At Oxhill Nursery School, we know that children’s learning is deeper routed when they are happy, confident and secure than when they have lower levels of well-being. We use a form of assessment developed by Ferre Leavers and his team at Leuven University in Belgium, which gives us a five-point scale to enable us to measure children’s ’emotional well-being’ and ‘involvement’ – two vital components of learning, development and progress in children.
According to Leavers, children in a high state of ‘well-being’ are like ‘fish in water’. They are comfortable in their environment, confident and eager to experiment and explore. Whereas, children with low levels of well-being often appear frightened, anxious and dependent, making it hard for them to learn in a sustained way and explore their potential.
Similarly, high levels of ‘involvement’ – characterised by curiosity, fascination, deep satisfaction and a genuine interest in what they are doing – is an indicator of, ‘deeper-level’, meaningful learning. These signs of a child’s ‘involvement’ are also directly linked to the characteristics of effective teaching and learning as laid out by the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage).
The Leuven Scale for Well-Being
- Extremely low:The child shows clear signs of distress such as crying or screaming. They may seem withdrawn, frightened or aloof, and may behave aggressively, hurting themselves or others around them.
- Low: They may seem uneasy and display a slumped posture. However, the discomfort is not evident all the time and is not as strongly expressed as in Level
- Moderate: The child has a neutral expression and demeanour. Their posture and expression neither show signs of sadness, pleasure, comfort or discomfort.
- High: The child looks happy, cheerful and satisfied. But, these signals are not always present with the same intensity.
- Extremely high: The child is lively, cheerful, confident and shows no signs of stress or tension. Their actions are spontaneous and expressive. They may talk to themselves, hum, sing and look entirely at ease with themselves.
The Leuven Scale for Involvement
- Extremely low: The child may seem absent-minded and displays a lack of energy. They may go around staring aimlessly or looking around to see what others are doing. Their actions may seem passive and repetitive.
- Low: They are easily distracted. They might focus on a task while they are being observed, then lapse into phases of absent-mindedness – looking blankly at what is happening around them.
- Moderate: The child may seem involved in an activity but at a routine level. They might look like they are making progress with what they are doing but rarely show much energy or concentration.
- High: They are not easily distracted and seem entirely engrossed in what they do.
- Extremely high: The child reveals continuous and intense activity indicating the complete involvement. They are focused, creative, lively and persistent throughout nearly the entire period of observation.
Both the ‘well-being’ and ‘involvement’ scales can be accessed by practitioners easily and acts as a highly useful screening tool to elevate the learning opportunities for each child. The technique is ideal to ensure we are providing the right ‘physical’ and ’emotional’ environment for learning, at our nursery. If involvement levels are low then we know we can make changes in the activities and resources we provide.