Well-being and involvement are the quality criteria of the process-oriented approach of the Experiential Education Model. Below you will zoom in on well-being.
- A particular state
- that can be recognised by satisfaction, enjoyment, pleasure
- while the person…
- is relaxed and expresses inner rest
- feels the energy flow and radiates vitality
- is open to the surroundings, accessible and flexible
- shows spontaneity and is itself
- the situation meets his/her basic needs
- he/she has a positive self-concept and self-image
- is in touch with him/herself
- and in connection with others
… as a result of which emotional health is guaranteed
The most obvious signal of well-being is enjoyment, having fun, taking pleasure in interacting with others and in activities. The children look happy, smile or laugh easily, engage spontaneously in chatting or even singing.
Relaxing and inner peace
Children who feel good give a relaxed impression. They do not feel threatened in any way. Their facial expression is open, there is no sign of tension or restlessness. Their muscles are relaxed.
Another signal of well-being is energy, vitality. This can often be read from children’s faces: the look is lively and expressive. They radiate. Their posture also gives a lot away: not shrunk or with hanging shoulders but upright, not afraid to take the space they are entitled to.
When children feel o.k., they have an open attitude towards the world around. Whatever comes in, they are ready to experience it. They are also accessible, approachable to others. They are happy with the attention they receive: a hug, a compliment, a word of comfort, and encouragement or help.
There are more chances for well-being to occur when one feels strong. Self-assurance, self-confidence, a sense of self-value make one less anxious or stressed. This can be noticed in a posture expressing a certain pride, literally feeling ‘big’. That positive self-image is the foundation of resilience. Children then do not allow others to walk all over them, they are assertive.
Being in touch with oneself
When a child does not suppress feelings but remains in touch with its emotions, it is not only able to enjoy. It will also recover more easily from difficult experiences.
People in a state of well-being feel like ‘fish in water’. The prevailing mood is pleasure: they have fun, enjoy each other’s company and feel o.k. in their environments. They radiate vitality as well as relaxation and inner peace. They have an open and receptive attitude towards their environment. They are spontaneous and feel comfortable. While a state of well-being is linked to a situation, it is more likely to occur when the child has self-confidence, self-esteem, assertiveness and resilience and is well in touch with his own feelings – all factors that are part of the child’s profile.
The state of well-being indicates that the emotional well-being is in order and that their basic needs are satisfied.
- physical needs
- the need for tenderness, warmth and affection
- the need for safety and clarity and continuity
- the need for social recognition and confirmation
- the need to feel competent
- the need for meaning in life (including moral values).
Why is well-being important?
Well-being indicates how well children or adults are doing emotionally. If we perceive high well-being in many situations, it is a sign that, as a person, they are “well connected,” have a positive self-image, and are in touch with themselves. It also indicates that they have the necessary competencies and attitudes to deal with their environment in a satisfactory manner. As a result, they manage to satisfy their basic needs. In sum, high levels of well-being indicate that the emotional development of people is guaranteed.
Low well-being = cause for concern
A low level of well-being is a cause for concern. It means that a child in its present situation is under pressure because the environment is not meeting one or more of his/her basic needs and/or because the child lacks the equipment (competences, dispositions, emotional health) to cope with that environment. A low level of well-being can be considered a condition that can eventually affect emotional health and become a structural problem. A child that cannot cope with painful experiences tends to push these away. He or she becomes alienated from his/her own feelings and loses its self-confidence. In conclusion, signs of lack of well-being must be taken seriously because they indicate that the child’s social and emotional development is endangered. Of course, not every form of discomfort or non-satisfaction of basic needs is automatically a problem. Frustrations are inevitable. But a low level of well-being in the long-term often causes psychological problems. If one is no longer able to tolerate the psychological pain associated with frustration, there is a good chance that the painful experience and the need associated with it will be pushed aside. This creates self-alienation and affects self-confidence. Because children are vulnerable and the foundation of the personality is laid precisely in that phase of life, we cannot pay enough attention to signals for the lack of well-being.
Enhancing children’s well-being has nothing in common with ‘spoiling’ children, giving in or permissiveness. The child has an active role to play in satisfying his/her basic needs. The role of professionals is to offer the necessary emotional support and conditions for the child to learn and to interact successfully with his/her environment, people, places and objects. We know that experiences of true ‘well-being’ do not weaken individuals but make them stronger; they empower, and have a positive impact on the person’s self-image and self-esteem. That is why we should invest in well-being – for the present child and the future adult.
Well-being around the world
Well-being as defined by The Centre for Experiential Education is part of the Flemish pedagogical framework for babies and toddlers, the Dutch pedagogical framework for childcare and the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. It is recommended by in the Early years Foundation Stage Profile (UK) and is an integral part of quality-instruments such as (Baby) Effective Early Learning (EEL and BEEL) and the Australian instrument Reflect, Respect, Relate.
The Centre for Experiential Education developed the Leuven Well-being Scale (LWS) to capture the levels of well-being.
How Does Well-being & Involvement Contribute to the Quality of Learning
- Laevers F, Declercq B. (2018). How well‐being and involvement fit into the commitment to children’s rights, in: Eur J Educ., 35, 325–335. https://doi.org/10.1111/ejed.12286
- Laevers, F., & Declercq (2013). Increasing children’s competencies through wellbeing and involvement, in: Reflections Magazine, 52.