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Theme 1: Theoretical and practical approaches to well-being in education

The notion of educational attainment is changing and now encompasses more than simply ‘academic performance’.  Schools today are charged with the important task of preparing young people for a changing world, one where many of today’s occupations will no longer exist, but the occupations that will take their place have not yet come into being. Schools now have a role in supporting individuals to live full lives, to realise their potential, and to participate actively in social and economic life. In this context, learner well-being - at school and university - has become a legitimate, wide-ranging field of research that addresses how students thrive, how their future development can be shaped, and how their relationships with others can be fostered and enhanced [1].

In every field of enquiry, including education, it has proved difficult to conceptualize and measure well-being, and this has posed significant problems for the development of research. However, even when well-being is defined more narrowly as a dimension of health, and educational elements like learning and capability development are excluded [2], it is generally acknowledged that well-being comprises ‘positive and negative affects, but also an element of satisfaction with life, defined cognitively’ [3].

The topics that have been explored can be summarised into three broad themes:

  • Theoretical reflection on the concepts of well-being, happiness and quality of life in school and university domains, including focussed thinking on such topics as motivation, spirituality, and non-academic ‘soft skills’ like social and emotional awareness/competence.
  • Interdisciplinary collaborations that cross subject boundaries and work in varied contexts; e.g. in forging links between sociology, psychology, pedagogy, physical and sports education, and civic/social/arts education.
  • Results of experimental research work with school pupils, university students, and teachers.  

[1] See e.g.  White, M. A., Murray, A. S. et Seligman, M. (2015). Evidence-based approaches in positive education: implementing a strategic framework for well-being in schools. Dordrecht ; New York : Springer et Guimard, P., Bacro, F. et Florin, A. (2013) Évaluer le bien-être des élèves à l’école et au collège. In F. Bacro (éd.) La Qualité de vie. Approches psychologiques(p. 45-64). Rennes : PUR.

[2] Konu A., Rimpelä M., 2002, « Well-being in Schools: A Conceptual Model », Health Promotion International, 17, 1, pp. 79-87 ; Fouquet-Chauprade, B. (2014). Bien-être et ressenti des discriminations à l’école. une étude empirique en contexte ségrégué. L’Année sociologique, 64. 2, 421-444.

[3] Fenouillet, F., Heutte, J., Martin-Krumm, C., et Boniwell, I. (2015). Validation française de l’échelle multidimensionnelle satisfaction de vie chez l’élève (Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale). Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue Canadienne Des Sciences Du Comportement, 47(1), 83-90 ; Michele Athay, M., Kelley, S. D. et Dew-Reeves, S. E., 2012. Brief Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale—PTPB Version (BMSLSS-PTPB): Psychometric Properties and Relationship with Mental Health Symptom Severity Over Time. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 39(1-2), 30‑40.


Theme 2. Learning spaces and wellbeing

Since the late 1990s, and Marie-Claude Derouet-Besson’s work on the development of educational buildings, it has become clear that there are complex and often contradictory links between pedagogy, architecture, urbanisation, the economy and politics[1].  It is now clear, however, that the deep societal shifts triggered by digital technology require a further radical revisiting of these issues. Learning spaces must be reconceptualized and reconfigured to accommodate the new technologies and integrate the full range of learning settings that digital technology has made possible [2].  Learner well-being thus takes centre stage as a key factor in the design of learning spaces and settings, and raises  new questions -- about designing welcoming spaces, about facilitating movement around learning spaces and within learning settings, and about optimizing opportunities for communication [3]. Modular spaces are becoming the focus of new pedagogical practices and new spatial arrangements (e.g. “fab labs”) are beginning to appear in institutions.

In the context of this theme, appropriate contributions may focus on, but are not limited to:

  • Studies on the links between wellbeing and the movement of people in and through learning spaces – or more globally, the ergonomics of these spaces. We would particularly welcome reflection on (i) modifications to traditional classroom organisation, for example, in blocks, U-shaped, or the development of spaces outside the formal classroom (e.g. canteens or foyers) as well as (ii) links with pedagogy, studies of the kinds of ambience conducive to effective learning, and the influence of these factors on relationships among students and with teachers.
  • Research on types of spatial organisation that have the potential to adversely affect learning outcomes, taking into account the educational level (primary, secondary, university), the discipline being taught, and the learning context. Notions of enabling environments and human engineering are also relevant to this line of research.
  • Research on the development of learning spaces, from the perspective of participant wellbeing and the transformation of learning spaces in response to digital technology. Under this heading, topics might include:  issues of auditory ergonomics, forms of exchange and communication using digitally-delivered media (face-to-face or by distance learning), the availability of spaces and hours for learning during or outside normal school/university timetabled hours.

[1] Kraftl, P. (2013). Geographies of alternative education: diverse learning spaces for children and young people. Bristol : Policy Press ; Derouet-Besson Marie-Claude (1998). Les Murs de l’école. Paris : Métailié.

[2] Oblinger Diana G. (dir.) (2006). « Space as a change agent ». In Learning Spaces. Washington: Educause.

[3] Baepler, P. (2014). Active learning spaces. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass ; Mazalto Maurice, Bonnault Marie-Claude & Boudjémaï Zahra (dir.) (2008). Architecture scolaire et réussite éducative. Paris : Fabert.


Theme 3. School climate and communal life

School is the place where the citizens of tomorrow are developed. It is a place of socialisation, initiation into scientific thinking and to critique, controversy and debate, and also an environment where children are exposed to social and cultural diversity. Going further, part of its purpose is to integrate children into society in ways that resist the growth of forms and patterns of social exclusion and violence (whether symbolic or systematic) since these, in combination with other factors, provide the basis for extremism. The planning of an inclusive school thus requires profound reflection on the environment best suited to  children’s development, and a full exploration of the quality of the learning climate in which they are learning. Developed in an Anglo-Saxon context in the 1950s, the concept of learning climate can be defined as the combination of perceptions and judgments, about the experience of life and work in the school, that are made by the children, their parents, and educational experts [1].  The salient elements  are: the quality of social relationships among the members of the school community, the quality of teaching, and the physical environment itself.  Improving the learning climate, which is principally achieved  through better integration of children and families into the school, correlates with a range of factors, including children’s scholarly engagement and success [2], the growth of wellbeing and prevention of violence and bullying [3], and teacher involvement [4].

Contributors to the symposium can also include reflections and/or research on the following topics:

  • What methods of investigation and research are best suited to take into account all the above concerns, which are educational, social and political?
  • What are the ideal conditions (including appropriate forms of welcome) for the integration of parents, children and other stakeholders in educational institutions?
  • What types of emotional and social relationships are forged among participants in the educational system (families, children, teachers, partnering bodies, associations etc.)?
  • To what extent do pedagogical methods and the organisation of school spaces affect the learning process?
  • What is the current research on the issue of improving the learning climate?

[1] Cohen, J., McCabe, E. M., Michelli, N. M., & Pickeral T. (2009). School Climate: Research, Policy, Teacher Education and Practice, Teachers College Record, 111(1), p. 180-213.

[2] Voir par exemple: De Pedro, K. (2012). School Climate Improvement
 in Schools: A Comprehensive Theoretical and Methodological Approach, Review of the Literature, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California.

[3] Voir, par exemple : Payne, A., Gottfredson, D. C., Gottfredson, G. D. (2006). School Predictors of the Intensity of Implementation of School-Based Prevention Programs: Results from a National Study », Prevention Science, 7(2), p. 225-237.

[4] Voir, par exemple : Jeffrey D., Sun F. (2006), Enseignants dans la violence, Québec, Les Presses de l’Université Laval.

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