Well-Being in Education: Modern Theories, Historical Context, Empirical Studies



Nurturing students’ well-being is a significant trend in education. Although the concept is intuitively clear, it is difficult to define. The paper reviews philosophical, psychological, sociological, and pedagogical sources and aims to answer how modern theories of well-being are applied in education and what is the socio-psychological context of students’ well-being. The authors argued that well-being is a characteristic of the whole school system, and even its small details can affect the level of well-being It is important to consider the well-being of not only students but also of school staff. Well-being in research is interpreted more broadly than pleasure and positive affect — the need for competence, personal development, and the system of relationships are important elements of well-being. It is important not only to create a positive environment but also to educate students (and perhaps teachers) on how to use available resources to promote well-being. Different groups of students face different risks, therefore, when studying well-being at school, it is important to select exactly those indicators of well-being that will correspond to the risks of a particular vulnerable group. For example, gifted students can have some difficulties in relationships with classmates, thus while studying their well-being it could be useful to choose indicators of well-being that are related to relationships.

General Information

Keywords: well-being of school students; theories of well-being; well-being in education

Journal rubric: General Psychology

Article type: review article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17759/jmfp.2023120313

Received: 09.06.2023


For citation: Strukova A.S., Polivanova K.N. Well-Being in Education: Modern Theories, Historical Context, Empirical Studies [Elektronnyi resurs]. Sovremennaia zarubezhnaia psikhologiia = Journal of Modern Foreign Psychology, 2023. Vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 137–148. DOI: 10.17759/jmfp.2023120313. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


