Communities at Work partners with UC to test educator wellbeing framework
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > Communities at Work partners with UC to test educator wellbeing framework

Communities at Work partners with UC to test educator wellbeing framework

by Freya Lucas

August 29, 2022

The University of Canberra (UC) will partner with Communities at Work, the ACT’s largest children’s services organisation, to test a new wellbeing framework to see what can be done to help educators be more resilient, healthy and happy.


Against the backdrop of Early Childhood Educators Day, which coincides with large-scale industrial action, more and more providers are becoming aware of the need to understand what wellbeing means for the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector – and it’s not cupcakes, yoga sessions, or a mobile massage for ten minutes once a year. 


UC researchers Associate Professor Thomas Nielsen and Dr Jennifer Ma have chosen to collaborate with Communities at Work “because wellbeing is something that’s a challenge for all of us, at any age, but particularly in education, and for educators and children at the moment,” Professor Nielsen explained. 


“Our work together will be very focused on increasing people’s sense of meaning and connection,” Dr Ma added, speaking with local publication Her Canberra. 

Central to their work will be the premise that people who have meaningful happiness, rather than just pleasurable happiness, tend to have more resilience in the face of adversity, stress and trauma.


Finding meaningful happiness in the course of their ECEC roles is the aim of the project, with a long term goal of creating positive, long term wellbeing outcomes in the ECEC sector. 


Phase one of the work has just concluded, which involved surveying 108 staff to learn more about their mental health, their levels of resilience and capability to bounce back after adversity (including the COVID-19 pandemic), and their psychological resources and strengths. 


Staff were also surveyed about what they have personally experienced and want to see done to promote wellbeing for them and the children under their care.  


The researchers are basing their project on the Curriculum of Giving – an educational wellbeing framework that can help guide an organisation’s existing practices towards evidence-based wellbeing principles using an ecological-systems approach. 


The Curriculum was created by Professor Nielsen and Dr Ma after a decade of researching wellbeing education initiatives from around the world, and aims to help educators, parents, and caregivers build more resilience, wisdom and meaningful happiness in young people (as well as themselves). 


Communities at Work Director of Children’s Services Kellie Stewart said the fundamental reason the provider decided to be involved in the project was to help alleviate some of the acute stress felt by those in the profession. 


“The initial research survey revealed some of the same outcomes we saw in our staff satisfaction survey: educators have been in highly stressed states over the last three years,” she told Her Canberra. 


“They’ve been essential workers. They’ve worked throughout a pandemic environment without a break. They’ve had to change the way that they do things. They’re dealing with a national workforce shortage.” 


The toll of these combined stressors has been enormous. 


“We hear what our educators are saying and want to do more to help them. That’s why we’re invested in this project. Hopefully, this can act as a case study that brings in a conversation more broadly about what it means for education in Canberra or even nationally,” Ms Stewart added. 


While the results from the initial survey confirmed what researchers had suspected – and what Communities at Work knew – gathering the data is an important step in being able to identify and tailor intervention in ways that shed light on and value educators’ experiences and their voices. 


“We often can’t change what we’re unaware of in the first place,” Dr Ma said. 


“It’s about finding a way to get everyone together to talk openly and honestly about these collective challenges and what can be done, from the ground-up, to address them beyond band-aid solutions.”  


To read the original coverage of this story, please see here

Download The Sector's new App!

ECEC news, jobs, events and more anytime, anywhere.

Download App on Apple App Store Button Download App on Google Play Store Button