Embarrassing conversations may enhance the well-being and motivation of teens

Talking with their classmates about topics that are relevant to their everyday life, can give teenagers a sense of belonging and contribute to increased well-being and motivation in school.

Lisa Mari Staddeland and Odd Tjelta Lisa Mari Staddeland and Odd Tjelta

As part of the research project Resilient, a new teaching programme will be deployed in many 8th-grade classes in Nord-Jæren beginning autumn 2020. The goal is to enhance well-being and motivation amongst the students, and to strengthen the knowledge and skills needed to deal with challenges both inside and outside of school.

The teaching programme is called ROBUST and is designed to bolster students' social and emotional skills, as well as their understanding of what motivates them to do schoolwork. The programme runs over a period of 25 school hours and students explore five topics with the teacher:

  • Social relationships
  • Mindfulness
  • Problem solving
  • Emotion regulation
  • Growth mindset

When ROBUST is rolled out in the autumn, it will have undergone several rounds of quality checks. One of the checks will include the 8th-grade teachers, because they know better than anyone what challenges await for both students and teachers.

‘The topics brought up for discussion in ROBUST are highly relevant. This is a programme that is suitable for many of the issues that young people are encountering’, teacher Lisa Mari Staddeland from Gosen Lower Secondary School says.

Staddeland explains that the topics raised in the teaching programme provide ample opportunities to raise and discuss challenges. She believes the programme contributes to more openness in the classroom, and gives students tools to manage emotions and situations they may encounter. Students can listen to their peers and be reassured that they are not alone.

‘Obviously, some of these things are embarrassing to talk about, but it is better for young people to talk about them in the classroom with a teacher rather for them to google to find answers’, she says.

Staddeland and her colleague Odd Tjelta are part of the reference group who are collaborating on the ROBUST teaching programme. They provide feedback on the programme and give advice on what will or will not work in the classroom.

‘It’s an exciting programme to help develop! Among other things, we adapt the examples used so that students can draw associations to their own lives. We also provide feedback on the formal aspects and the way the topics are presented’, Tjelta says.

Specific and solution-oriented

‘What distinguishes this programme from others is that it is solution-oriented. It's concrete and something students can identify with — or that they will soon identify with in the not-so-distant future. Students can use this in their own personal situations, Tjelta tsays.

He says the programme will be tailored for 8th grade, and many suggestions are offered as to what young people can do.

'The focus is not only on problems. There is a focus on solutions, on convincing yourself that you have both the aibility and responsibility to do something yourself’, he says.

Openness in the classroom

Although the programme is tailored for 8th-graders, the teachers believe it can be used in the 9th and 10th grades too. The topics can be brought up periodically, and students acquire a shared vocabulary that allows them to talk with one another and with the teacher about their feelings.

‘Eighth-graders are at a wonderful age; some have already hit puberty before the others, and the way they talk and think is different’, Staddeland says.

ROBUST makes provisions for plenary conversations in the classroom. Students can hear what their peers say and be reassured that they are not alone.

‘Sometimes at the beginning of adolescence you get the feeling that you are very alone, and then you don't necessarily see the people around you. Through ROBUST, students realise that others think about many of the same things, and they can rely on each other. We have many good conversations and a different kind of openness in the class’, she says.

Life skilles is a major topic in the new curricula

‘Helping and supporting students has always been part of the teacher’s role. So in that respect, this is nothing new, but now these things are laid down in the curricula and they are required of us in a different way’, Tjelta says.

He explains that it is the teacher's job to work with the life skill topic at various levels.

‘ROBUST is a nice programme that we can introduce the whole class to, and it is specifically tailored to this group: the 8th grade. There are many other programmes out there, but they are not necessarily tailored specifically to this group’, he says.

Although ROBUST is planned to run over 25 school hours covering the different topics, the programme is not rigid.

‘It is also up to the teacher to adapt this programme to his or her class, but it is systematic and it is reassuring for the teacher. It's not always so easy to know what subjects are important to discuss and how to proceed, but this is a good tool for doing things properly’, Staddeland says.