Cognitive wellbeing stategies

Cognitive wellbeing is associated with achievement and success​, how information is processed and judgements are made​, informed by motivation and persistence to achieve​ and is important for attaining knowledge and experiencing positive learning.

Nurture competence

Processing new information results in ‘cognitive load’ on working memory which can affect learning outcomes. Strategies for minimising cognitive load and maximising competence include:

  • providing brain breaks
  • targeting teaching within their zone of proximal development (using high challenge, high support)
    • scaffolding new learning
    • providing timely and meaningful feedback
    • setting realistic teaching and learning goals
  • identifying or activating prior knowledge before introducing concepts before building upon it. This activates prior knowledge, enabling students to incorporate new knowledge into existing schemas. Strategies include:
    • asking students to discuss prior knowledge using ‘think-pair-share’
    • asking student to sketch / create a ‘mind map’ / write a paragraph to show what they already know
    • students writing down aspects of prior knowledge on post-it notes
    • doing quick recap activities to begin a lesson, “what did we learn last lesson?”
    • teacher led questioning on prior concepts
    • students quickly looking over the content of a prior lesson and writing a short summary or explaining it to a peer
  • structuring materials and instruction to maximize working memory
    • Read:
    • present materials in a simple-to-complex order
    • present individual elements of the material first before the integrated task is introduced
    • create simple or ‘clean’ worksheets / PowerPoint presentations without decorative, distracting elements
    • have worked examples / models showing students what to do and how to do it. Follow up with practice feedback
    • minimising extraneous load (information not relevant to learning)
    • minimising repetition of information. The same information presented in multiple forms causes the ‘redundancy effect’.
    • eliminating split attention by integrating separate sources of information
    • provide visuals. Visuals give teachers another avenue for explaining concepts to students, and provide learners an additional way of accessing the information they may not have the language or cognitive proficiency to understand in its written or spoken form alone. Students with additional learning needs benefit from visual supports. It helps develop their understanding and maximises comprehension by providing a common language. For EAL/D students, it can trigger prior knowledge and aid in recall.

Nurture autonomy

Student voice is predominantly a spiritual wellbeing strategy but also supports cognitive wellbeing. Students are active participants in their own learning and wellbeing. To enhance this participation, students should participate in decision-making in the classroom learning environment.

Developing student voice helps students to have a sense of autonomy in their learning. Students with a sense of autonomy have self-confidence and are intrinsically motivated to succeed. Students must feel supported to explore, take initiative and develop and implement solutions for their problems.

Strategies for maximising student autonomy include:

  • Create activities that give students some control over what they are learning
  • Foster relevance by articulating the purpose of the learning activity in relation to the student’s personal goals, what skills the task will help them develop and how successful task performance relates to real-life
  • Provide students with opportunities to choose tasks consistent with personal goals and interests
  • Minimise the importance of marks and external rewards. Support students to self-assess and self-reflect on their learning by providing:
    • reflection activities at the end of key tasks
    • marking criteria for student self-assessment
  • Provide student surveys and exit slips
  • Facilitate inquiry-based learning opportunities
  • Negotiate learning goals with students
  • Increase student decision-making about how they are assessed
  • Provide students with opportunities to lead the learning of the class.

Support relatedness

Students experience relatedness when they perceive others listening and responding to them. These positive relationships, with staff and peers, help establish feelings of belonging, connection and being heard. Students with positive relationships are more likely to take risks with their learning and be more autonomous in their learning.


  • Student management and wellbeing


  • Wellbeing

Business Unit:

  • Inclusion and Wellbeing
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