Improving Wellbeing Through Student Participation at School

PARC Project - student participation - recognising everyone

(ARC Linkage Project LP 140100540)

Supporting the wellbeing of children and young people at school remains an area of considerable concern. Existing research suggests that student wellbeing is likely influenced by the nature and extent of their participation at school. However, little is known about the links between student participation and wellbeing, especially which elements of participation are most strongly associated with wellbeing. This study explored understandings and practice around student participation in NSW schools to investigate the links between student participation and student wellbeing with the aim of helping schools improve and progress in these areas.

Research Design

The study adopted a mixed method approach, incorporating Axel Honneth’s recognition theory. The study was conducted in four phases:

Phase 1: An extensive policy analysis to identify what current New South Wales (NSW) educational policy and guidelines say about student participation.

Phase 2: Focus groups with students from Years 7-10 (n=177) in a range of government and Catholic schools across NSW, as well as interviews with teachers and Principals (n=32) and education policymakers (n=9).

Phase 3: Development of an on-line survey using the information gathered in Phase 2. This was administered in two rounds with students in 4 NSW government and 3 NSW Catholic high schools, involving one class of students from each of Years 7-10 at each school (n=536 participants in total).

Phase 4: Administering the validated survey to students in Years 7-10 across 16 NSW schools (9 x Catholic, 7 x government) (n=1435 participants in total). The survey tested the links between elements of student participation, wellbeing and recognition.

Research Team

Investigators: Prof Anne Graham (CCYP, SCU), Prof Sharon Bessell (Australian National University), Prof Judy Cashmore (University of Sydney), Prof Patrick Thomas (University of Central Lancashire, UK), Dr Catharine Simmons (Project Officer, CCYP, SCU), Dr Donnah Anderson, (Project Officer, Charles Sturt University), Julia Truscott (Project Officer, CYRA Service / CCYP, SCU).

Research Partners: Dr Lyn Gardon (NSW Department of Education), Mr Andrew Johnson (NSW Advocate for Children and Young People), Dr Paul Thornton (Catholic Schools Office, Lismore), Mr Paul Milgate (Catholic Schools Office, Lismore).

Academic Publications to Date

Graham, A., Bessell, S., Adamson, E., Truscott, J., Simmons, C., Thomas, N., Gardon, L. & Johnson, A. (2019). Navigating the ambiguous policy landscape of student participation. Journal of Educational Policy. 34 (6), 798-811. doi: 10.1080/02680939.2018.1527945

Anderson, D. L., Graham, A. P., & Thomas, N. P. (2019). Assessing student participation at school: Developing a multidimensional scale. International Journal of Student Voice, 5(1).

Graham, A., Truscott, J., Simmons, C., Anderson, D. and Thomas, N. (2018). Exploring student participation across different arenas of school life. British Educational Research Journal, 44(6), 1029-1046. doi:10.1002/berj.3477

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