14 SES 03 B, School-related Transitions: Wellbeing and resilitent students
Research on the transfer of reforms and innovations in schools indicates that the implementation process needs high acceptance from all concerned parties and participants (principals, teachers, parents and students). The concrete implementation of such innovations is often viewed as an agenda of teachers and principals, their motivation and attitudes concerning the innovations and their willingness to make these changes, but it is questionable whether they act in a different way because of their local conditions at school. In the context of a regulative state-based reform it seems important that the reform be compatible with the history and culture of the individual school. Leithwood et al. (2001) already noted that school leaders first have to understand a school’s culture before they can implement a change. Furthermore, in School Effectiveness Research the importance of the school level is emphasized more strongly and attempts the development of a theory of "Educational Effectiveness" (for example, Scheerens, 2016), which allows advocating the inclusion of the school in the organizational and local conditions in the interpretation and validation of the study results. Contrary to previous attempts to extract “best-practice” examples and transfer these strategies to other schools, this approach seems to be problematic and difficult to implement (from best-practice to next-practice, Schratz). Best-practice examples are only “valid” for a certain context (Flecha, 2015). The present research approach takes this into account and tries to work out patterns of students’ educational pathways in relation to the local school and the school and learning culture they face there. Because students are the targets of school reforms and in the end are mostly confronted with these innovations, the idea is that positive school improvement processes also become visible in students’ perceptions of the school, in their wellbeing at school and in their recognized climate in the classrooms. Therefore, it makes sense to observe their perspective during the implementation of a school reform in a longitudinal way and focus on climate and wellbeing aspects as indicators for school culture. This is done using student data from the NOESIS Project, a longitudinal evaluation that investigated the stepwise implementation of the New Middle School in Austria.
The paper addresses three different aims:
- In a longitudinal perspective, the paper looks at the wellbeing of students in their class and school and how this changes during four years of the New Middle School.
- It also investigates the differences in students’ wellbeing in relation to the concrete school site and which other individual characteristics, as well as class- and school-specific components (e.g. class and learning climate) are related to these different perceptions and experiences.
- Nevertheless, it also seems important to see whether these results appear in different student cohorts (different student generations).
Having the social assignments of schooling in mind, wellbeing, school culture and the learning environment should not only be seen as conditions for the improvement of students’ learning or their educational career aspirations (climate for achievement), but also as an important factor to cultivate social integration in the classroom, social learning and forming an environment for mutual understanding of different groups of society. Concerning the idea that school sites face different challenges and deal with different problems, but also have different requirements, we also assume that students’ wellbeing developed differently in various school settings. So we wanted to investigate which components of an individual school influence the wellbeing of students. This also seems of high scientific relevance since longitudinal studies of students’ wellbeing in school, although rare, could provide a great deal of relevant information (Hascher, 2009).
The availability of longitudinal and multi-cohort student data from an Austrian evaluation project (NOESIS Evaluation) makes it possible to investigate these aspects. The NOESIS evaluation project is a government-funded study begun in 2010 with the first cohort of three student cohorts. The overall aim of the study was to investigate conditions for successful educational pathways of students in the context of the implementation of the New Middle School as a new school type in Austria. Originally, there were two school types in Austria – a Lower Secondary School and an Academic Secondary School. Through new pedagogical innovations (e.g. team-teaching, individualized learning) the New Middle School intends to be a school for all students, reduce marginalization processes, try to compensate for learning difficulties and foster student’s talents. The NOESIS evaluation followed three cohorts of students from the first year of the New Middle School through to the end of Lower Secondary. Students’ perceptions of within-school components in 5th grade serve as a baseline, and their development over four years was analyzed using Panel Data Analysis. The individual perceptions of intra-school components, e. g. class climate, cooperation, instruction at school, as well as the socio-economic status of the family, and personal factors like their educational aspirations, learning motivation and academic self-concept, but also additional information of students’ learning situations outside the school were taken from student questionnaires so as to learn more about the development of students’ wellbeing in the long term. The longitudinal analysis of subject wellbeing was conducted for all of the three cohorts, each consisting of about N = 800 students over the time span from the first to the fourth class of the New Middle School. Additional descriptive analysis provided more detail concerning the situation at individual schools and for taking the school context more seriously.
