Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Research Publications

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    Belonging: a review of conceptual issues, an integrative framework, and directions for future research
    Allen, K-A ; Kern, ML ; Rozek, CS ; McInerney, DM ; Slavich, GM (TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD, 2021-03-06)
    OBJECTIVE: A sense of belonging-the subjective feeling of deep connection with social groups, physical places, and individual and collective experiences-is a fundamental human need that predicts numerous mental, physical, social, economic, and behavioural outcomes. However, varying perspectives on how belonging should be conceptualised, assessed, and cultivated has hampered much-needed progress on this timely and important topic. To address these critical issues, we conducted a narrative review that summarizes existing perspectives on belonging, describes a new integrative framework for understanding and studying belonging, and identifies several key avenues for future research and practice. METHOD: We searched relevant databases, including Google Scholar, PubMed, Scopus, PsycInfo, and ClinicalTrials.gov, for articles describing belonging, instruments for assessing belonging, and interventions for increasing belonging. RESULTS: By identifying the core components of belonging, we introduce a new integrative framework for understanding, assessing, and cultivating belonging that focuses on four interrelated components: competencies, opportunities, motivations, and perceptions. CONCLUSION: This integrative framework enhances our understanding of the basic nature and features of belonging, provides a foundation for future interdisciplinary research on belonging and belongingness, and highlights how a robust sense of belonging may be cultivated to improve human health and resilience for individuals and communities worldwide.
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    The VIVA Sustainable Work Engagement Model: A Conceptual Introduction and Preliminary Test Over Three Years
    Ignjatovic, C ; Kern, ML ; Oades, LG (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2022-08)
    Abstract Vital engagement has been described as a focused, meaningful, and active relationship with work across one’s lifetime (Nakamura, 2001, 2014). Theoretically, vital engagement goes beyond short-term interest and engagement in one’s work, representing instead an ongoing, homeostatic sense of engagement that sustainably occurs across years and decades. However, it is unclear how vital engagement manifests in the modern workplace. In the footsteps of Nakamura (2014), we present the VIVA model, which conceptualizes sustainable work engagement as comprised of four mutually reinforcing elements: virtue, involvement, vitality, and acceptance. We first describe the rationale and conceptual underpinnings of the model. Then, we provide a preliminary empirical test of the model using archival data collected from a panel of school staff (N = 327) assessed five times over a three year period. Based on available data, the VIVA domains were operationalized as strengths use, work-related flow experiences, subjective vitality, and a sense of meaning in life. Using structural equation modelling, results provided preliminary support for the hypothesized model, which was relatively stable over time despite changes and challenges occurring in the school. The construct was strongly correlated with but distinct from other wellbeing measures. Although additional testing with measures that specifically align with the four theoretical dimensions is needed, the results support the relevance of the VIVA model in defining specific domains that can be supported in the workplace to help employees sustainably thrive.
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    Flourishing Classrooms: Applying a Systems-Informed Approach to Positive Education
    Allison, L ; Waters, L ; Kern, ML (Springer, 2021-12)
    Although positive education has made significant progress towards fostering student wellbeing at the individual level through the application of positive psychology interventions, adopting a systems-informed perspective will support the field to also approach wellbeing at the classroom and collective levels. Arguably, this approach will promote a more widespread and sustained level of wellbeing in schools. The current conceptual paper focuses on how the classroom as a system can be used as a powerful context to create collective wellbeing. We define group-level flourishing, explain how a systems-informed perspective allows classrooms to create collective wellbeing, introduce the Flourishing Classroom Systems Model, and consider implications and applications of this model.
