Schools and teachers have a key role in the development of adolescents and this has been particularly important in the COVID-19 pandemic. Skills promoting resilience, such as efficacy and social and emotional learning (SEL) could be useful tools when it comes to teaching during the pandemic. These are among the conclusions of our workshop How can the UPRIGHT resilience-based programme help schools in the COVID-19 pandemic? The workshop took place online last December with participants from seven countries. The emphasis was on Efficacy and SEL; two of the four main components of UPRIGHT (in addition are coping and mindfulness).
The workshop started with a presentation from Sara Brazys, Programme and Policy officer at the European Commission. Mental health problems are increasing in the society and becoming a global challenge across the life course. Therefore, the European Commission through its Horizon 2020 programme has earmarked 19 million euro to fund research related to the mental health and well-being among young people, i.e. UPRIGHT. In addition, the European Commission has been helping member states to develop their mental health reforms, e.g. transferring best practices. COVID-19 has had an impact on youth, but also opens an opportunity for improvement, i.e. optimising public mental health preparedness and mitigating mental health inequalities across the population.
Carlota Las Hayas and Roxanna Morote then presented UPRIGHT and the co-creation of the project. The general objective of the project is to promote mental well-being and prevent mental disorders by enhancing resilience capacities in youths, through a holistic approach addressing early adolescents, families and education professionals, creating a culture of mental well-being in schools. In order to achieve, a resilience intervention designed for primary intervention was co-created by the UPRIGHT consortium. Co-creation generates ‘bottom-up’ knowledge that is relevant to adjust research and intervention agendas to meet changing demands, based on theory, evidence-based science, and daily-life knowledge of people involved.
Next session of the workshop was dedicated to the Efficacy and SEL components of UPRIGHT presented by Mette Marie Ledertoug and Sara Carbone. They presented the components and the skills related to each component and showed some examples of exercises in the UPRIGHT program. Efficacy skills help us develop our mindset and our expectation of ourselves, and help us to become more resilient. SEL can be integrated into other academic curricula as maths, arts and language and can have a long term behavioural or academic outcomes such as positive social behaviour and less emotional stress.
Participants were divided into eight groups according to their language preference. The main objective of the discussion was to identify how Efficacy and SEL skills can be of help in the school context, in times of COVID-19 pandemic. From their fruitful discussion, the following conclusions were drawn:
Schools have had to change the ways they work due to the pandemic. Teachers, parents and students in most schools have had to adapt to new ways of teaching and learning. The UPRIGHT skills should also be in front when it comes to online teaching like other subjects. It is important that before schools/teachers start using online platforms for learning, they need to teach their students how to use them and think of ways to make the teaching interactive.
Teacher’s role is becoming wider and wider, they need support. They are aware of how their students are feeling and coping with the COVID-19 situation and are in good connection with their students’ families. They are also doing their best to strengthening their student’s mental health, i.e. by encouraging them to keep their daily routine and serve as good examples.
The involvement of parents and families is also important when it comes to SEL and efficacy. Their support in learning is crucial so they need to be informed and have access to the material and exercises used in school.
Young people do also have the solution themselves; they have to have the opportunity to find their solutions. They need to learn how to deal with difficulties, that way we are giving them the chance to learn. In UPRIGHT we are teaching them to understand others from their experience.
To strengthen efficacy and SEL skills the groups discussed the importance of starting learning these skills from an early age, from their first years of school. That way they would learn the language and be able to develop it and use it during their years in school and so on. It was also stated that the UPRIGHT skills should be a part of the school curriculum like maths, sports and other subjects and now in the COVID-19 situation, it is also important to strengthen these skills when teaching online. Important to work with the UPRIGHT competencies explicitly as a subject and implicitly in other subjects i.e. language and maths classes. Learning on SEL should also be a part of the teacher’s education, these skills are important for the well-being of our students.
We thank all our presenters, participants and the UPRIGHT team for their participation and hope to see them all and more at our next workshop where the emphasis will be on the two other components of UPRIGHT, Coping and Mindfulness.