Co-designing school site-based inquiry into student engagement and wellbeing: reclaiming teacher professionalism in shaping young lives

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Rose, Judy
Whatman, Susan
Low-Choy, Samantha
Main, Katherine
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Buderim, Australia


The surveillance and governing of schooling in Australia (Edwards-Groves, Grootenboer & Wilkinson, 2018) has nurtured a particular kind of performativity in addressing student wellbeing in schools. It has meant that teachers are required to collect more data and engage in ever-expanding forms of teacher work. The policy landscape in wellbeing has shifted enormously in just a few years with the formation of a national wellbeing hub in 2018 with national policies directing attention to key priorities, particularly around Mental Health, and the instigation of Wellbeing policy officers ‘on the ground’ in state jurisdictions (Thompson, 2018). Within this rapidly changing landscape, schools are encouraged to turn to outsourced provision of health education and wellbeing interventions by commercial providers through Australian Government funding (Sperka, Enright & McCuaig, 2018) and via State partnerships with both commercial and not-for-profit organisations which, as a ‘de-professionalising practice’ bring with it genuine concerns about the providers' intentions, the specificity and relevance to site-based priorities, and ultimately outcomes for students (Penney, Petrie & Fellows, 2015; Williams & Macdonald, 2015). However, many schools are also taking the initiative to design their own approaches to support student wellbeing. This paper discusses a project which has developed out of university-school discussions around supporting teachers to promote and enhance student (and teacher) wellbeing through a long-standing industry forum – the Tertiary Educators Industry Advisory Group – at Griffith University. Together with teachers on each unique school site, the project team has co-designed a methodology that combines analysis of mandatory school reporting data on student engagement and other school-specific indicators of engaged students, with rich, in-depth narratives from teachers and school leaders. Facilitated focus group methods then generated teacher-designed conceptual maps of how they currently support student wellbeing along with descriptive statistical analyses of the student engagement trends. Operating from the assumption that teachers are experts, these maps, narratives and descriptive statistics are then structurally modelled with Bayesian network methods using an approach developed by Low-Choy, Riley and Alston-Knox (2017) to suggest back to the school site how their approaches appear to be affecting student wellbeing. This paper explores two of the conference sub-themes including the sharing of new methods in gathering data around wellbeing in schools and, in doing so, suggesting how educators working together reclaim professionalism for teachers. Teacher professionalism is reclaimed by university educators working together with teachers to highlight the richness of data collection in which they are already engaged and connecting it to their existing and future pedagogical choices and schooling routines (Beckett, 2013; Glasswell, Singh & McNaughton, 2016; Singh, 2015). This paper concludes that by coming to understand responses to perceived crises in wellbeing as fundamentally pedagogical, it is clear that teachers are best placed to gather evidence around and make decisions upon school-wide approaches to wellbeing.

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2019 ATEA Conference, Professionalism and Teacher Education: Voices from policy and practice

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© The Author(s) 2019. The attached file is reproduced here in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. For information about this conference please refer to the conference’s website or contact the author(s).

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Primary education

Curriculum and pedagogy theory and development

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Rose, J; Whatman, S; Low-Choy, S; Main, K, Co-designing school site-based inquiry into student engagement and wellbeing: reclaiming teacher professionalism in shaping young lives, Australian Teacher Education Association (ATEA) Conference 2019 , 2019