Human-Centred Education takes a holistic approach to student and staff well-being in schools. To cultivate a culture of well-being across the learning community, we believe that it is important to create opportunities to reflect on those activities, processes, experiences and relationships that constitute our well-being. In other words, bringing about a shift from ill-being (mental health disorders, exclusion, disaffection) to well-being starts from developing our well-being awareness. Understanding better what counts as our well-being also helps identify the kind of environments, relationships, curriculum structure, pedagogical approaches, feedback and evaluative practices that are meaningful for learning and well-being.
From a human-centred perspective, we suggest that the unprecedented rise in mental ill health in young people be understood as a symptom of a failure of our education system. In this sense, the term ‘well-being’ includes but also reaches far beyond ‘mental health’, embracing a vision of the whole person who is both motivated and enabled to pursue, with others, a rich, meaningful and flourishing life. That is to say, learning is inseparable from well-being.
From a practical perspective, conversations about well-being (and ill-being) should be part of the fabric of a school. For instance, there may be facilitated small group discussions on social-emotional and relational aspects of students’ life in the school, along with adult-to-student mentoring and peer-to-peer mentoring. There could also be designated listening sessions, such as termly or yearly learning reviews, when students’ voices are attended to with respect and appreciation.
Human-Centred Education promotes the well-being of all in the school. Staff’s well-being matters as much as that of students. In particular, developing professionally is always integral to teachers’ well-being. The school should provide spaces for teachers’ learning and professional development.
Practically, this may involve a number of innovative approaches. For instance, as a starting point, the school might consider a shift from teachers’ performance management to teachers’ professional development. This means moving away from a one-size-fits-all standardization in teachers’ performance targets, towards a focus on nurturing the qualities of teachers’ work, such as facilitation, guidance, mentoring, and engagement. Another practical step might involve creating spaces for teachers to become researchers. Teachers’ action-based (research) inquiries are part of their professional learning. Other good practices include timetabling protected time for staff teams to meet without a fixed agenda, for open dialogue and sharing. Likewise, setting up peer-mentoring between staff members for mutual learning also contributes to well-being.
The staff team involved in our current HCE pilot in Columbia have been exploring some of these approaches to professional learning. To read more see here.