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Embarrassing conversations may enhance the well-being and motivation of teens

Talking with their classmates about topics that are relevant to their everyday life, can give teenagers a sense of belonging and contribute to increased well-being and motivation in school.

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“The topics brought up for discussion in ROBUST are highly relevant for our students. The programme deals with several issues that our students deal with in their everyday lives”, teachers said.

A new teaching programme aimed at bolstering students’ social and emotional skills as well as their understanding of what motivates them to do schoolwork, will be tried out in Norwegian 8th-grade classrooms from autumn 2020.

The goal of the programme is to enhance the well-being and motivation amongst the students, and to strengthen the knowledge and skills needed to deal with challenges both in and outside of school.

5 topics over 25 lessons

The teaching programme, which is named ROBUST, is part of the research project Resilient. Over a period of 25 45-minute lessons, the 8th graders will discuss five different topics together with their teacher:

  1. Social relationships
  2. Mindfulness
  3. Problem solving
  4. Emotion regulation
  5. Growth mindset

Teachers involved in project quality control

The program will undergo several rounds of quality control before the trial commences this autumn. 8th grade teachers participating in the project will be involved in this work, as few know better than them which challenges both students and teachers are facing.

“The topics brought up for discussion in ROBUST are highly relevant for our students. The programme deals with several issues that our students deal with in their everyday lives”, teacher Lisa Mari Staddeland from Gosen Lower Secondary School says.

Embarrassing topics

Staddeland explains that the topics in the programme provide ample opportunities to raise and discuss things that the teens find challenging. She believes that this will contribute to more openness in the classroom, and that it will provide the students with tools to handle emotions and situations they may encounter in their lives.

“Obviously, some things will be embarrassing to talk about. It is better that the teens get the chance to discuss these things in the classroom, together with a teachers, than them searching for answers on Google”, she says.

Life skills is a topic in the new curricula

“Helping and supporting students has always been part of the teacher’s role. In that respect, this is nothing new, but these topics are laid down in the new curricula, and as such, required of us in a new way”, Tjelta says.

He explains that it is the teacher's job to work with the life skill topic at various levels.

“ROBUST is a nice programme that we can introduce the whole class to, and it is specifically tailored to this group: the 8th grade. There are many other programmes out there, but they are not necessarily tailored specifically to this group”, he says.

Teachers Lisa Mari Staddeland and Odd Tjelta.

Resilient

ROBUST is part of the RCT Resilient, which will empirically investigate if middle schools can improve youths' social and emotional competencies, and thereby enhance students' well-being, motivation and school achievement.

Researchers in the project will conduct a randomized controlled trial (RCT) with at least 100 eighth-grade classrooms (n=2500 students), in which eighth-graders (14 years old) in treated classrooms participate in a social and emotional learning intervention.

Resilient is co-produced and piloted with users, and consists of a scientifically based curriculum, a web-portal with teacher and student resources, and an accompanying 10-credit teacher education.

Based on international empirical research on how to enhance youths' social and emotional competencies, Resilient fosters competencies in social relationships, emotional regulation, problem solving, and motivational enhancement.

We measure intervention-effects by assessing students' social and emotional competencies, well-being, motivation and school achievement at pre-intervention, at the end of the one-year intervention, and in a one-year follow-up. During the year of implementation, we conduct an extensive implementation and process evaluation, in order to understand why or why not the intervention is effective.