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WEY-CRISP Report Summary

Project ID: 657482
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - WEY-CRISP (Well-being among European youth: The contribution of student teacher relationships in the secondary-school population)

Reporting period: 2016-07-04 to 2018-07-03

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Creating environments that foster young people´s wellbeing is one of the current priorities for the European Union. Multidisciplinary evidence across the social sciences indicates that significant relationships with supportive adults within their key environments are crucial for young people’s wellbeing and positive development.
Research on the importance of parents as key adult figures is abundant, but significantly less is known about the potential contribution of non-parental adults, who can also be important sources of wellbeing for young people.
Given that the school is a crucial developmental context in young people’s life, teachers seem to be ideally located to become influential non-parental adults for their students. For that reason, this project focused on student-teacher relationships. In addition, because previous research shows that relationships with teachers tend to become more distant in secondary school, the project concentrated on the secondary-school population.
The concept of school connectedness has been frequently used to emphasize the importance of relationships with adults in the school for students’ outcomes and we took it as a starting point for this project. Specifically, the aim of this project was to develop the current understanding of teacher connectedness, as a novel concept, in two key directions:
1. Providing further evidence regarding the contribution of teacher connectedness to youth wellbeing and the factors that increase or decrease the likelihood that teachers become significant adults for adolescents’ wellbeing
2. Developing a measure on teacher connectedness that incorporates the main components of meaningful teacher-student relationships, drawing on both existing scientific evidence and, importantly, young people’s voices.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Next, we describe the work performed since the beginning of the project to its end. To organize this information in a clearer way, a summary is done for each of the two years of the project.
Year 1: Review of literature and quantitative and qualitative research about student-teacher relationships
At the beginning of the project a website and social media accounts were created to enhance communication and dissemination.
Our research work focused on the quantitative component of the project and the planned literature review, which was fundamental for giving the project a solid start. More specifically, quantitative analyses using multilevel modelling were used to examine the links between school characteristics such as type of school, location, size, and student-teacher ratio and student-teacher relationships. We also undertook analyses to examine the links between relationships with teachers and other aspects of school connectedness and important aspects of a healthy development, including low substance use risk, self-esteem and emotional wellbeing.Early in the project, a possibility of international collaboration was identified, and a research stay was performed at Umea University (Sweden) at the end of the first project year. This allowed an expansion of our quantitative investigations by looking to some of our associations of interest longitudinally.
We also designed and conducted a scoping review of the literature that was used for two purposes: (1) to summarize existing evidence and advance current understanding of the concepts of school and teacher connectedness and (2) to provide a map of existing research on the links between these concepts and wellbeing in adolescence.
In parallel, the fellow took part in intensive qualitative research training and worked in the design of the qualitative element of the project, which included focus groups with students and interviews with their teachers. To strengthen the cross-cultural aspects of the project, fieldwork to explore the meanings, barriers and facilitators of teacher connectedness from the perspective of students and teachers was conducted both in England and in Spain.By the end of the first year, we had completed fieldwork with both teachers and students in England and with students in Spain as well as started our qualitative analyses.

Year 2: Completion of the qualitative study followed by student-teacher connectedness scale development and initial piloting
During the second year the qualitative the interviews with teachers in Spain were completed. In addition, all the data from the qualitative study was analysed. To be able to pilot our scale on student-teacher connectedness during the HBSC study 2017/2018 data collection period, we worked intensively in developing a relevant pool of items based on the findings from our qualitative study with students and the scoping review mentioned above. An expert consultation about the relevance, clarity and level of analysis in the proposed items was conducted and the scale was included in the HBSC survey (both in England and Spain) for its initial piloting. Although the data collection is still in progress, we have been able to conduct some preliminary analyses of the items functioning whose results are positive so far.
Year 2 also involved an intensified dissemination and communication of the project work and its main findings including presentations in conferences and submission of publications to international journals, interviews and intense activity in social media, production of a briefing for teachers and educational professionals, and invited seminars in international universities, among others.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

By generating synergistic links between approaches in education, psychology and health research, the project has contributed to a clearer conceptualization of the novel concept of student-teacher connectedness and succeeded in doing so while incorporating young people’s perspectives. The project was also valuable in the sense of providing additional evidence about school factors that can affect student-teacher relationships and on the links between positive relationships with teachers and students’ healthy development.
An important way in which the findings from the project contribute to advance the state of the art in this area is by clarifying on the commonalities and differences between connectedness and other concepts frequently used in the adolescent research about school experiences (climate, bonding, belonging or engagement).
In addition, we have been able to identify some central attributes in relationships with teachers that are associated to students’ feelings of connectedness. We knew that students in secondary school usually have more distant relationships with their teachers but still tend to connect with one or two of their teachers. What this project helped us to understand is what makes the difference between the relationships with those and the rest of teachers from the student’s perspective. Complementing this, we were able to listen to teachers’ experiences, which shed light on good practices and challenges in building those positive relationships with students.
Finally, the project has produced the foundation work for the development of a scale for the assessment of student-teacher connectedness in adolescence, that we hope can be of value for future research in this emerging field of investigation.

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