1 Connecting and Activating Prior Knowledge

Susan Carter and Cecily Andersen

Key Concepts 
  • Making meaning of the text.
  • Connecting and activating pertinent prior knowledge on wellbeing within educational contexts.
  • Connecting with your own sense of wellbeing.

Guiding question

  • What do you already know about wellbeing and what do you need to learn?
Photograph of street art by Luis Alfonso Orellana on unsplash.

This photograph, shown on the left, which also appears on the front cover is representative of the opening of possibilities, the growing and co-creation of knowledge, and it is through these doors that we enter. The colours on the doors can be seen to represent the differences in people, the perceptions of wellbeing and the differing feelings of wellbeing. Some colours are bold and vivid, others less so but the varying colours are what creates the spectacular artwork. The imagery of the tree could be viewed as representative of the growing of wellbeing in more than one direction as the trees branch out. It is our hope as authors that the information contained in this book can be of use to help people in various educational contexts, support the growth of  positive wellbeing.

 

Introduction

Educational contexts (e.g., schools, special education units and early childhood centres) are places of social hope capital, a place and space where people can inspire positive thinking, engage in educational growth and the sustainment of wellbeing. Considerable research suggests that the promotion of wellbeing, is a core role of schools and teachers are in a prime position to recognise changes indicative of wellbeing concerns.

 

The quality of life or wellbeing of an individual or community is a function of the actual conditions of that life and what an individual or community makes of those conditions. What a person or community makes of those conditions is in turn a function of how the conditions are perceived, what is thought and felt about those conditions, what is done and, finally, what consequences follow from all these inputs. People’s perceptions, thoughts, feelings and actions, then, have an impact on their own and others’ living conditions (Michalos, 2007, p.4).

 

Prior to embarking on this journey of exploring wellbeing within educational contexts, this Chapter will connect with your prior knowledge on wellbeing and explore your own sense of wellbeing.

Connecting with your prior knowledge

Connecting and activating pertinent prior knowledge assembles bridges connecting knowledge already integrated into understanding of a topic, and new knowledge, thus enabling learning through the creation of mental hooks that assist to anchor new instructional concepts, processes and skills (Andersen, 2018). Mazano (2004) contends that linking to prior expertise or knowledge in any sphere, increases the quantity of requisite knowledge that is accessible for use when bearing in mind new information, queries, questions or challenges. Further to this Campbell and Campbell (2009) pose that this is the reason some individuals with great expertise are more likely to ponder multiple perspectives of matters, queries, questions or problems and reach additional reasoned answers than novices. Re-examining prior knowledge shapes firm foundations on which to develop new learning experiences, and supports self-worth, reducing feelings of ignorance or general lack of ability, as new stimulating options are created when linkages are made between past ideas and new information (Andersen, 2018). Activating and connecting pertinent prior knowledge is vital in setting the scene.

Activity

Let’s connect with your own prior knowledge by considering the topic of this textbook – wellbeing, and specifically wellbeing within educational contexts.Complete the tasks below.

THINGS I UNDERSTAND THINGS I THINK I UNDERSTAND THINGS I WANT or NEED TO UNDERSTAND and LEARN HOW TO DO
What do you already understand about wellbeing in general? What do you think you understand? What do you want or need to to find out?Why do you want or need to find this out?
What do you already understand about wellbeing in educational contexts? What are you already able to do in fostering wellbeing with your current context? Why is this important for you?
What do you currently understand about how to foster wellbeing in your current context? What level of expertise/ experience do you have? What do you want to learn?
How can this be evidenced? (E.g., how do you know and what does this look like?) Why is this important to you?

Table 1.1 Connecting with your prior wellbeing knowledge to what you want or need to learn. Adapted from Campbell, L. & Campbell, B. (2009). Mindful learning: 101 Proven strategies for student and teacher success, Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. p.14

Connecting with yourself

Being familiar to your inner signals and values and recognising how your feelings impact on you, contributes towards understanding your own wellbeing, as well as understanding the holistic complex situation that is wellbeing within a wider educational context. As such self-awareness is a key foundation block essential to understanding personal wellbeing and the wellbeing of individuals, teams and the school community (Andersen, 2018). Self-awareness is required for creating trusting relationships and promoting wellbeing. If we don’t know ourselves, it becomes increasing difficult to know, understand and effectively assist someone else.

