Fostering student well-being

Fostering student well-being


Creating a nurturing classroom environment where students thrive academically and emotionally is paramount in modern education. Fostering student well-being goes beyond just imparting knowledge; it entails cultivating a space where learners feel safe, supported, and empowered to explore their potential. By prioritizing their emotional and mental health alongside academic achievement, educators play a crucial role in shaping resilient, engaged, and fulfilled individuals. In this introductory paragraph, we delve into prioritizing student well-being in the classroom and its profound impact on overall learning outcomes and personal development.

Protective factors

Protective factors are characteristics associated with a lower likelihood of adverse outcomes or that reduce a risk factor's impact. 

Protective factors include individuals, families, or communities that support resilience, help people more effectively manage stressful events, and strengthen other characteristics that minimize the risk of mental health or substance use challenges. They can include participation in group activities outside of work and school, supportive family relationships, religious or spiritual practices, other social support, physical exercise, a healthy diet, positive emotions, and hope for the future. Active coping skills include journaling, connecting with community clubs or groups, talking to a trusted person about how you’re doing, using online support groups or chat rooms, writing, creating art or music, or developing a hobby.

Protective factors and coping skills can bolster resilience — a person’s ability to “bounce back” or overcome adversity. Resilience involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed over time.

Mental health challenges happen. According to the 2020  National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 52.9 million people, or 21% of adults ages 18 years or older, experience mental health or substance use challenges each year. As the COVID-19 pandemic lingers, those numbers are likely to be higher, with roughly three out of four adults reporting that the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health.

Individual Protective Factors

  • Abstinence from alcohol and other drugs.
  • Help-seeking behavior.
  • Friends and supportive significant others.
  • Hope for the future.
  • Having goals.
  • Pets/Connectedness to others.
  • Good problem-solving skills.
  • Medical compliance and a sense of the importance of health and wellness.

Trauma-informed practices

Being trauma-informed means being aware that our students’ collective past and present experiences affect their classroom well-being.

  • Share general support resources with students in the course syllabus.
  • Acknowledge when topics may align with complex issues.
  • Normalize the process of talking about fear, stress, and anxiety.
  • Build ”mindful moments” into your class session.
  • Create a pathway for students to share personal challenges with you privately.
  • Encourage peer support and mutual self-help in our courses.
  • Consider how and when sharing decision-making can foster greater well-being.

Structure vs. Flexibility

Finding the balance between creating structure and being flexible in teaching approaches is crucial for fostering an effective learning environment. Structure provides a clear framework for students, outlining expectations, goals, and the sequence of learning activities. It offers stability and guidance, helping students understand what is expected of them and how they can progress. On the other hand, being flexible allows educators to adapt to the ever-changing classroom dynamics. It entails recognizing students' diverse needs, learning styles, and interests and adjusting teaching methods accordingly. Flexibility empowers educators to seize teachable moments, explore new avenues of learning, and accommodate unexpected challenges or opportunities as they arise. While structure provides stability and direction, flexibility enables responsiveness and innovation, ultimately enhancing the learning experience for all students. Striking the right balance between these two approaches is key to creating a dynamic, inclusive learning environment that nurtures student growth and engagement.

Examples of Predictability

  • Establish a routine and maintain clear communication.
  • Creates psychological safety.
  • Allows for space to explain why and how decisions are made.

Examples of Flexibility

  • Check assumptions (time, resources, access)
  • Let go of “zero tolerance” policies.
  • Utilize principles of universal learning design. 


Case Scenarios

Review the following scenarios and determine how you might respond while considering student well-being issues.

  1. One of your students missed the midterm exam (accidentally slept in). The student comes to your office and tells you she just broke up with her boyfriend and is having problems concentrating on things. How would you handle this situation?

  2. A few weeks before the end of the semester, a student comes to the instructor with concerns about their grade and asks for extra credit. The instructor vaguely remembers seeing this student’s recent exam grade (65%). He must rush off to a meeting and has already stated in class that he does not give extra credit. How would you handle this situation?

Keywordswell-being, belonging, inclusion, equity, diversityDoc ID119570
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2022-07-12 13:08:27Updated2024-04-26 13:03:16
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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