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Amy Miner

Well-Being as a Comprehensive Term

Well-being is an overarching term that encompasses the knowledge, skills, and dispositions associated with physical, social, emotional, mental, and academic well-being. 

Well-beingensures that all students and educators thrive physically, socially, emotionally, mentally, and academically.

  • Physical well-being refers to the physical wellness or health of our body and includes meeting our basic needs, nutrition, exercise, safety, self-care, and hygiene.
  • Social well-beingreflects our interactions with others in which we engage in positive relationships of belonging and connection, as well as communication, resolving conflicts, and managing responses to various interpersonal situations.
  • Emotional well-being refers to our ability to identify, understand, and manage our feelings, thoughts, and emotions.
  • Mental well-being refers to the way we process and manage our thoughts to purposefully and productively navigate life.
  • Academic well-being* is the demonstrated acquisition of content knowledge, skills, and dispositions within a range of developmentally appropriate abilities.

*In the context of administrators, teachers, and staff academic well-being is referred to as professional well-being and includes the professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions within the context of school and work.

To some, it might seem over-reaching to include physical and academic skills in our definition of well-being. Our collective experience in schools reminds us that when students come to us hungry, tired, fatigued, or stressed it is very difficult for them to engage in academic learning. Furthermore, positive psychology in the educational setting sees academic components of well-being as imperative because it is foundational for how students learn. 

White and Kern (2018) suggest that, in fact, academic learning is a “double helix with intertwined strands of equal importance—academics and character or wellbeing.” They further validate what parents and teachers have always known as the work of educating the whole child, and refer to the compelling research that demonstrates that the success of young people in school and beyond is inextricably linked to healthy social and emotional development. 

Students who have a sense of belonging and purpose, who can work well with classmates and peers to solve problems, who can plan and set goals, and who can persevere through challenges—in addition to being literate, numerate, and versed in scientific concepts and ideas—are more likely to maximize their opportunities and reach their full potential. [1]

The interconnected link between student well-being and academic learning is supported through supportive school climates, proactive Tier 1 instruction, and an increased commitment to the work supporting well-being in schools by administrators, teachers, service providers, and the school community at large. 



  1. White, M. A., & Kern, M. L., (2018). Positive education: Learning and teaching for wellbeing and academic mastery. International Journal of Wellbeing, 8(1), 1-17. doi:10.5502/ijw.v8i1.588


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