Understanding and promoting wellbeing, student engagement, and resilience in early-adolescent international school students

Prof Doc Thesis

McKeering, Phillipa. (2022). Understanding and promoting wellbeing, student engagement, and resilience in early-adolescent international school students [Prof Doc Thesis]. Australian Catholic University https://doi.org/10.26199/acu.8z8wq
AuthorsMcKeering, Phillipa
TypeProf Doc Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Education

Despite the exponential growth predicted for the international school sector, little research has been carried out with international school-aged students. Research within the field of international education has predominantly centred on the tertiary sector, which reports high levels of adjustment issues in students upon arrival in a new country. Given the high rates of mobility and transition reported within the international school sector, and the different adjustment conditions experienced between school-aged and tertiary-aged international students, necessitates the need for additional research to be conducted with international school-aged students. Early-adolescent international students have been identified as a particular cohort of students who may be more vulnerable to psychosocial health and wellbeing issues during periods of mobility. Additionally, research within the international education sector has largely examined the effects of adjustment in terms of negative psychological outcomes in students, highlighting a conceptual gap in research on ways to foster and support this student group to thrive and flourish despite the high levels of mobility they experience.

Through a positive psychology lens, this study examined how early-adolescent international students may thrive and flourish despite the high levels of adjustment difficulties they experience. The research aims of the study were twofold. The first was to develop a better understanding of wellbeing, student engagement, and resilience in early-adolescent international students. The second was to determine a suitable strategy to promote these constructs with this cohort of students. A sequential explanatory mixed-methods design was employed to address these research aims in two phases. This enabled the findings of the first phase of the research to be used to inform the second phase of the study, given the limited research conducted in the field to date.

The first phase of this study employed a survey design with 178 early-adolescent international students aged 10–14 years (M = 11.43, SD = 1.12) from one international school in Singapore. The findings showed positive associations between most wellbeing, student engagement, and resilience constructs. The study also identified demographic and mobility characteristics that were associated with lower levels of wellbeing, behavioural engagement, and resilience, highlighting a cohort of students who may need additional support. The second phase of the study employed a randomised waitlist control group design with 50 students who had participated in the first phase of the study (M = 11.84, SD = 0.89). A 16-lesson mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) program, the .b program, was delivered to participants, with quantitative and qualitative data collected. Student, parent, and teacher survey responses reported improvements in psychosocial health and wellbeing measures in early-adolescent international students on completion of the MBI program. Interview responses from selected students, parents, and teachers validated the reported quantitative data findings and provided additional information on how the MBI program was able to support the student group when experiencing difficulties associated with mobility and adjustment. Student interviews also validated the quantitative findings from Phase 1 of the study by elaborating on the negative implications of moving to a new country as experienced or perceived by the students.

This study’s findings highlight a potential cohort of early-adolescent international students who may benefit from additional support. The findings also support an MBI program as a possible strategy to encourage this student group to thrive and flourish despite the high levels of mobility they experience. It is envisaged that the findings will provide educational professionals working within the international school sector with new information on ways to better understand and support this growing cohort of international school-aged students. It is also envisaged that the findings will contribute to the limited empirical evidence-based MBI research conducted to date with early-adolescent students.

Keywordsinternational school student; wellbeing; student engagement; resilience; early-adolescent; mindfulness-based intervention
PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26199/acu.8z8wq
Page range1-317
Final version
File Access Level
Supplementary Files (Layperson Summary)
File Access Level
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online21 Aug 2023
Publication process dates
CompletedDec 2022
Deposited29 Aug 2023
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