact children's wellness for learning. Focusing studies on children's social and emotional skills for learning is therefore imperative for several reasons as outlined in Rodger et al. (2014):

 

  • Most children will not have access to mental health treatment and wellness strategies even though they are attending school.

  • Mental health impacts academic performance, absenteeism and future wellness.

 

  • Outside of home, school is the place where children spend the most amount of time - approximately 8 hours in a day.  

This 5-year study was designed to help generate formative and instructional assessment strategies (FIAS) to support elementary students’ response to feedback. The project is based on two premises:

  • Children often encounter obstacles in their learning that have underlying psychological roots - misunderstanding of feedback, fear of mistakes, anxiety and perfectionism, apprehension about asking for help, and internalizing unrealistic expectations generated from their own understanding of events.

  • Teachers can be supported in interactions with children in order to facilitate conversations about psychological obstacles that children encounter.

The project aims to answer two broad research questions:

 

  • What is the nature of children’s psychological wellbeing for learning? What do they think about achievement, learning, trust of teachers and the learning environment, feedback and mistakes?

  • Can evidence-based materials be developed to support teachers and children in support of children’s overall wellbeing for learning? 

Two charter schools from Alberta currently participate in the study, representing approximately 40 teachers and up to 845 students. In 2018, a Research-Practice Partnership (RPP) was established to formalize the collaboration and engage in mutually responsible and beneficial research. The operating principles agreed upon included: trust, open communication, scientific integrity, ethical standards, and flexibility. An Advisory Board consisting of key stakeholders meets three times per year to discuss research activities and define next steps. In response to stakeholder needs, the research team has created a monthly newsletter titled Connection, as well as ongoing teacher research engagement meetings and professional development seminars. 

References

Rodger, S., Hibbert, K., Leschied, A., Pickel, L., Koenig, A., Stepien, M., Woods, J., Atkins, M-A., & Vandermeer, M. (2014). Mental health in education: An analysis of teacher education and provincial/territorial curricula. Prepared for Physical and Health Education Canada (PHE). Western University Centre for School-Based Mental Health. PHE.

Kirby, J.J.L., & Keon, W.J. (2004). Mental health policies and programs in selected countries: Report. Ottawa, ON: The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. Available from: www.parl.gc.ca.