 

      According to Eurich (2017), self-awareness is “the ability to see ourselves clearly, understand who we are, how other see us, and how we fit into the world” (Eurich, 2017, p.4). Covey (2004) expands this further by explaining self-awareness as the ability to accurately understand and reflect upon one’s own skills, knowledge, feelings, and behaviour, and then enact this insight to identify strengths and to try and mitigate any weaknesses. The notion of self-awareness posed by Goleman (2005), goes beyond just such passive actions, to advocacy for a strong basis in proactive action, where self-informed individuals exercise agency to craft intentional and informed decisions and choices monitoring and controlling their thoughts and subliminal biases. Eurich (2013), explains that this proactive active action involves two different forms of self-awareness:

  1. Internal self-awareness – knowing and understanding yourself (Eurich, 2017).
  2. External self-awareness – knowing how other people perceive you and perceiving yourself accurately from other’s perspectives (Eurich, 2017).

 

An individual’s ability to perceive, identify and manage emotions provides the basis for the types of social and emotional competencies needed for successful personal and professional conversations (Reiss, 2009). The identity of self influences the perspectives of others and can have a powerful impact on one’s efforts to collaboratively work with others and support, enhance, and promote their wellbeing. It is therefore important to ask yourself who you are and understand how you can and will engage with others in a caring professional and educative manner.  It through knowing yourself and being aware of what is important to you (i.e., your values, and beliefs), that you can behave authentically when engaging with others in both personal and professional relationships (Andersen, 2018).

 

Understanding the wellbeing of others in the first instance often commences with an understanding yourself.

Key Questions

  • How would you rate your own wellbeing? Is this accurate? What evidence do you use to validate this? Would others see you the same way?
  • What are your core values? How are they aligned / or not aligned to your context’s core values? How does this impact / or not impact on your wellbeing?
  • What do you stand for? What principles guide you? How do they impact / or not impact on your wellbeing?

Activity

Rochat’s (2003) extensive study on the development of self-awareness offers one way of conceptualising levels of self-awareness, and how self-awareness develops over time as a result of life experiences (see Table 1.2). Where would you place your level of self-awareness? What evidence do you have to support the level you have identified? How accurate is your judgement? How could you validate your judgement?

Level Rochat’s Levels of Development Description
0 Confusion Having no self- awareness or understanding of a how individual actions connect to, or impact on the environment.
1 Differentiation At this level there is an awareness of a difference between what is perceived by self and what is reflected in an environment, and gaining a sense of how self is situated relative to that environment.
2 Situation A growing understanding that the results of self-produced actions can be observed in, and can impact on the impact on the environment.
3 Identification Basic self-awareness. Consciousness and active gathering and processing information from the environment with a focus on the reality (impact) of own behaviour. Identification of own feelings, physical sensations, reactions, habits, behaviours and thoughts. Understanding of how self is managed and how one engages with other people.
4 Permanence A recognition that this is me and I am stuck with it (sometimes). The self is able to be identified beyond the moment and the here and now. At this level self manifests as enduring, while also at the same time being responsive to changes over time. This is the point where changes can be made; an appreciation is developed of reasons for past behaviour or self-protection systems; vulnerabilities that were had at that time are recognised and acknowledged; and negative and positive core beliefs identified.
5 Self-consciousness or meta self-awareness A realisation that this is the “me” that everyone else sees and that “I” have come to terms with that. At this level individuals are fully aware of who they are, how they present and how they are perceived in the minds of others. Self-consciousness or meta self-awareness provides opportunities to make changes that make a real difference and as self-aware individuals are also open to further evaluation of how they are perceived.

Table 1.2 Rochat’s 5 Levels of Self-awareness. Text adapted from Self-awareness. Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-awareness, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Licence.

We acknowledge that a journey in self-discovery can at times be challenging, an understanding of self creates deeper authenticity in professional relationships and wellbeing conversations by developing more complex internal mechanisms for knowing when and how to engage with other people. The understanding of self is not a “one off” epiphany or process. It is a life-long learning journey that involves hard work, takes considerable practice, may be emotionally painful at times when a person recognises and acknowledges their strengths and weaknesses, takes time to master but most importantly it is worthwhile work. You may find that you may need to utilise the learning activities above many times as you grow as a learner.

This text

This text focuses on wellbeing in educational contexts as educational contexts play a pivotal role in teaching students about nonviolence, promoting understanding of diversity, endowing people with a shared purpose and meaning and the skills and behaviours to create a more inclusive, healthy, and positive future (Niemi, Lavonen, Kallioniemi, & Toom, 2018). Weare (2013) affirms the words of Maslow (1970), averring that there is significantly important to satisfy an individual’s social emotional needs before concentrating on the academic needs. The Queensland Department of Education and Training {DET} (2018) reiterates the importance of catering for an individual’s needs, posing that students learn best in environments where their social, emotional and physical wellbeing is nurtured. So how do we do this?

 

To generate  real educational context community purpose there needs to be a shared understanding of purpose, a clear vision and a common language around established ways of working that positively contribute to building a safe, inclusive culture where wellbeing is fore-fronted. At the start of each chapter we posed guiding questions for you to consider. In chapter one we outline a possible way of meaning making using the text; chapter two  explores some theoretical conceptualisations of wellbeing (guiding question: what is wellbeing?); chapter three presents policy, frameworks and legislation that has informed the focus on wellbeing (guiding question: how is wellbeing enacted?); chapter four outlines possible impactors and enablers to wellbeing (guiding question: how is wellbeing enhanced?); chapter five explores embedding an education wide focus on wellbeing (guiding question: how is wellbeing enacted and embedded?) and the final chapter, chapter six, explores the ecological and contextual analysis of wellbeing in relation to a workplace wellbeing framework (guiding question: how can wellbeing be enacted and promoted in my context?).

 

We hope that you love learning with us and we invite you to contact us in the hope of co-constructing knowledge and understandings that are helpful in educational contexts.

References

Andersen, C. (2018). EDU8400. Coaching and mentoring in educational contexts: Course notes. Toowoomba, Australia: University of Southern Queensland.

Campbell, L. & Campbell, B. (2009). Mindful learning:101 Proven strategies for student and teacher success, Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Covey, S.R. (2004). The 8th habit: From effectiveness to greatness. New York, NY: Free Press.

Department of Education and Training. (DET). (2018). Health and wellbeing. Retrieved from http://education.qld.gov.au/schools/healthy/

Eurich, T. (2013). Bankable leadership: Happy people, bottom-line results, and the power to deliver both. Austin Texas, TX: Green Leaf Book Press.

Eurich, T. (2017). Insight: The power of self-awareness in a self-deluded world. London, UK: Pan Books.

Goleman, D. (2005). Emotional intelligence. New York, NY: Random House.

Maslow, A. H. (1970). Motivation and Personality. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Mazano, R. (2007) The art and science of teaching: A comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Alexandria, VA: Association of Superiors and Curriculum Development.

Michalos, A.C (2007). Education, happiness and wellbeing. Paper presented at the International Conference on ‘Is happiness measurable and what do those measures mean for public policy?’, Rome, Italy.

Niemi, H., Lavonen, J., Kallioniemi, A., & Toom, A. (2018). The role of teachers in the Finnish educational system. In The teacher’s role in the changing globalizing world: Resources and challenges related to the professional work of teaching (pp. 47-61). Leiden, Netherlands: Brill Sense. Retrieved from https://brill.com/abstract/book/edcoll/9789004372573/BP000008.xml

Reiss, K. (2009). Leadership coaching for educators. Cheltenham, VIC: Hawker Brownlow Education.

Rochat, P. (2003). Five levels of self-awareness as they unfold early in life. Consciousness & Cognition, (12), 707-731.

Weare, K. (2013). Promoting mental, emotional and social health: A whole school approach. London, UK: Routledge.

 

 

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Connecting and Activating Prior Knowledge by Susan Carter and Cecily Andersen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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