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Children's mental health and wellbeing

by YPU Admin on March 29, 2019, Comments. Tags: children, Education, Humanities, Mental Health, psychology, SEED, teaching, and wellbring

Introduction

Hi, my name is Kim Petersen and I’m a second year PhD student at the Manchester Institute of Education (MIE).

My PhD research focusses on primary school children’s mental health and wellbeing. I am interested in looking at lots of different aspects of children’s mental health and wellbeing (e.g. feeling sad, angry, happy, enjoying  life etc.) and finding common patterns of mental health and wellbeing. I want to find out:

1) what causes the different patterns of mental health 

2) whether behaviour programmes used in schools affect children’s mental health 

I hope this information will help us to find ways to improve children’s mental health and wellbeing in the future.

In Depth…

How did I get here?

After my A-levels I went to Glasgow University to do a degree in Psychology. I went on to work for a charity, supporting children with different neurological conditions, like autism spectrum disorder. Then, I did a PGCE teacher training qualification and worked as a primary school teacher. While working as a teacher I became really interested in children’s mental health and wellbeing and what schools could do to try and improve it. So, I decided to go back to  university to do research in this area. First, I did a Master’s degree in Psychology and Education and then I applied to do a research PhD. I didn’t always know that I would end up doing this, but my experiences and interests sort of led me here, and I really enjoy what I am doing.

What is mental health?

Mental health is a term we have all heard of, but what does it actually mean? Sometimes, when people talk about ‘mental health’, they are only talking about mental health disorders, like depression or schizophrenia. Today, many researchers, and others, think that mental health is more than this. As well as mental health difficulties, there are also positive aspects of mental health like feeling good and satisfied with your life. There is a widely held statistic that ‘1 in 4 people have mental health problems’. However, 4 out of 4 people have mental health because 4 out of 4 people have brains! In other words mental health is something we all have and we should focus on helping everyone gain better mental health and wellbeing.

My research

I am investigating mental health in this broad way, which includes both mental health problems and positive aspects of mental wellbeing. We collected information about children’s mental health and wellbeing by giving surveys to around 3000 primary school children and their teachers. We also collected other information about the children, like whether they were male or female, how they felt about their school, their relationships with other children, their school grades, and whether they had taken part in a school behaviour programme.

To make sense of all the information collected I use a computer programme to help me to find patterns in the data. For example, I can use the programme to see if there are some groups of children who show very similar patterns of mental health. I can then look at what other characteristics these children have. For example, if I found a group of children that had no mental health problems but felt very happy and satisfied with life, I could find out if those children were more likely to be male or female, have better relationships with their friends, or have taken part in a school behaviour programme, compared to other groups. The aim is to identify what might be important for good mental health and wellbeing so that we can try to improve children’s mental health in the future.

Why is this kind of research important?

Improving children’s mental health has been highlighted as an important issue in the UK. The government has said that schools have an important role to play in doing this. Research is needed to show what schools can do to try and improve children’s mental health and wellbeing.

Going further

Find out more about children’s mental health and wellbeing on these charities’ webpages:

https://youngminds.org.uk

https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/back-to-school/childrens-well-being-and-mental-health

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/c/children-and-young-people

The Good Childhood Report provides information about what children and young people say about their own mental health and wellbeing:

https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/good-childhood-report-2018-youth-summary.pdf

This is a summary of a recent government proposal for how to improve children’s mental health and wellbeing:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/transforming-children-and-young-peoples-mental-health-provision-a-green-paper/quick-read-transforming-children-and-young-peoples-mental-health-provision

Here is a link to the Manchester Institute of Education so you can see what courses we offer and what research we do:

https://www.seed.manchester.ac.uk/education/

 

Teaching in School vs University: Is there a difference?

by YPU Admin on November 26, 2015, Comments. Tags: Education, learning, Research, teaching, university, and UoM

Introduction

Hi, my name is Kelly and I now work in the Student Recruitment and Widening Participation department of the University of Manchester. For the past three years, I have been a student studying Psychology at the University and for the thirteen years before that, I too was propelled along the standard education pipeline (or maybe not so standard anymore) by attending first school, middle school and high school.

In Depth…

One of the main parts of my job, for the past couple months now, has been the development of an EBL project for our visiting Year 11 students. EBL stands for ‘Enquiry Based Learning’ (or Inquiry Based Learning if you’re American) and is equivalent to ‘Problem Based Learning’, which you might have heard of before. This method of teaching starts with a question, a problem or a scenario, and it is the student’s task to solve this problem, with the aid of a facilitator.

Not a teacher.

That’s great, right?

Think again.

The lack of teacher leading the way means that the road from problem to solution is less smooth, less clear, but then when in life is the answer ever clear? In this situation, you are responsible for your own learning, for figuring out your answers and where they fall into the topic of your choice. This method of independent learning is fundamental to the way students traditionally learn at university.

  1. You’re given a topic or a lecture – a foundation, so you can understand the task
  2. You are provided with resources to be used as starting points (these can be textbooks, journal articles or websites)
  3. And then you have to produce work at the end of it e.g. an essay, a report or a presentation, about what you've found out

This is what I've tried to recreate in my own EBL project for visiting Y11 students. This project is the finale to the flagship pre-16 Gateways programme, ran by the University of Manchester. Groups of school pupils visit campus year upon year, from Y7 to Y11, to find out more about the opportunities to study in Higher Education and develop new and transferable skills. In this final part of the programme, students are presented with a lecture on a case study (a Volcanic Disaster for this year). They were then sorted into groups depending on their interests and sent away (with the help of a Student Ambassador) to research that area for an hour and a half. The day finishes with each group giving a presentation on what they found and a prize is given to the group that presented the best.


This transition from teacher-led to research-led learning replicates what you would experience if you chose to study at university. When you’re at the cutting edge of your field and learning the newest knowledge being published to date, it’s highly likely that you’ll find yourself not knowing the answers, and being in the position where YOU could contribute to future knowledge, explanations and discoveries.

Throughout your early school days, you may have been taught that there’s only one right answer, and you’ll get a mark for getting that answer right. University is different. There might be some things that we THINK answer the question, but these may still be debated. Something you, or the media or the educational system take for a fact, may still actually be not so certain.

Some courses at university take advantage of this method. Medicine is taught using in many universities around the country. It works in similar to the EBL project above: all of the medics would be split off into groups with people they don’t know, they would be given a case study – perhaps a patient with a case of symptoms. It would be their job to work together to research and collaborate and figure out the causes and treatments of the case.

I believe taking part in EBL tasks early on in education has the advantage of pressing students to think outside of the box and to find their own answers; sometimes topics can be more complicated than just getting the answer right.

Going Further…

Here are some references you may find useful: