Peer Wellbeing Champions in secondary schools: towards an understanding of Digital-Peer-Mentoring for Wellbeing.

UoM administered thesis: Doctor of Education

  • Authors:
  • Rebecca Lunson Southall


Peer Wellbeing Champions in secondary schools: towards an understanding of Digital-Peer-Mentoring and Wellbeing. This thesis reports on a case study of the digital Peer Wellbeing Champions Project (PWCP) in schools in Sherringdon County in England, with a specific focus on innovation in wellbeing promoting provision. This diachronic case-study consisted of three stages of fieldwork with mixed methods of data collection where student perceptions were of central interest. Fieldwork activities comprised of co-design focus processes, digital-mentoring implementation, data collection and co-evaluation of a contemporary digital-peer-mentoring initiative in secondary schools. Document analysis revealed inconsistent wellbeing promoting practices across the study sites and with no digital-peer-mentoring interventions. Data from a questionnaire and initial focus groups was analysed to create a framework of respondent perceptions of their Knowledge, Attitudes, Behaviours, Feelings and Sociality (KAB-FS) associated with wellbeing. Analysis of preliminary data revealed students’ accurate knowledge of available school-based support, but notable issues raised included concerns about long waiting times, stigma and inaccessibility. Literature review enabled the construction of the WELL4U-conceptual-model-of-change which assisted the design of the mentoring programme logistics, pedagogical practices and psycho-educational materials. The creation of the PWCP commenced with volunteer students participating in the co-design of a new online qualification for a group of 159, 11-18-year-old students which then enabled them to volunteer as digital-peer-mentors. The co-designed voluntary mentoring service was made available to every student within seven participating sites and delivered online via a co-designed Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) known as WELL4U, over a nine-month period between November 2015 and August 2016. The aims of the mentoring service were to; educate peers about the Six Ways to Wellbeing (6WTW) and increase their enactment; encourage app-based wellbeing self-monitoring; provide peer-emotional-support and destigmatise support seeking. A pre-training questionnaire was delivered online to 159 PWCs. The questionnaire data analysis created a baseline picture relative to the PWCs KAB-F associated with wellbeing before they were exposed to any training material. Stage 2 of the fieldwork involved the delivery of the mentor training and observation of the online mentoring service. PWC and site-user activities within the VLE such as discussion forum, cartoon blogging and wellbeing self-monitoring app usage were recorded. Informal mentoring by the PWCs via LiveChat and non-PWC peer to peer interaction was observed as well as formal booked PWC mentoring sessions which generated reflective mentoring logs and site-user mentor session ratings. The various types of data were categorised as evidence of changes mental capital i.e. the KAB-F factors and an additional outcome of interest social capital, designated in the outcomes framework as sociality or S. Post-participation data analysis revealed self-rated perceived changes in KAB-FS outcomes. Combined data from the evaluative stage of the fieldwork in which both PWCs and VLE site-users, including mentees, shared their positive perceptions of the functioning of the service and gave insight into their perception of the impact of the online mentoring on their KAB-FS outcomes. The conceptual model was critiqued using the findings of the data analysis of the PWC focus groups and interviews and a wide variety of tangible examples of perceived impact, revealed both personally and directly for the PWCs and site-users and also for a wider sphere of influence of the PWCs in terms of their family and friendship groups. A revised model was produced and four individual case-examples provided to evaluate its explanatory use for different types of service-user, including non-mentees, mentees and PWC mentors. Contributions to knowledge include new empirical data regarding student perceptions of digital-peer-mentoring for wellbeing; identification of a unique pedagogy known as opagogy; and the phenomenon of the most beneficial outcomes for wellbeing being perceived within the PWC mentors themselves. Finally, recommendations for further research into digital-peer-mentoring for wellbeing were made alongside an imperative for policy and practice to be reviewed within schools in the area of student wellbeing promotion.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2019