The longitudinal analysis revealed that especially the relationships with teachers and classmates as part of school culture have an important influence on the development of wellbeing, depending on the school. If school is a place where students know that they are appreciated and taken seriously, and where they receive support from teachers when there are problems or conflicts, students’ subjective wellbeing in school increases. The results of this study explicitly point out that efforts to work on relationships among students and teachers are extremely important at the end of lower secondary education. What we can learn from specific schools is that an ongoing awareness of students who need assistance in learning and a positive relationship among teachers and classmates leads to an increased perception of subjective wellbeing. All these aspects can be interpreted as part of the school culture and show how important relationships are for the experience of a school as a place where students can learn together and feel good. Longitudinal analyses show that over four years of development there are aspects that affect the subjective wellbeing of students. Hence, those wishing to develop schools must consider the inner-school aspects of the situation of each school and address aspects important for thirteen to fourteen-year-old students in the 7th and 8th grades. In particular, the situation at the specific school site has to be taken into account. Results show that important factors for learning may vary from one school to another and that local school development will have to take the specific aspects of each school into account. These results seem to be important for contexts where regulative school reforms are especially oriented on an increase in students’ performance and test results, and indicate that students’ wellbeing as a requirement for both should not be forgotten.
Anderson, D. L. & Graham, A. P. (2016). Improving student wellbeing: having a say at school. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 27(3), 348-366. Flecha, R. & INCLUD-ED Consortium (Ed.) (2015). Successful Educational Actions for Inclusion and Social Cohesion in Europe. Springer Brief in Education. New York: Springer. Hascher, T. (2007). Quantitative and qualitative research approaches to assess student well-being. International Journal of Educational Research, 47(2), 84-90. Hascher, T. & Edlinger, H. (2009). Positive Emotionen und Wohlbefinden in der Schule – ein Überblick über Forschungszugänge und Erkenntnisse. Psychologie in Erziehung und Unterricht, 56, 105-122. Knapp, M., & Hopmann, S. (2016). Die letzten Tage der Schule, wie wir sie kennen? Der schulische Auftrag im Spannungsfeld zwischen Kultivieren und Qualifizieren. Schulheft, 1/16(160), 37 - 49. Kriesi, I. & Buchmann, M. (2012). Educational Success and Adolescents´ Well-Being in Switzerland. Swiss Journal of Sociology, 38(2), 245-265. Leithwood, K., Louis, K., Anderson, S. & Wahlstrom, K. (2004). How leadership influences student learning. New York: The Wallace Foundation. McNeil, Angus, J., Prater, D. L. & Busch, S. (2009). The effects of school culture and climate on student achievement. International Journal of Leadership in Education. Theory and Practice, 12(1), 73-84. NOESIS (Ed.). Gute Schule bleibt verändert. Zur Evaluation der Niederösterreichischen Mittelschule, Graz: Leykam. Ryan, A. M. (2000). Peer groups as a context for the socialization of adolescents' motivation, engagement, and achievement in school. Educational Psychologist, 35(2), 101-11. Scheerens, J. (2016). Educational Effectiveness and Ineffectiveness. A Critical Review of the Knowledge Base. New York: Springer. Schratz, M. (2008). Von best practice zu next practice. Musterwechsel braucht Leadership. IN: U. Stadler-Altmann (Ed.). Neue Lernkultur – neue Leistungskultur (331-344), Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt. Stewart, E. (2008). School structural characteristics, student effort, peer associations, and parental involvement. The influence of school- and individual-level factors on academic achievement. Education and Urban Society, 40, 179-203. Wentzel, K. R. (1998). Social relationships and motivation in middle school: The role of parents, teachers, and peers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90(2), 202–209.
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