  1. Kanonir T.N. Sub"ektivnoe blagopoluchie v shkole i otnosheniya s odnoklassnikami u uchashchikhsya nachal'noi shkoly s raznym urovnem uchebnykh dostizhenii [Subjective well-being at school and relationships with classmates among elementary school students with different levels of educational achievements]. Psikhologiya. Zhurnal Vysshei shkoly ekonomiki [Psychology. Journal of the Higher School of Economics], 2019. Vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 378—390. DOI:10.17323/1813-8918-2019-2-378-390 (In Russ.).
  2. Mikirtichan G.L., Dzharman O.A. Vzglyady na rebenka, ego prava i zashchitu ot zhestokogo obrashcheniya v period antichnosti i v vizantii [Views on the child, his rights and protection from abuse in the period of antiquity and in Byzantium] [Elektronnyi resurs]. Meditsina i organizatsiya zdravookhraneniya [Medicine and healthcare organization], 2021. Vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 55—80. Available at: https://ojs3.gpmu.org/index.php/medorg/article/view/2620/2611 (Accessed 08.06.2023) (In Russ.).
  3. Polivanova K.N. Novyi obrazovatel'nyi diskurs: blagopoluchie shkol'nikov [New Educational Discourse: The Well-Being of Schoolchildren]. Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2020. Vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 26—34. DOI:10.17759/chp.2020160403 (In Russ.).
  4. Adedoyin O.B., Soykan E. Covid-19 pandemic and online learning: the challenges and opportunities. Interactive Learning Environments, 2023. Vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 863—875. DOI:10.1080/10494820.2020.1813180
  5. Bølling M., Niclasen J., Bentsen P., Nielsen G. Association of Education outside the Classroom and Pupils’ Psychosocial Well-Being: Results from a School Year Implementation. Journal of school health, 2019. Vol. 89, no. 3, pp. 210—218. DOI:10.1111/josh.12730
  6. Gini G., Marino C., Pozzoli T., Holt M. Associations between peer victimization, perceived teacher unfairness, and adolescents’ adjustment and well-being. Journal of school psychology, 2018. Vol. 67, pp. 56—68. DOI:10.1016/j.jsp.2017.09.005
  7. Rappleye J., Komatsu H., Uchida Y., Krys K., Markus H. ‘Better policies for better lives’?: constructive critique of the OECD’s (mis) measure of student well-being. Journal of Education Policy, 2020. Vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 258—282. DOI:10.1080/02680939.2019.1576923
  8. Bywater T., Sharples J. Effective evidence-based interventions for emotional well-being: lessons for policy and practice. Research Papers in Education, 2012. Vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 389—408. DOI:10.1080/02671522.2012.690242
  9. Virtanen T.E., Vasalampi K., Torppa M., Lerkkanen M.-K., Nurmi J.-E. Changes in students’ psychological well-being during transition from primary school to lower secondary school: A person-centered approach. Learning and Individual Differences, 2019. Vol. 69, pp. 138—149. DOI:10.1016/j.lindif.2018.12.001
  10. Moreira D., Moreira D.S., Barbosa F., Sousa-Gomes V., Fávero M. Childhood traumatic experiences and psychopathy: A comprehensive review. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 2022. Vol. 14, no. 8, pp. 1281—1287. DOI:10.1037/tra0001191
  11. Van der Kaap-Deeder J., Vansteenkiste M., Soenens B., Mabbe E. Children’s Daily Well-Being: The Role of Mothers’, Teachers’, and Siblings’ Autonomy Support and Psychological Control. Developmental Psychology, 2017. Vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 237—251. DOI:10.1037/dev0000218
  12. Choi A. Emotional well-being of children and adolescents: Recent trends and relevant factors. OECD Education Working Papers, 2018, no. 169. 40 p. DOI:10.1787/41576fb2-en
  13. Smart D., Youssef G.J., Sanson A., Prior M., Toumbourou J.W., Olsson C.A. Consequences of childhood reading difficulties and behaviour problems for educational achievement and employment in early adulthood. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 2017. Vol. 87, no. 2, pp. 288—308. DOI:10.1111/bjep.12150
  14. Diseth Å., Samdal O. Autonomy support and achievement goals as predictors of perceived school performance and life satisfaction in the transition between lower and upper secondary school. Social Psychology of Education, 2014. Vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 269—291. DOI:10.1007/s11218-013-9244-4
  15. Dopko R.L., Capaldi C.A., Zelenski J.M. The psychological and social benefits of a nature experience for children: A preliminary investigation. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2019. Vol. 63, pp. 134—138. DOI:10.1016/j.jenvp.2019.05.002
  16. Dubois P., Guay F., St-Pierre M.-C. School-to-work transition of youth with learning difficulties: the role of motivation and autonomy support. Exceptional Children, 2023. Vol. 89, no. 2, pp. 216—232. DOI:10.1177/00144029221112285
  17. Ryan R.M., Reeve J., Kaplan H., Matos L., Cheon S.H. Education as Flourishing: Self-Determination Theory in Schools as They Are and as They Might Be. In Ryan R.M. (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Self-Determination Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023, pp. 591—619. DOI:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780197600047.001.0001
  18. Efklides A. Gifted students and self-regulated learning: The MASRL model and its implications for SRL. High Ability Studies, 2019. Vol. 30, no. 1—2, pp. 79—102. DOI:10.1080/13598139.2018.1556069
  19. Wentzel K.R., Muenks K., McNeish D., Russell S. Emotional support, social goals, and classroom behavior: A multilevel, multisite study. Journal of Educational Psychology. 2018. Vol. 110, no. 5. pp. 611—627. DOI:10.1037/edu0000239
  20. Dimitrova R., van de Vijver F.J.R., Taušová J., Chasiotis A., Bender M., Buzea C., Uka F., Tair E. Ethnic, familial, and religious identity of Roma adolescents in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Kosovo, and Romania in relation to their level of well-being. Child Development, 2017. Vol. 88, no. 3, pp. 693—709. DOI:10.1111/cdev.12786
