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Article

In the United States, gender and health in adolescence are sites of contestation and conflict marked by both hyperrepresentations and absences. Youth who are multiply marginalized by interlocking systems of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and so on are overrepresented in cultural and policy domains as “at risk” for negative health outcomes. At the same time, absences surrounding young people’s complex health needs and experiences abound in schools, healthcare settings, families, and the media. For instance, debates around sex education and teen pregnancy prevention have dominated the policy landscape for decades, with no signs of receding any time soon. Missing from these debates has been an analysis of how the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality structure the health outcomes and educational experiences of diverse youth. Likewise, queer, transgender, and gender-expansive youth are overrepresented in discussions about bullying to the detriment of the social structural factors that produce poor mental health outcomes. Understanding how gender and health play out in the lives of adolescents, as well as at the level of social institutions and structures, is central to teasing out the dynamics of gender, health, and social inequalities.

Article

Helen Cahill, Babak Dadvand, and Annie Gowing

The well-being challenges of the 21st century are deeply ethical in nature and require activation of collective as well as individual responsibility for the ways in which others are treated. For this reason, school reform initiatives need to equip young people with a wide range of capacities to engage with the challenges of advancing both the wellness of humanity and that of the planet. There is a robust body of theory and research available to inform school reform efforts that aim to accomplish improved individual and collective well-being. This knowledge base emanates from different paradigms and disciplinary traditions. Brought together, these knowledge sources highlight the importance of ensuring that schools invest efforts toward developing ethical, critical, personal, social, and creative capabilities that enable young people to enact care for self, others, society, and the planet. A transdisciplinary approach that expounds on research and theory from diverse disciplines, including well-being education, critical, feminist, and postmodern traditions, and scholarship on youth voice and participation can help efforts toward well-being-centric school reform. Evidence suggests that research-informed well-being education programs can have positive impacts in terms of improved mental, social, and relational health, contributions to learning, and fostering critical thinking skills. These are the skills that are needed by young people to navigate and respond to ethnical challenges with care, compassion, and a sense of responsibility as a relational ethos. Taken together, these advances in thinking and knowledge, derived from different traditions of scholarship, can be harnessed to inform a “well-being-centric” approach to schooling reform that is responsive to the past, present, and future lives of persons, peoples, and the planet. A well-being-centric approach to school reform should harness developments in education knowledge and thinking generated across diverse disciplines within the past 50 years, since the 1970s. This, in turn, requires disrupting the ways in which the disciplinary structures and assessment regimes of secondary schools work as impediments to the transformative change needed to advance student well-being and learning in these changed and challenging times.

Article

Mindfulness, adapted from ancient Buddhist thought and practice, was introduced into the West in a secularized and Westernized form during the 1980s. In subsequent decades, it spread around the world, into clinics, workplaces, and schools. The practice involves cultivating the ability to focus attention, and to notice any distracting thoughts and feelings without judgment or elaboration, in order to reduce stress and improve mental health. As such, it is a psychological phenomenon involving metacognition, or thinking about thinking, though this can be placed within a holistic framework that sees the mind as intricately linked with the body and the external world. In the early years of the 21st century, concerns grew about children’s mental health, and schools became seen as places to address this through universal programs; that is, mental health promotion programs that reach all students and that therefore do not stigmatize those who already have psychological difficulties, or are at risk of developing them. Evidence was also accruing that, with samples of healthy (non-clinical) adults, mindfulness had moderate effects on measures such as anxiety, and strong effects in reducing stress. Although research designs were generally not very strong, the positive results and public enthusiasm for mindfulness encouraged the introduction of universal programs into schools, and even preschools. However, the dissemination of school-based mindfulness programs ran well ahead of the scientific evidence examining their efficacy (under tightly controlled conditions) or their effectiveness in real-world school contexts. While studies were suggestive that mindfulness could affect many aspects of children’s and adolescents’ wellbeing and development, the body of research as a whole fell short in terms of scientific rigor. There were few well-designed randomized controlled trials that would enable firm conclusions to be drawn that any identified effects were due to the mindfulness program rather than to unknown factors. Moreover, little attention was paid to the presumed mechanisms of change or to the developmental appropriateness of programs. As more, and better-designed, studies began to emerge, accumulating results suggested that effects were generally small, but stronger for older than younger adolescents, and longer lasting for adolescents than for children. Issues that remained for further systematic attention included many matters of program design and implementation, the safety of the practice, its basis in developmental theory and research, and its ethical and political implications.

