Hello, I'm Chantell, our educational lead here at SketchBetter. I recently visited Putney High School in South-West London, to attend their conference Barriers, Bias and Beliefs: Teacher and Student Psychological Wellbeing. As we're developing our own curriculum underpinned by Positive Education here at SketchBetter, we're super excited to learn about how others are applying Positive Psychology tools to increase wellbeing.
The evening event revealed the results of The Positive Schools Programme, an ongoing research programme led by the Positive Group and the GDST (Girls' Day School Trust), which aims to improve and maintain psychological health, wellbeing and resilience in schools.
The Emotional Barometer
The Positive Schools Programme involves cognitive and behavioural tools embedded in the school curriculum. One tool that has been being tested is an app called the `Emotional Barometer (EB)'. Teachers and students inputted how they were feeling throughout the day, and why. Putney High was one of the first schools to adopt this into their curriculum, alongside 8 others. It was interesting to hear their verdict on how they believed the school programme was going so far.
A series of guest speakers spoke of the importance of wellbeing in learning and everyday environments. They then spoke of how the positive schools programme is helping to better wellbeing for their students.
Dr Carole Edmond (Managing Director, Regard Group)
Dr Edmond`s began the conference by introducing the importance of ensuring our children reach their full potential in life. She advocated how “living your values and looking at things from an aspirations view is important” and that we should “never take education for granted”. Dr Edmond presented research on female attainment. Findings suggested many women feel like a fraud when achieving, and could not celebrate their successes. Edmond established these women had limiting beliefs of what they could or should be achieving. She concluded by saying we should have flexible mindsets, be able to spot opportunities others do not see and encourage our children to aim high.
Dr Brian Marien (Co-founder, positive group)
Dr Marien followed, exploring the impact of wellbeing and resilience in student and teacher development. He first introduces a term called depersonalisation which he suggests is the outcome when doctors show less interest in their patients, due to feeling burnt out. He related this feeling to those of school staff and wellbeing concerns. Dr Marien considered how predicted/ protective factors increased the chances of a person developing psychological issues. He explained: “Our mood works along a continuum, rather than just seeking happiness.” A reduction of wellbeing links to cognitive / social issues. How you sit along the continuum, affects how you think and feel - this thinking keeps your mood in place.
Dr Marien continued by saying, “We need to teach young people how to become unstuck, giving them the tools to do so before they get stuck”. People having unrealistic ideals of the life they are living, and this makes them feel pressured, useless and limited in their world, he added. He further suggested that such meta-cognitive thinking leads an individual to become stuck. It is not good to see things like this, as we see the world through how we are feeling. These types of emotions are predictive of mental health issues later on in life, as we remember things with an emotional attachment. Dr Marien labelled this as a self-fulfilling prophecy, holding beliefs the rest of your life based on what people say to you. Beliefs created in childhood lead to views in adulthood. He believes we need to challenge these belief systems and create a growth mindset. “Emotional literacy is freedom," he concluded.
Teachers from Putney High School were asked about the benefits of the Positive Schools Programme. The teachers expressed how the programme allows students and staff to track how they are feeling in their lessons and throughout the day. They can also consider what triggered that particular feeling and see how their peers are feeling and collaborate across the data. With this data, staff feel they are able to look at the patterns and being able to talk to young people about how they are feeling. The teachers were overall impressed with the app and were keen to carry on with the programme within their school.
Students explained how it was easier to see how they were feeling with a visual tool and one student commented, “having it as an app helps you to think about how you are feeling". Students found it easy to input how they were feeling and to manage their emotions via the app. The students enjoyed using the app but explained sometimes they did forget to input the data.
Findings from data collected from the Positive Schools Programme so far were then discussed by Business Psychologist, Chloe Simpkins. Over 45,000 pieces of data were collected from the EB app. Findings suggested that children were experiencing more positive feelings than teachers. All aspects of the young people's feelings were related to social issues.
Simpkins suggested that they would like to make connections with local state schools to carry out further research to support findings.
This was an insightful conference to attend. The take home message for me was understanding the importance of developing interventions that are suited to the values and ethos of the schools that they are placed in. This was present in the views of the staff and students on the Positive Schools Programme.