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Relationships Between Well-Being and Academic Success

Article Reviewed: Well-being and Success, Andy Hargreaves, Dennis Shirley, November 29, 2018


I'm a big fan of researchers who collaborate with teachers, and Andy Hargraves is one who does! A recent article, "Well Being and Success," written with colleague Dennis Shirley, addresses the question of why student well-being should be part of the education agenda. In response to data revealing that Canada's record on student well-being leaves room for improvement, Ontario schools made well-being one of its four policy priorities in 2014. After four years of implementation that included meditation, practicing yoga, and providing programs of emotional self-regulation, Hargraves interviewed educators to explore their beliefs about the relationship between well-being and success. Their research revealed the following three beliefs:


Well-being is a crucial prerequisite for achievement.

"Educators agreed that before real learning could begin, a minimum threshold of well-being had to be attained. "Learning requires discipline and zest, the ability to focus, the capacity to empathize with different points of view, the social skills to interact with others and the stamina to persevere through difficulties and bounce back from disappointment...These dispositions call for positive well-being to support the dynamic learning that leads to widespread success."


Achievement is essential for well-being; failure leads to ill-being.

"Well-being was regarded as an outcome of deliberate efforts by students and their teachers to secure earned achievement. By promoting [a growth mindset] the belief that everyone can achieve, educators treated well-being as a result of hard-won effort, including the effort to achieve academic success." They also focused on experiences that provided meaning and purpose like service projects where "students deepened their own learning and sense of accomplishment by addressing the well-being of others."


Well-being has its own value: it complements academic achievement.

Schools in Ontario implemented programs that addressed students' ability to self-regulate when they became angry, anxious or depressed. They also taught resiliency skills and built toolkits for helping students deal with frustrating issues. Suspension numbers dropped, and teachers found "it was better to give students the time and space they needed to get in the right frame of mind to focus on learning than to punish them when their minds were racing or their bodies were restless.

The authors conclude that "well-being and achievement shouldn't exist in two different worlds, with different specialists populating them - math and literacy people on one side; counselors and mental health specialists on the other...to sustain its importance and focus, the emphasis on well-being, therefore has to find its proper relationship to the learning mission of schools... let's turn out young adults who are successful and fulfilled at the same time.”


Here at Partners in Integrating Education, we couldn't agree more. We work with schools to bring these worlds together so that math, literacy, science, arts, social studies and all classes are opportunities for students to develop and practice social and emotional competence that supports academic success and fuels further well-being.

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