Article

Adolescent psychology and mental health needs in China are part of an interdisciplinary area of research. In this area of research, macro and micro processes are closely linked; biological, cultural, and socio-structural influences tightly intertwined; and patterns identified in other societies fall apart due to the impact of powerful societal forces on individual psychology. As a result, there has been a fundamental and long-lasting split between the idea that “Chinese adolescent psychology” should be a distinctive science within China, addressing issues specific to the circumstances of Chinese children and families, and the argument that it should contribute to a universal theory of human development by documenting its applications to Chinese societies. The problem of the first idea lies in its assumption of cultural relativism or the incommensurability of the human experience of growing up in particular sociocultural contexts. In contrast, the problem of the second argument lies in its failure to ask what is “universal,” when a universal theory is applicable to China, and when it may not be. Arguably, adolescents in all cultures carry vulnerabilities and strengths as they go through the process of major biological and psychological transitions. Certain psychosocial needs, such as the needs for self-exploration, quality peer relationship, and continuous guidance and support from adults, are shared by adolescents across the world, albeit through different forms. When their basic needs are neglected by ideology-driven policies and practices that are carried to an extreme extent, youth mental health is seriously threatened. It is important for researchers not only to go beyond the dichotomous view of the field by taking an ecological approach and multidisciplinary perspectives to investigate the salient issues in adolescent psychology and mental health needs in their specific sociocultural context, but also to consider their broader implications for understanding universally relevant questions about success and sacrifice in human and social development.

Article

There is a global push for a comprehensive school mental health system to meet the mental health needs of children and youths in school. To respond effectively to these needs, parents, schools, and communities must recognize the value of collaborating as partners. The term parent-school-community partnership refers to the genuine collaboration among families, schools, communities, individuals, organizations, businesses, and government and nongovernment agencies to assist students’ emotional, social, physical, intellectual, and psychological development. To realize the goals of effective partnership in promoting school mental health of children and youths, ongoing assessment of the schools’ needs, and the available resources of local, state, and national communities, agencies, and organizations is necessary for the provision of effective partnership interventions. In partnership, parents, educators, and community members work together and share responsibilities for the development of the “whole child.” A multitier system of partnership support could be beneficial in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of school mental health interventions and evidence-based programs.

Article

Brian A. Gerrard and Gertina J. van Schalkwyk

School-based family counseling (SBFC) is an integrative systems approach to helping children succeed academically and personally through mental health interventions that link family and school. SBFC may be practiced by any of the mental health approaches and is best viewed as a supporting approach to traditional mental health disciplines. An important precursor to SBFC was the guidance clinics attached to schools that were developed by the psychiatrist Alfred Adler in Vienna in the 1920s. A core assumption in SBFC is that the two most important institutions in the life of a young child are the family and the school and that an effective way to help children is by mobilizing both family and school resources. SBFC has eight strengths: school and family focus, systems orientation, educational focus, parent partnership, multicultural sensitivity, child advocacy, promotion of school transformation, and interdisciplinary focus. Despite its early origins, SBFC remains a new approach that challenges traditional mental health disciplines that focus on either school or family, but not both. There is moderate evidence-based support (EBS) for the effectiveness of SBFC, but further research is needed on different approaches to SBFC.

Article

Laura Sokal and Jennifer Katz

Inclusive classrooms provide new opportunities for group membership and creation of effective learning environments. In order to facilitate the success of inclusion as an approach and philosophy, it is important that all class members as well as their teachers develop the skills to understand one another, and to communicate and work together effectively. Social emotional learning (SEL) is aimed at developing these skills and is generally defined to involve processes by which individuals learn to understand and moderate their own feelings, understand the feelings of others, communicate, resolve conflicts effectively, respect others, and develop healthy relationships. These skills are important to both children with disabilities and to those without, in terms of overall social development, perceptions of belonging, and promotion of overall mental wellness, as well as mitigation of the development of mental illness. Research suggests that SEL programming has the potential to effectively enhance children’s academic, social, and relational outcomes. Moreover, teachers who teach SEL in their classrooms have also demonstrated positive outcomes. Despite these encouraging findings, implementation of SEL has been hampered by some limitations, including the lack of a consistent definition—a limitation that in turn affects research findings; lack of teacher education in SEL, which erodes confidence in the fidelity of implementation; and concerns that current SEL programs are not sensitive to cultural differences in communities. Together, the strengths and limitations of SEL illuminate several policy implications regarding the most advantageous ways for SEL to contribute to the success of inclusion in classrooms and schools.

