Wellbeing and Education: Connecting Mind, Body and World

Catriona O’Toole, Venka Simovska

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


In recent years, wellbeing has become a pillar of Western educational discourse and practice. However, the current interest is wellbeing in education is not without contestation. One problem is that most contemporary theorising in the area of wellbeing draws heavily on traditional, monological and reductionist theories, which view the self as autonomous, self-contained and separable from the social and material world. This type of theorising inevitably leads to individualistic and de-contextualised wellbeing interventions in schools. A second problem is that the current wellbeing agenda in schools largely precludes consideration of the goals, purposes and transformative potential of education itself. In this article, we tease out these concerns and propose a framework to support renewed thinking in the area of wellbeing and education. Specifically, we draw on the work instigated by Francesco Varela, which considers human cognitive and affective processes as enactive, embodied, embedded and extended. This radical paradigm acknowledges that we exist as situated and embodied beings, profoundly entangled with the social and material environment. We then discuss this approach in light of the European educational concept of Bildung, in order to reclaim wellbeing as an educational goal in its own right. We seek to show that wellbeing and education are co-dependent and co-constitutive and together they afford rich possibilities for advancing mind-body-world connections.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWellbeing and Schooling : Cross Cultural and Cross Disciplinary Perspectives
EditorsRos McLellan, Carole Faucher, Venka Simovska
Place of publicationCham
Publication date2022
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-95204-4
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-95205-1
Publication statusPublished - 2022
SeriesEERA Book Series: Transdisciplinary Perspectives in Educational Research


  • Wellbeing
  • Schools
  • 4E
  • Bildung


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