Understandings and experiences of wellbeing in a New Zealand senior secondary context

  • Anne Kathryn Soutter
  • Billy O'Steen
  • Alison Gilmore
Keywords: wellbeing, youth, education, qualitative, model, students


This article draws upon data generated through interviews with and classroom observations of Year 13 students and their teachers in New Zealand to propose that wellbeing is viewed as a multi-dimensional, complex phenomenon involving seven interrelated domains: Having, Being, Relating, Thinking, Feeling, Functioning, and Striving. Student and teacher commentary indicated that educational experiences reflect an emphasis on developing wellbeing-enhancing Assets including Having resources and support, Being an independent individual, and Relating well with teachers. In addition, Functioning efficiently in assessment-related activities and Striving towards acquisition of credits were considered important aspects of engaging in Actions that will lead to wellbeing in the future. In contrast, cognitive and affective Appraisals, such as Thinking creatively, critically, or meta-cognitively, or Feeling and expressing a wide range of emotions, were considered peripheral to their current educational experiences. Overall, data suggests that while understood in terms that reflected a view of wellbeing as a complex, learning system, wellbeing was experienced in the school context more simplistically. Implications for the development of wellbeing-enhancing educational experiences are discussed.