Wellness education : an integrated theoretical framework for fostering transformative learning

Goss, Halima Bebe (2011) Wellness education : an integrated theoretical framework for fostering transformative learning. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Optimum Wellness involves the development, refinement and practice of lifestyle choices which resonate with personally meaningful frames of reference. Personal transformations are the means by which our frames of reference are refined across the lifespan. It is through critical reflection, supportive relationships and meaning making of our experiences that we construct and reconstruct our life paths. When individuals are able to be what they are destined to be or reach their higher purpose, then they are able to contribute to the world in positive and meaningful ways. Transformative education facilitates the changes in perspective that enable one to contemplate and travel a path in life that leads to self-actualisation. This thesis argues for an integrated theoretical framework for optimum Wellness Education. It establishes a learner centred approach to Wellness education in the form of an integrated instructional design framework derived from both Wellness and Transformative education constructs. Students’ approaches to learning and their study strategies in a Wellness education context serve to highlight convergences in the manner in which students can experience perspective transformation. As they learn to critically reflect, pursue relationships and adapt their frames of reference to sustain their pursuit of both learning and Wellness goals, strengthening the nexus between instrumental and transformative learning is a strategically important goal for educators. The aim of this exploratory research study was to examine those facets that serve to optimise the learning experiences of students in a Wellness course. This was accomplished through three research issues: 1) What are the relationships between Wellness, approaches to learning and academic success? 2) How are students approaching learning in an undergraduate Wellness subject? Why are students approaching their learning in the ways they do? 3) What sorts of transformations are students experiencing in their Wellness? How can transformative education be formulated in the context of an undergraduate Wellness subject? Subsequent to a thorough review of the literature pertaining to Wellness education, a mixed method embedded case study design was formulated to explore the research issues. This thesis examines the interrelationships between student, content and context in a one semester university undergraduate unit (a coherent set of learning activities which is assigned a unit code and a credit point value). The experiences of a cohort of 285 undergraduate students in a Wellness course formed the unit of study and seven individual students from a total of sixteen volunteers whose profiles could be constructed from complete data sets were selected for analysis as embedded cases. The introductory level course required participants to engage in a personal project involving a behaviour modification plan for a self-selected, single dimension of Wellness. Students were given access to the Standard Edition Testwell Survey to assess and report their Wellness as a part of their personal projects. To identify relationships among the constructs of Self-Regulated Learning (SRL), Wellness and Student Approaches to Learning (SAL) a blend of quantitative and qualitative methods to collect and analyse data was formulated. Surveys were the primary instruments for acquiring quantitative data. Sources included the Wellness data from Testwell surveys, SAL data from R-SPQ surveys, SRL data from MSLQ surveys and student self-evaluation data from an end of semester survey. Students’ final grades and GPA scores were used as indicators of academic performance. The sources of qualitative data included subject documentation, structured interview transcripts and open-ended responses to survey items. Subsequent to a pilot study in which survey reliability and validity were tested in context, amendments to processes for and instruments of data collection were made. Students who adopted meaning oriented (deep/achieving) approaches tended to assess their Wellness at a higher level, seek effective learning strategies and perform better in formal study. Posttest data in the main study revealed that there were significant positive statistical relationships between academic performance and total wellness scores (rs=.297, n=205, p<.01). Deep (rs=.343, n=137, p<.01) and achieving (rs=.286, n=123, p<.01) approaches to learning also significantly correlated with Wellness whilst surface approaches had negative correlations that were not significant. SRL strategies including metacognitive selfregulation, effort, help-seeking and critical thinking were increasingly correlated with Wellness. Qualitative findings suggest that while all students adopt similar patterns of day to day activities for example attending classes, taking notes, working on assignments the level of care with which these activities is undertaken varies considerably. The dominant motivational trigger for students in this cohort was the personal relevance and associated benefits of the material being learned and practiced. Students were inclined to set goals that had a positive impact on affect and used “sense of happiness” to evaluate their achievement status. Students who had a higher drive to succeed and/or understand tended to have or seek a wider range of strategies. Their goal orientations were generally learning rather than performance based and barriers presented a challenge which could be overcome as opposed to a blockage which prevented progress. Findings from an empirical analysis of the Testwell data suggest that a single third order Wellness construct exists. A revision of the instrument is necessary in order to juxtapose it with the chosen six dimensional Wellness model that forms the foundation construct in the course. Further, redevelopment should be sensitive to the Australian context and culture including choice of language, examples and scenarios used in item construction. This study concludes with an heuristic for use in Wellness education. Guided by principles of Transformative education theory and behaviour change theory, and informed by this representative case study the “CARING” heuristic is proposed as an instructional design tool for Wellness educators seeking to foster transformative learning. Based upon this study, recommendations were made for university educators to provide authentic and personal experiences in Wellness curricula. Emphasis must focus on involving students and teachers in a partnership for implementing Wellness programs both in the curriculum and co-curricularly. The implications of this research for practice are predicated on the willingness of academics to embrace transformative learning at a personal level and a professional one. To explore students’ profiles in detail is not practical however teaching students how to guide us in supporting them through the “pain” of learning is a skill which would benefit them and optimise the learning and teaching process. At a theoretical level, this research contributes to an ecological theory of Wellness education as transformational change. By signposting the wider contexts in which learning takes place, it seeks to encourage changing paradigms to ones which harness the energy of each successive contextual layer in which students live. Future research which amplifies the qualities of individuals and groups who are “Well” and seeks the refinement and development of instruments to measure Wellness constructs would be desirable for both theoretical and applied knowledge bases. Mixed method Wellness research derived and conducted by teams that incorporate expertise from multiple disciplines such as psychology, anthropology, education, and medicine would enable creative and multi-perspective programs of investigation to be designed and implemented. Congruences and inconsistencies in health promotion and education would provide valuable material for strengthening the nexus between transformational learning and behaviour change theories. Future development of and research on the effectiveness of the CARING heuristic would be valuable in advancing the understanding of pedagogies which advance rather than impede learning as a transformative process. Exploring pedagogical models that marry with transformative education may render solutions to the vexing challenge of teaching and learning in diverse contexts.

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ID Code: 41842
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Cuddihy, Thomas, Watters, James, & Young, Ross
Keywords: affordances, approaches to learning, cognitive strategies, constructivist learning, epistemology, intellectual wellness, learning, learning environments, learning strategy, metacognitive strategies, ontology, phenomenology, Powerful Learning Environment (PLE), qualitative research, scaffolding, Self-determination theory (SDT), self-regulated learner, Self-Regulated Learning (SRL), transformative learning (education), Transtheoretical Model (TTM), wellness
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Exercise & Nutrition Sciences
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 30 May 2011 05:18
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 20:02

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