Improving Wellbeing through Student Participation at School Phase 2 Qualitative Report: Views of Students, Staff and Policymakers

Graham, A, Truscott, J, Simmons, C, Anderson, D, Thomas, Nigel Patrick orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5310-9144, Bessell, S, Cashmore, J and Moss, A (2018) Improving Wellbeing through Student Participation at School Phase 2 Qualitative Report: Views of Students, Staff and Policymakers. Project Report. UNSPECIFIED, Lismore: Australia.

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This document reports the findings from Phase 2 of an Australian Research Council (ARC) funded study (LP140100540)
entitled, ‘Improving wellbeing through student participation at school’. The overall research project aimed to strengthen
knowledge, policy and practice concerning student participation in New South Wales (NSW) schools by identifying whether and how such participation improves students’ social and emotional wellbeing. It was guided by the following research questions:
RQ1: How is student participation currently articulated in NSW education policy in Australia?
RQ2: How do students, teachers, principals and policymakers understand participation? And how is it currently experienced by students and staff in NSW schools?
RQ3: To what extent is participation at school associated with student wellbeing, and which specific elements of participation are core predictors of student wellbeing?
RQ4: Do Honneth’s modes of recognition mediate the relationship between participation and wellbeing?
The research was undertaken over a 3 year period, covering four research phases, each of which closely aligns with one
of the research questions above.

Phase 1:
Detailed policy analysis (RQ1)
This phase involved the critical analysis of local, state and national policies (n=143) to understand how student
participation is currently articulated in education related policy in NSW.

Phase 2:
Qualitative focus groups with students and interviews with school staff and educational policy makers
A qualitative phase involving interviews with policymakers (n=9), and school staff (n=32) and focus groups with
Year 7-10 students (n=177) from across 10 schools to understand how student participation is understood and
experienced in NSW schools.
The findings from Phases 1 and 2 were used to identify the key elements of participation to take forward into Phase 3.

Phase 3:
Quantitative online survey development (RQ3)
Phase 3 involved the development of a valid and reliable scale to measure student participation, including its
links to student wellbeing. This development phase involved a total of 536 students across two rounds.
The development of the scale served two purposes: (a) to measure participation via a large scale online survey
in Phase 4 (see below), and (b) to contribute to the development of a tool for schools to help them to measure
and monitor student participation in practice.

Phase 4:
Quantitative online survey (RQ 4)
An online survey of Year 7 -10 students in NSW (n=1435) was conducted to test the relationship between
participation, wellbeing and recognition.
Throughout the study, the research team was guided and assisted by an advisory group comprising 15 members: 4 representatives from the partner organisations (the NSW Department of Education, Lismore Catholic Schools’ Office and the Office of the NSW Advocate for Children and Young People), 2 school principals, 2 teachers, and 7 students from Years 7-9. The involvement of students in guiding the research is ethically and methodologically significant, as it endeavours to utilise their expertise while reflexively engaging with the strengths and complexities of implementing student participation in a meaningful and authentic way.
This document reports solely on Phase 2, which aimed to establish a grounded understanding of student participation
in NSW schools and address RQ2. For the reports pertaining to the other phases of the research, along with short summaries of the results for schools, a Good Practice Guide for expanding participation at school and information on the tool for measuring student participation at your school, please visit: centre-for-children-and-young-people/our-research/our-current-research/schools/#iwtsps

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