Article

Li-fang Zhang and Robert J. Sternberg

“Intellectual styles” refers to people’s preferred ways of processing information and dealing with cognitive and other tasks. Styles comprise an all-embracing way of understanding such constructs as cognitive styles, learning approaches, career personality types, thinking styles, teaching styles, and many others—constructs with or without the word “style.” The field of intellectual styles has a history of more than eight decades. Until the early 21st century, however, the field was constantly struggling with its identity as a result of three major challenges: (a) the lack of a common language and a conceptual framework with which work on styles could be understood, (b) the difficulty in distinguishing styles from intelligence/abilities and personality traits, and (c) the ambiguity concerning the link between work on styles and work in other fields. This identity crisis was exacerbated by three principal controversial issues regarding the nature of intellectual styles: whether styles are distinct constructs or similar constructs that overlap with one another but have different labels; whether styles represent traits or states, or whether they have elements of both; and whether styles are value free or value laden (i.e., some styles are more desirable than others in terms of human learning and performance). Over the years, the aforementioned difficulties inherent in intellectual styles impeded the progress of the field and confused both practitioners and the general public. Despite these and other difficulties, the field has flourished since the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Concerted attempts at theoretical conceptualizations have given some degree of unity to disparate bodies of literature. At the same time, tens of thousands of empirical investigations based on a wide range of style models and carried out in diverse populations across the globe have consistently demonstrated the critical roles that styles play in various domains of human lives. Undoubtedly, the existing literature has proved that intellectual styles are real, distinct psychological phenomena. Moreover, research findings have scientific value as well as practical implications for human learning and performance. Nevertheless, for the field to prosper further, several major limitations with the existing work must be overcome, and investigations that take into account the fast-changing world need to be initiated.

Article

Beccy Watson, Jayne Caudwell, Belinda Wheaton, and Louise Mansfield

Researching gender across physical education (PE), sport, and physical activity (PA) has firm associations with feminism. As a political movement for gender justice, feminist research examines the ways in which active bodies are dynamic and evolving. This feminist scrutiny is underpinned by scholarship that explores both formal educational and sporting contexts as well as informal activities. The term sport incorporates a range of physical practices, and a review of extant literature demonstrates the persistence of gendered power relations and the consequences this has for PE, sport, and PA. While the disengagement of girls in formal PE has been recognized as a longstanding and ongoing challenge, PE remains narrowly conceived and defined, often with negative consequences for the young people involved. Attempts to be inclusive in research practice expose a persistent dominance of the Global North in knowledge production in sport, PE, and PA scholarship and highlight prevailing discourses that impact negatively on engaging with complex issues in different contexts. Empirical research studies inform praxis whereby feminist researchers analyze barriers to participation across a wide range of contexts that are not limited to young people and that extend to policy matters far beyond PE, such as public health and numerous sites of negotiation for access at community level and to a vast array of informal activity. Key themes for researching active bodies include space and alternative contexts, shifting gender boundaries and disrupting binaries, intersections and difference, exclusion and inequalities, healthism and wellbeing agendas.

Article

Designing education for learners with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities (PIMD) is a special challenge for both professionals and researchers. Learners with PIMD experience a combination of significant intellectual and other disabilities, such as motor and sensory impairments. Heterogeneity in terms of combination and severity of disabilities is a common characteristic of this group. In the past, learners in this target group were described as not being able to learn due to the complexity of their disabilities. Recent studies do provide evidence that learners with PIMD are in fact able to learn, however, evidence-based practice for designing education for this group of learners is still scarce. One reason could be the difficulties associated with conducting intervention studies such as randomized controlled trials or controlled clinical trials with this target group. Most studies are designed as single-case studies. Hence, only a small number of studies have investigated topics such as communication, assessment, and teaching curricula to generate knowledge about the education of these learners. The most important conclusion of these studies is that all teaching activities need to be designed according to the strengths and needs of each individual learner with PIMD.

Article

Both significant progress and profound backlash have occurred in the inclusion of sexual and gender diversity across eastern and southern Africa. This includes the decriminalization of homosexuality in Mozambique in 2015 and the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Act (later annulled) in Uganda in the preceding year. Simultaneously there is increased pressure on Ministries of Education to engage more robustly with sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) education in education systems across the region. Emerging regional research points to a narrow, heteronormative focus in comprehensive sexuality education; access barriers to sexual and reproductive health services; and pervasive school-related gender-based violence, including homophobic and transphobic violence. Civil society organizations (CSOs) play a key role in developing best practice in advancing the SRHR of sexual and gender minority youth and are therefore a valuable resource for government SRHR policies and programmatic responses. The regional SRHR education policy landscape is underpinned by two policy narratives: that of young people’s SRHR as a public health concern and a focus on young people’s human rights. These policy narratives not only underpin SRHR policy in the region but also in many instances are drawn on in CSO advocacy when positioning the SRHR of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) young people as an important policy concern. These two dominant policy narratives, however, have a narrow focus on young people’s risks and vulnerabilities, may inadvertently perpetuate stigma and marginalization of LGBTQI youth, and may limit youth voice and agency. These narratives also do not sufficiently engage local sociocultural and structural conditions that drive negative SRHR outcomes for young people in the region. Research, advocacy, and policy development toward the full realization of the SRHR of sexual and gender minority youth can address some of the limitations of health and rights-based policy narratives by drawing on a sexual and reproductive justice framework. Such a framework expands the policy focus on health risks and individual rights to include engagement with sociocultural and structural constraints on young people’s ability to exercise their rights. A sexual and reproductive justice framework provides a more robust toolkit when working toward full inclusion of sexual and gender diversity in regional school-based SRHR policy and programs.