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    Identifying and Shifting Disempowering Paradigms for Families of Children With Disability Through a System Informed Positive Psychology Approach
    Mahmic, S ; Kern, ML ; Janson, A (FRONTIERS MEDIA SA, 2021-12-23)
    Despite the emergence of socio-ecological, strength-based, and capacity-building approaches, care for children with disability remains primarily grounded in a deficit-based perspective. Diagnoses and interventions primarily focus on what children and families cannot do, rather than what might be possible, often undermining the competence, mental health, and functioning of both the children and their families. We first critically examine typical approaches to disability care for families of young children, describe the importance of a systems-informed positive psychology (SIPP) approach to care, and identify the existence of two dominant paradigms, disability is a disadvantage and experts know best. Then, we present a case study investigating families' experiences with these two paradigms and whether shifts to alternative perspectives could occur through participation in a SIPP-based program co-designed by professionals and families. Of program participants, nine parents and five early intervention professionals participated in two separate focus groups, and ten e-books were randomly selected for review. Thematic analysis of the e-books and focus group data identified two primary themes representing alternative perspectives that arose through the intervention: we will start with our strengths and we've got this. Participant comments indicated that they developed a greater sense of hope, empowerment, engagement, and wellbeing, enabled by embedding wellbeing concepts and practices in their routines and communications with their children. We suggest that benefits arose in part from the structure of the program and the development of wellbeing literacy in participants. While care needs to be taken in generalizing the results, the case study provides clear examples of shifts in perspectives that occurred and suggests that the incorporation of SIPP principles within early intervention approaches provides a potential pathway for shifting the problematic paradigms that dominate disability care.
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    A qualitative exploration of individual differences in wellbeing for highly sensitive individuals
    Black, BA ; Kern, ML (PALGRAVE MACMILLAN LTD, 2020-06-02)
    Abstract Cultures explicitly and implicitly create and reinforce social norms and expectations, which impact upon how individuals make sense of and experience their place within that culture. Numerous studies find substantial differences across a range of behavioral and cognitive indices between what have been called “Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD)” societies and non-WEIRD cultures. Indeed, lay conceptions and social norms around wellbeing tend to emphasize social outgoingness and high-arousal positive emotions, with introversion and negative emotion looked down upon or even pathologized. However, this extravert-centric conception of wellbeing does not fit many individuals who live within WEIRD societies, and studies find that this mismatch can have detrimental effects on their wellbeing. There is a need to better understand how wellbeing is created and experienced by the large number of people for whom wellbeing manifests in alternative ways. This study investigated one such manifestation—the personality trait of sensory processing sensitivity (SPS)—qualitatively investigating how sensitive individuals experience and cultivate wellbeing within a WEIRD society. Twelve adults participated in semi-structured interviews. Findings suggest that highly sensitive individuals perceive that wellbeing arises from harmony across multiple dimensions. Interviewees emphasized the value of low-intensity positive emotion, self-awareness, self-acceptance, positive social relationships balanced by times of solitude, connecting with nature, contemplative practices, emotional self-regulation, practicing self-compassion, having a sense of meaning, and hope/optimism. Barriers of wellbeing included physical health issues and challenges with saying no to others. This study provides a rich idiographic representation of SPS wellbeing, highlighting diverse pathways, which can lead to wellbeing for individuals for whom wellbeing manifests in ways that contradict the broader social narratives in which they reside.
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    Regional personality assessment through social media language
    Giorgi, S ; Nguyen, KL ; Eichstaedt, JC ; Kern, ML ; Yaden, DB ; Kosinski, M ; Seligman, MEP ; Ungar, LH ; Schwartz, HA ; Park, G (WILEY, 2021-10-11)
    OBJECTIVE: We explore the personality of counties as assessed through linguistic patterns on social media. Such studies were previously limited by the cost and feasibility of large-scale surveys; however, language-based computational models applied to large social media datasets now allow for large-scale personality assessment. METHOD: We applied a language-based assessment of the five factor model of personality to 6,064,267 U.S. Twitter users. We aggregated the Twitter-based personality scores to 2,041 counties and compared to political, economic, social, and health outcomes measured through surveys and by government agencies. RESULTS: There was significant personality variation across counties. Openness to experience was higher on the coasts, conscientiousness was uniformly spread, extraversion was higher in southern states, agreeableness was higher in western states, and emotional stability was highest in the south. Across 13 outcomes, language-based personality estimates replicated patterns that have been observed in individual-level and geographic studies. This includes higher Republican vote share in less agreeable counties and increased life satisfaction in more conscientious counties. CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that regions vary in their personality and that these differences can be studied through computational linguistic analysis of social media. Furthermore, these methods may be used to explore other psychological constructs across geographies.