  21. Tadic M., Gioaba I., Garzon E.G., Gonul B., Lucatuorto L., McCarthy C., Rutar D. Examining Well-Being in School Context: Weekly Experiences of Pupils and Teachers. Journal of European Psychology Students, 2014. Vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 13—18. DOI:10.5334/jeps.bx
  22. Fischer C., Malycha C.P., Schafmann E. The Influence of Intrinsic Motivation and Synergistic Extrinsic Motivators on Creativity and Innovation. Frontiers in Psychology, 2019. Vol. 10, article ID 137. 15 p. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00137
  23. Fletcher G. The philosophy of well-being: An introduction. London; New York: Routledge, 2016. 184 p.
  24. Laakso M., Fagerlund Å., Pesonen A.-K., Lahti-Nuuttila P., Figueiredo R.A.O., Karlsson C., Eriksson J.G. Flourishing students: The efficacy of an extensive positive education program on adolescents’ positive and negative affect. International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, 2021. Vol. 6, pp. 253—276. DOI:10.1007/s41042-020-00048-2
  25. Germani S., Palombi T. Relationship between autonomy support and students’school well-being: the mediating role of need for competence. International Conference on Education and New Developments, 2022, pp. 422—426. DOI:10.36315/2022v1end096
  26. Govorova E., Benítez I., Muñiz J. Predicting student well-being: Network analysis based on PISA 2018. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2020. Vol. 17, no. 11, article ID 4014. 18 p. DOI:10.3390/ijerph17114014
  27. Güngör A., Sari H.I. Effects of Academic Motivation on School Burnout in Turkish College Students. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 2022. Vol. 44, no. 3, pp. 414—431. DOI:10.1007/s10447-022-09477-x
  28. Harris S.E. Suffering and the shape of well-being in Buddhist ethics. Asian Philosophy, 2014. Vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 242—259. DOI:10.1080/09552367.2014.952931
  29. Juvonen J., Kogachi K., Graham S. When and how do students benefit from ethnic diversity in middle school? Child development, 2018. Vol. 89, no. 4, pp. 1268—1282. DOI:10.1111/cdev.12834
  30. Boncquet M., Soenens B., Verschueren K., Lavrijsen J., Flamant N., Vansteenkiste M. Killing two birds with one stone: The role of motivational resources in predicting changes in achievement and school well-being beyond intelligence. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 2020. Vol. 63, article ID 101905. 14 p. DOI:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2020.101905
  31. Lavy S., Naama-Ghanayim E. Why care about caring? Linking teachers’ caring and sense of meaning at work with students’ self-esteem, well-being, and school engagement. Teaching and Teacher Education, 2020. Vol. 91, article ID 103046. 12 p. DOI:10.1016/j.tate.2020.103046
  32. Lee J., Krause A.E., Davidson J.W. The PERMA well-being model and music facilitation practice: Preliminary documentation for well-being through music provision in Australian schools. Research Studies in Music Education, 2017. Vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 73—89. DOI:10.1177/1321103X17703
  33. Carmona-Halty M., Salanova M., Llorens S., Schaufeli W.B. Linking positive emotions and academic performance: The mediated role of academic psychological capital and academic engagement. Current psychology, 2021. Vol. 40, pp. 2938—2947. DOI:10.1007/s12144-019-00227-8
  34. Mouratidis A., Michou A., Vassiou A. Adolescents’ autonomous functioning and implicit theories of ability as predictors of their school achievement and week-to-week study regulation and well-being. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 2017. Vol. 48, pp. 56—66. DOI:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2016.09.001
  35. Wang Y., King R.B., Wang F., Leung S.O. Need-supportive teaching is positively associated with students’ well-being: A cross-cultural study. Learning and Individual Differences, 2021. Vol. 92, article ID 102051. 13 p. DOI:10.1016/j.lindif.2021.102051
  36. Oshri A., Topple T.A., Carlson M.W. Positive youth development and resilience: Growth patterns of social skills among youth investigated for maltreatment. Child development, 2017. Vol. 88, no. 4, pp. 1087—1099. DOI:10.1111/cdev.12865
  37. Paulmann S., Weinstein N. Teachers’ motivational prosody: A pre-registered experimental test of children’s reactions to tone of voice used by teachers. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 2023. Vol. 93, no. 2, pp. 437—452. DOI:10.1111/bjep.12567
  38. OECD PISA 2015 Results: Students' Well-Being. Vol. III. Paris: OECD Publishing, 2017. 530 p. DOI:10.1787/9789264273856-en
  39. OECD PISA 2018 Assessment and Analytical Framework. Paris: OECD Publishing, 2019. 308 p. DOI:10.1787/b25efab8-en
  40. Aydinli-Karakulak A., Baylar A., Keleş S.Ç., Dimitrova R. Positive Affect and School Related Outcomes: Feeling Good Facilitates School Engagement Among Turkish-Bulgarian Minority Adolescents. In Dimitrova R. (ed.), Well-Being of Youth and Emerging Adults across Cultures. Berlin: Springer International Publishing, 2017, pp. 145—156. DOI:10.1007/978-3-319-68363-8_10
  41. Zhou Z., Shek D.T.L., Zhu X., Dou D. Positive youth development and adolescent depression: A longitudinal study based on mainland Chinese high school students. International journal of environmental research and public health, 2020. Vol. 17, no. 12, article ID 4457. 15 p. DOI:10.3390/ijerph17124457
  42. Parhiala P., Torppa M., Vasalampi K., Eklund K., Poikkeus A-M., Aro T. Profiles of school motivation and emotional well-being among adolescents: Associations with math and reading performance. Learning and Individual Differences, 2018. Vol. 61, pp. 196—204. DOI:10.1016/j.lindif.2017.12.003