Article

Alanna Goldstein

Peer-led and youth-led sex education primarily involves young people teaching other young people about sex, sexuality, and sexual health. This approach gained in popularity during the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s–1990s, as community organizations sought to address the unique sexual health needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth, many of whom had been underserved in traditional sex education spaces. Since then, peer-led and youth-led sex education pedagogies have been implemented by researchers, educators, and community organizations working across a range of sites around the globe. Peer-led and youth-led sex education generally draws on assumptions that young people are better situated than adults to talk to their peers about sexual health and/or to model positive sexual health behavior. However, some have noted that this perspective constructs young people as a homogenous group and ignores the ways in which sexuality and sexual health intersects with other social factors. Furthermore, there is a general lack of consensus across interventions around who constitutes a “peer” and what constitutes “peer-led” sex education, resulting in the development of interventions that at times tokenize young people, without engaging them in meaningful ways. As a result, evaluations of many peer- and youth-led sex education pedagogies suggest that even as these pedagogies improve young people’s knowledge of sexual health-related topics, they often don’t result in long-term sexual health behavior change. However, many evaluations of peer- and youth-led sex education pedagogies do suggest that acting as a peer educator is of immense benefit to those who take on this role, pointing to the need for program developers to reconsider what effective sex education pedagogy might look like. A “social ecology” or “systems thinking” approach to youth sexual health may provide alternative models for thinking about the future of peer-led and youth-led sex education. These approaches don’t task peer- and youth-led sex education with the sole responsibility of changing young people’s sexual health-related outcomes, but rather situate peer-led sex education as one potential node in the larger confluence of factors that shape and constrain young people’s sexual health.

Article

From colonial times to the modern era the United States has provided adult literacy and basic education (ALBE) for those adults seeking better work, a better home life for themselves and their families, greater educational achievement for their children, and engagement in civic duties for community development. In the Moonlight Schools of Kentucky, illiterate country folk learned to read and write to run their farms and towns better. In the cities, immigrants learned English and their civic duties as citizens in programs of “Americanization.” By the 1960s, civil and voting rights movements helped tens of thousands of African Americans learn to read and write so they could exercise their rights of self-government through democracy. In 1966, the United States established for the first time a national Adult Education and Literacy System (AELS) formed in a partnership of the federal and 50 state governments. From serving some 50 thousand or so adults in its early years the AELS enrollments rose over the next 35 years to around 4 million. Then, following the implementation of a National Reporting System with stringent performance accountability requirements, enrollments fell over the next 20 years to less than 1.2 million. But during all these years the AELS provided basic education aimed at achieving general educational outcomes and benefited from research and development projects leading to the implementation of special programs in which the basic skills of English language, reading, writing, and arithmetic were taught contextualized within the domains of workplace, health, civics, family, and digital knowledge. At the end of the first two decades of the 21st century, the AELS had seen its mandate extended from helping adults gain contextualized skills and knowledge, and the achievement of a secondary school level of education, to gaining access to postsecondary, college, and specialized certificate programs within a career pathway with recurring education and credentialing. There is increasing interest in moving forward with ALBE within a full “lifelong” and “lifewide” AELS.

Article

Students identified with emotional and behavioral disorders (E/BD) comprise a diverse group in terms of academic, social, emotional, and behavioral strengths and needs. Identification and diagnostic criteria and terminologies vary widely across and within many countries and school systems, resulting in a complex research base. Estimates of prevalence range from 4 to 15% of students meeting criteria for an emotional and/or behavioral disorder or difficulty. Approaches to teaching learners with E/BD have shifted since the turn of the 21st century from an individual, deficit-focused perspective to a more ecological framework where the environments interacting dynamically with the learner are considered. Research increasingly demonstrates the benefits of multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) where the needs of most students can be met through universal preventative and whole-class approaches. Students who do not find success at the first level of supports receive increasingly specialized services including intensive, wraparound services that involve partners beyond school walls. MTSS are common across North America and beyond and are typically focused on externalizing behaviors; positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) is the most prevalent multi-tiered system currently being implemented. Since the mid-2000s, efforts have been made to focus on academic as well as behavioral goals for students, often through the inclusion of response-to-intervention approaches. Comprehensive strategies that combine academic and behavioral support while drawing on learner strengths and relationship-building are successfully being adopted in elementary and secondary settings. Approaches include social and emotional learning, mindfulness, peer-assisted learning, and a range of classroom-based instructional and assessment practices that support the academic, social, and emotional development of students with E/BD.