Author Identifier

Veronica Sutton

Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education

First Supervisor

Mandie Shean

Second Supervisor

Christine Cunningham

Third Supervisor

Andrew Jones


This research evaluated the effectiveness of explicitly teaching Positive Education to early adolescent learners transitioning into a metropolitan, secondary public school in Western Australia and to understand the source of their stress and where they felt supported. Based on teacher feedback, a model for embedding the development of social and emotional competencies (Equity in Positivity) in the Western Australian secondary metropolitan public-school context, in a sustainable and cost-effective way, was developed over a six year period and linked to the Australian Wellbeing Hub (2020).

The researcher adopted a mixed method, instrumental bounded case study methodology, longitudinally applied through the lens of Transitional Theory (Schlossberg, 2011) for analysis of students and Complexity theory (Ball, 2003; Mason 2008). A cohort of 247 (eleven or twelve years old) students, transitioning from primary schools with two years of immersion (2018-19) into Positive Education in a large public secondary school participated. The researcher measured the program’s effectiveness in terms of social and emotional wellbeing through annual surveys, questionnaires, and teacher focus groups.

Results indicated that transitioning students perceived many challenges. Although Positive Education enabled them to find the language to describe their anxieties, their low social and emotional responses increased during the limited time they were a focus of the study. Teachers valued the program and saw an improvement in students’ resilience and help seeking behaviours. However, teachers felt the secondary public-school context to be increasingly complex because of the noticeable declining SEW of transitioning students and teachers’ lack of training to deal with the changing context of the large public secondary school in Western Australia.

Future research that covers a wider time frame would clarify longer term impact of student and staff immersion into whole school Positive Education delivered through an equitable model. This research could help public secondary schools to effectively assist transitioning students. The Equity in Positivity model may assist public secondary schools to implement Positive Education in a sustainable, cost-effective way.



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