An Exploration of the Relationship between Contextual School Factors and the Mental Well-Being of Students Recognised as Experiencing SEBD

  • Susannah Learoyd-Smith

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Whilst it is understood that aspects of schooling play a role in students’ social and emotional development, there is a gap in the literature in research exploring the relationship between intra-school processes and student mental well-being. This thesis was based on the question: what is the relationship between school contextual factors and student mental well-being? The research was underpinned by Sociocultural understandings of children’s development, and Bernstein’s sociology of pedagogy. An embedded case study approach was taken in which the unit of analysis was pedagogical transitions. The embedded unit of analysis was the psychological development of 13 student participants. A mixed methods approach to data collection was taken, informed by dialectical pragmatism.The study was conducted in two phases. In phase one 9 schools were selected to be positioned along a continuum, developed from a framework derived from Bernstein’s code theory. At one end were schools in which there was a clear demarcation between the academic and pastoral domains: teachers privileged their academic roles, exerting a strong degree of control over student learning; students were relatively passive in the learning process. At the other end were schools in which teachers valued their pastoral roles; exerted a strong degree of control over the norms of social and moral conduct; and students appeared relatively active in the learning process.In phase 2 the mental well-being of 13 participants’ was explored as they moved from one pedagogical context to another. The findings were situated within a CHAT framework allowing me to connect the data from both phases. Changes observed to participants’ feelings of mental well-being related to the extent to which they felt able to actively realise a schools expected ways of behaving; this was determined by the extent to which there was space within their zone of proximal development to creatively overcome contradictions experienced as a result of the pedagogical transitions. The findings have implications for the way in which schools structure their teaching practices.
Date of Award31 Dec 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorHarry Daniels (Supervisor) & Richard Joiner (Supervisor)

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