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Type: Thesis
Title: How can we do positive education better? The role of student involvement, implementation, and physical activity in adolescent wellbeing
Author: Halliday, Amber Jae
Issue Date: 2018
School/Discipline: School of Psychology
Abstract: A growing number of Australian schools are adopting programs and practices to support student mental health and wellbeing. Positive education is an umbrella term for the variety of programs, curricula and strategies aimed at proactively supporting mental health alongside education. It is characterised by its incorporation of concepts from positive psychology, the scientific study of optimal development. However, there is a large gap between research that supports interventions used in positive education and its successful real-world practice in schools. There are many factors and considerations in the ‘doing’ of positive education that may impact its desired outcome. This thesis provides a pragmatic exploration of considerations and solutions in the implementation of positive education. Three independent yet related research papers were produced. Paper one examined the value of student involvement in the inauguration of positive education at an Australian public school (N=10), using a participatory action research (PAR) approach. By using a process that directly incorporated student voices and leadership, the school benefited from an increased understanding of students’ wellbeing and pedagogic needs, aiding in intervention fit. Student-led communication laid the foundation for student ownership and buy-in for a subsequent pilot program. Students who conducted the PAR reported increases in competencies, autonomy, engagement and self-efficacy. Findings suggest involving students using PAR is a promising, accessible, and personally beneficial approach to the implementation of positive education. In addition to intervention fit, recipient buy-in, and accessibility; many other factors can impact the way in which an evidence-informed practice or program is conducted in the real world. Paper two further investigated factors impacting the practice of a positive education pilot program (PEPP) at the same school, along with evaluating the impact of the program (N = 143). The impact of provider (teacher), recipient (student), intervention (PEPP), organisational (school) and contextual factors were systematically explored using mixed methods. Findings suggest the PEPP may have buffered students from declining mental health during the school year. Recipient characteristics, organisational support, stakeholder input, and provider enthusiasm were all thought to have impacted PEPP outcomes. By exploring the implementation of a positive education intervention, challenges and opportunities of the practice of positive education in the real world were identified. Individual factors can also impact upon student needs and how they experience a positive education intervention. Paper three examined how gender, physical activity, and mental health intersect. Using four years of students’ crosssectional data (N=1,756, age 13-18), the study examined gender as a moderator of the link between physical activity and mental health, and physical activity as a mediator between gender and mental health. Findings indicate males and females derive similar mental health benefit from physical activity, and suggest a lack of physical activity may partially explain adolescent females’ poorer mental health than males’. Subsequent positive education initiatives may benefit from directly including physical activity. Taken together, these manuscripts (one published, two under review at the time of final submission) underscore the importance of context in adolescent mental health and wellbeing. It is hoped this research can help to progress adolescent mental health and wellbeing in Australian schools.
Advisor: Tumbull, Deborah
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Psychology, 2019
Keywords: Positive education
mental health
school-based intervention
participatory action research
implementation science
physical activity
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
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