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    Supplementary analysis for lifestyle and wellbeing: Exploring behavioral and demographic covariates in a large US sample
    Eichstaedt, JC ; Yaden, DB ; Ribeiro, F ; Adler, A ; Kern, ML (International Journal of Wellbeing, 2020-09-30)
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    Do children's expectations about future physical activity predict their physical activity in adulthood?
    Pongiglione, B ; Kern, ML ; Carpentieri, JD ; Schwartz, HA ; Gupta, N ; Goodman, A (OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2020-10-01)
    BACKGROUND: Much of the population fails to meet recommended physical activity (PA) levels, but there remains considerable individual variation. By understanding drivers of different trajectories, interventions can be better targeted and more effective. One such driver may be a person's physical activity identity (PAI)-the extent to which a person perceives PA as central to who they are. METHODS: Using survey information and a unique body of essays written at age 11 from the National Child Development Study (N = 10 500), essays mentioning PA were automatically identified using the machine learning technique support vector classification and PA trajectories were estimated using latent class analysis. Analyses tested the extent to which childhood PAI correlated with activity levels from age 23 through 55 and with trajectories across adulthood. RESULTS: 42.2% of males and 33.5% of females mentioned PA in their essays, describing active and/or passive engagement. Active PAI in childhood was correlated with higher levels of activity for men but not women, and was correlated with consistently active PA trajectories for both genders. Passive PAI was not related to PA for either gender. CONCLUSIONS: This study offers a novel approach for analysing large qualitative datasets to assess identity and behaviours. Findings suggest that at as young as 11 years old, the way a young person conceptualizes activity as part of their identity has a lasting association with behaviour. Still, an active identity may require a supportive sociocultural context to manifest in subsequent behaviour.
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    Feeling Good and Functioning Well in Mathematics Education: Exploring Students’ Conceptions of Mathematical Well-Being and Values
    Hill, JL ; Kern, ML ; Seah, WT ; van Driel, J (SAGE Publications, 2020)
    Purpose: The high incidence of mathematics anxiety and disengagement in mathematics points to poor student well-being in many mathematics classrooms. Poor well-being may arise in part from poor alignment between student values and classroom experiences. Yet, what student well-being is and how to support it within specific subjects is poorly understood, and intersection between students’ values and well-being in mathematics education is unclear. This article proposes a seven-dimensional framework of student well-being in mathematics education and examines alignment between well-being and values. Design/Approach/Methods: One hundred nineteen eighth-grade Australian students responded to three open-ended questions investigating their conceptions of mathematical well-being (MWB) and what they valued most when learning or doing mathematics. Responses were analyzed using a combined deductive/inductive thematic analysis. Findings: Findings supported the MWB framework and confirmed an alignment between students’ values and well-being in mathematics education. Originality/Value: Our study provides a framework for conceptualizing student well-being in mathematics education, points to areas to target to improve student well-being, and highlights congruences and discordances between well-being and values.
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    The Language of Well-Being: Tracking Fluctuations in Emotion Experience Through Everyday Speech
    Sun, J ; Schwartz, HA ; Son, Y ; Kern, ML ; Vazire, S (AMER PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOC, 2020-02-01)
    The words that people use have been found to reflect stable psychological traits, but less is known about the extent to which everyday fluctuations in spoken language reflect transient psychological states. We explored within-person associations between spoken words and self-reported state emotion among 185 participants who wore the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR; an unobtrusive audio recording device) and completed experience sampling reports of their positive and negative emotions 4 times per day for 7 days (1,579 observations). We examined language using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count program (LIWC; theoretically created dictionaries) and open-vocabulary themes (clusters of data-driven semantically-related words). Although some studies give the impression that LIWC's positive and negative emotion dictionaries can be used as indicators of emotion experience, we found that when computed on spoken language, LIWC emotion scores were not significantly associated with self-reports of state emotion experience. Exploration of other categories of language variables suggests a number of hypotheses about substantive everyday correlates of momentary positive and negative emotion that can be tested in future studies. These findings (a) suggest that LIWC positive and negative emotion dictionaries may not capture self-reported subjective emotion experience when applied to everyday speech, (b) emphasize the importance of establishing the validity of language-based measures within one's target domain, (c) demonstrate the potential for developing new hypotheses about personality processes from the open-ended words that are used in everyday speech, and (d) extend perspectives on intraindividual variability to the domain of spoken language. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).