9 Glossary of Terms


At Risk The term at-risk is often used to describe leaners or groups of learners who are considered to have a higher probability of failing academically or dropping out of school. The term may be also be applied to learners who face circumstances that could jeopardize their ability to complete school, such as homelessness, incarceration, teenage pregnancy, serious health issues, domestic violence, transiency (as in the case of migrant-worker families), or other conditions, or it may refer to learning disabilities, low test scores, disciplinary problems, grade retentions, or other learning-related factors that could adversely affect the educational performance and attainment of some students. While educators often use the term at-risk to refer to general populations or categories of students, they may also apply the term to individual students who have raised concerns—based on specific behaviours observed over time—that indicate they are more likely to fail or drop out.
Ecology Ecology refers to the set of relationships existing between individuals and the context in which they are operating, and the set of relationships existing between any complex system and its surroundings or environment. It also includes the interdependence of people or systems within that environment.
An ecological model An ecological model typically depicts a child’s development occurring within concentric circles of influence; the innermost circles represent the most immediate influences, and outer circles represent broader social influences. Even though children might not interact with their wider social environments directly, their wellbeing can be affected indirectly through the influence on more immediate environments such as the family. An ecological model therefore provides a basis for understanding how a child’s social and emotional wellbeing is influenced through both proximal and distal environments.
Epidemiology Epidemiology is the study of how often diseases occur in different groups of people and why. Epidemiological information is used to plan and evaluate strategies to prevent illness and as a guide to the development of programs and processes to support populations.
Eudaimonia wellbeing


Eudaimonia wellbeing refers to feelings that are present when one is moving toward self-realization in terms of the development of one’s unique individual potential and the furthering one’s purposes in life. Self-realization and personal expressiveness are core, defining features of eudaimonia.
Hedonic wellbeing  Hedonic wellbeing involves pleasure/enjoyment/satisfaction, and comfort/painlessness/ease. These variables are associated with contents representing certain mindsets, including a focus on the self, the present moment, and the tangible, and a focus on taking and consuming what one needs and wants. Hedonic wellbeing consists of high levels of positive affect, low levels of negative affect, and the cognitive appraisal that one is satisfied with the conditions of their life.
Mental health Mental health is a state of being that also includes the biological, psychological or social factors which contribute to an individual’s mental state and ability to function within the environment.
Mental health problem A mental health problem interferes with how a person thinks, feels, and behaves, but to a lesser extent than a mental illness. Mental health problems are more common and include the mental ill health that can be experienced temporarily as a reaction to the stresses of life. Mental health problems are less severe than mental illnesses but may develop into a mental illness if they are not effectively dealt with.
Mental illness mental illness is a health problem that significantly affects how a person feels, thinks, behaves, and interacts with other people. It is diagnosed according to standardized criteria. The term mental disorder is also used to refer to these health problems. 
Objective wellbeing theories Objective wellbeing theories tend to define wellbeing in terms of objective, external and universal notions of quality-of-life indicators such as social attributes [health, education, social networks and connections] and material resources [income, food and housing].
Promotion of wellbeing Promotion of wellbeing refers to programs, processes, strategies, ways that promote wellbeing.
Protective factor A protective factor can be defined as a characteristic at the individual, family, or community (including peers and culture) level that is associated with a lower likelihood of problem outcomes or that reduces the negative impact of a risk factor on problem outcomes. Protective factors are conditions or attributes that can occur in individuals, families, communities, or the larger society that mitigate or eliminate risk in families and communities that lessen the likelihood of negative consequences from exposure to risk. They serve as safeguards that can assist individuals to find resources or supports, as well encouraging coping strategies that allow them to cope, even under difficult circumstances.
Resilience Resilience can be defined as the attainment of positive adaptation in the face of significant adversity involves a developmental progression; new vulnerabilities and challenges and/or strengths and opportunities often emerge with changing circumstances over the life course. Resilience is not something an individual ‘has’ – it is determined by developmental processes that are not fixed or immutable. It is what might be called ‘coping strategies’, or self-management qualities such including personal responsibility and self-discipline, connection to the others (friends, family or community), a sense of community and or civic engagement, participation and service, and overall confidence and self-esteem.
Risk Factors A risk factor can be defined as a characteristic at the individual family, community, or cultural level that precedes and is associated with a higher likelihood of problem outcomes. Risk factors are conditions, variables, circumstances or events that increase the probability a lower likelihood of positive outcomes and a higher likelihood of negative or socially undesirable outcomes in the future. When combined with limited protective factors, they increase the probability of individuals experiencing poor SEW or even child abuse or neglect.
Safe and supportive learning environment  A safe supportive learning environment is an environment which protects the emotional, psychological and physical well-being of students and staff.
School community  A school community is generally considered to include students, families, school staff, other professionals, other support staff and volunteers.
Sense of belonging & connectedness A sense of belonging and connectedness arises from a perception of quality and satisfaction gained from meaningful social connections. A sense of belonging and connectedness can also relate to a sense of belonging to a place or even an event. Belonging or connectedness is then a complex and dynamic process unique to each person.
Social and emotional learning Social and emotional learning is about developing the ability to care for others, make responsible decisions, establish positive relationships, and handle challenging situations.
Social and emotional wellbeing Broadly, social and emotional wellbeing refers to the way a person thinks and feels about themselves and others. It includes being able to adapt and deal with daily challenges (resilience and coping skills) while leading a fulfilling life. Hence, there is an emphasis on the behavioural and emotional strengths of individuals, as well as how they respond to adversity.
Subjective wellbeing Subjective well-being [SWB] can be defined as an individual’s cognitive and affective evaluation. The cognitive element refers to what one thinks about their life satisfaction in terms of life as a whole including specific areas of life such as work or relationships. The affective element refers to emotions, moods and feelings. Affect is considered positive when the emotions, moods and feelings experienced are pleasant (e.g., joy, elation, affection etc.)  and deemed negative when the emotions, moods and feelings experienced are unpleasant (e.g., guilt, anger, shame etc.).
Subjective theories of wellbeing Subjective theories of wellbeing are focused on subjective overall life evaluations, and comprise two main components – affect [feelings, emotions and mood] and life satisfaction, which is identified as a distinct construct and defined relative to specific domains in life [such as school, work and family].
Student wellbeing Student wellbeing is the outcome of how well programs, processes, policies enact and promote wellbeing within an educational context.
Values Values are the principles and fundamental convictions which act as general guide to behaviour;  the standards by which particular actions are judged as good or desirable and the ideals that are reflected through the priorities that we choose, and that we act on consistently and repeatedly.
Values education Values education can be described as any explicit and/or implicit school-based activity which promotes student understanding and knowledge of values, and which develops the skills and dispositions of students so they can enact particular values as individuals and as members of the wider community.
Wellbeing Wellbeing is not just the absence of disease or illness. It is a complex combination of a person’s physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual health.
Wellness Wellness is not the same as wellbeing, and instead contributes to it, as wellness is the sum of the positive steps taken to achieve wellbeing.


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Wellbeing in Educational Contexts - Second edition Copyright © 2023 by University of Southern Queensland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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