  43. Yang Q., Tian L., Huebner E.S., Zhu X. Relations among academic achievement, self-esteem, and subjective well-being in school among elementary school students: A longitudinal mediation model. School Psychology, 2019. Vol. 34, no. 3, pp. 328—340. DOI:10.1037/spq0000292
  44. Ryan R.M., Deci E.L. Self-determination theory. In Michalos A.C. (ed.), Encyclopedia of quality of life and well-being research. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2022, pp. 1—7. DOI:10.1007/978-3-319-69909-7_2630-2
  45. Ryan R.M., Martela F. Eudaimonia as a Way of Living: Connecting Aristotle with Self-Determination Theory. In Vittersø J. (ed.), Handbook of Eudaimonic Well-Being. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2016, pp. 109—122. DOI:10.1007/978-3-319-42445-3_7
  46. Soutter A. K., O’Steen B., Gilmore A. Students’ and teachers’ perspectives on wellbeing in a senior secondary environment. Journal of Student Wellbeing, 2012. Vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 34—67.
  47. Alivernini F., Cavicchiolo E., Manganelli S., Chirico A., Lucidi F. Students’ psychological well-being and its multilevel relationship with immigrant background, gender, socioeconomic status, achievement, and class size. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 2020. Vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 172—191. DOI:10.1080/09243453.2019.1642214
  48. Ramberg J., Låftman S.B., Åkerstedt T., Modin B. Teacher stress and students’ school well-being: The case of upper secondary schools in Stockholm. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 2020. Vol. 64, no. 6, pp. 816—830. DOI:10.1080/00313831.2019.1623308
  49. Tessier D., Ginoux C., Shankland R. Promoting Motivation and Well-Being at School: The Effect of a Teacher Training Combining a Self-Determination Theory-Based Intervention and Positive Psychology Interventions. OSF Preprints, 2022. 25 p. DOI:10.31219/osf.io/nkrdz
  50. Zhu X., Tian L., Zhou J., Huebner E.S. The developmental trajectory of behavioral school engagement and its reciprocal relations with subjective well-being in school among Chinese elementary school students. Children and Youth Services Review, 2019. Vol. 99, pp. 286—295. DOI:10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.01.024
  51. Jeno L.M., Adachi P.J.C., Grytnes J.-A., Vandvik V., Deci E.L. The effects of m-learning on motivation, achievement and well-being: A Self-Determination Theory approach. British Journal of Educational Technology, 2019. Vol. 50, no. 2, pp. 669—683. DOI:10.1111/bjet.12657
  52. Ryan R.M. (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Self-Determination Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023. 1278 p. DOI:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780197600047.001.0001
  53. Estes R.J., Sirgy. M.J. (eds.) The pursuit of human well-being: The untold global history. Berlin: Springer, 2017. 808 p. DOI:10.1007/978-3-319-39101-4
  54. Halliday A.J., Kern M.L., Garrett D.K., Turnbull D.A. The student voice in well-being: A case study of participatory action research in positive education. Educational Action Research, 2019. Vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 173—196. DOI:10.1080/09650792.2018.1436079
  55. Heissel A., Pietrek A., Flunger B., Fydrich T., Rapp M.A., Heinzel S., Vansteenkiste M. The Validation of the German Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction and Frustration Scale in the Context of Mental Health. European Journal of Health Psychology, 2018. Vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 119—132. DOI:10.1027/2512-8442/a000017
  56. Van der Asdonk S., Cyr C., Alink L. Improving parent—child interactions in maltreating families with the Attachment Video-feedback Intervention: Parental childhood trauma as a moderator of treatment effects. Attachment & Human Development, 2021. Vol. 23, no. 6, pp. 876—896. DOI:10.1080/14616734.2020.1799047
  57. Walker M. Amartya Sen’s capability approach and education. Educational action research, 2005. Vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 103—110. DOI:10.1080/09650790500200279
  58. Wieser V., Eltschinger V., Heiss J. Cultures of Eschatology. Berlin: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2020. 834 p. DOI:10.1515/9783110597745
  59. Wiium N., Dimitrova R. Positive youth development across cultures: Introduction to the special issue. Child & Youth Care Forum: Journal of Research and Practice in Children's Services, 2019. Vol. 48, pp. 147—153. DOI:10.1007/s10566-019-09488-7
  60. Earl S.R., Taylor I.M., Meijen C., Passfield L. Young adolescent psychological need profiles: Associations with classroom achievement and well-being. Psychology in the Schools, 2019. Vol. 56, no. 6, pp. 1004—1022. DOI:10.1002/pits.22243
  61. Cárdenas D., Lattimore F., Steinberg D., Reynolds K.J. Youth well-being predicts later academic success. Scientific reports, 2022. Vol. 12, no. 1, article ID 2134. 13 p. DOI:10.1038/s41598-022-05780-0
  62. Zhao M.Y., Tay L. From ill-being to well-being: Bipolar or bivariate? The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2023. Vol. 18, no. 5, pp. 649—659. DOI:10.1080/17439760.2022.2109204

Information About the Authors

Alexandra S. Strukova, PhD student, Research Assistant, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5272-6290, e-mail: alstrukova@hse.ru

Katerina N. Polivanova, Doctor of Psychology, Director of Contemporary Childhood Research Center, Institute of Education, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Professor at the Chair of Developmental Psychology by L.F. Obukhova, Department of Psychology of Education, Moscow State University of Psychology and Education, Moscow, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7058-1232, e-mail: kpolivanova@mail.ru



Total: 61
Previous month: 44
Current month: 5


Total: 52
Previous month: 41
Current month: 3