2nd Australasian VIRTUAL Conference for Neuroscience, Learning and Well-being


The VIRTUAL Conference will be presented at

Australian Central Standard Time (South Australia)



Ms Rita Princi-Hubbard 

PhD Candidate - University of Queensland

B.Psych(Hons), M.Psych(Clin), MAPS, FCCLP, MIAAN (Cert)

Director - iN-Ed 

Director - Princi Consulting

See Full Bio


Master of Ceremonies




The Student-Teacher Relationship: Exploring Behavioural and Neuroscience Variables that impact upon Student and Teacher Wellbeing


Research in neuroscience, psychology and education is experiencing a paradigm shift from a focus on cognitive development to the impact of the environment on emotional development and learning. In the educational domain, there is growing interest in understanding the science to assist with informing pedagogical approaches in the classroom. Recent research has identified how secure relationships between teachers and students contribute to the development of emotional regulation in childhood including for children experiencing emotional dis-regulation. Teacher emotional self-regulation and well-being has also been linked to student self-regulation and well-being.  


My study is integrating different aspects of previous research to investigate the paradigm of neuroscience, psychology and education on student and teacher wellbeing.


The focus of this Keynote is to identify neuroscience and behavioural variables that impact the student and teacher relationship and the importance of achieving wellbeing for students and teachers in the learning environment.


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Professor Selena Bartlett

Group Leader Neuroscience and Obesity, Translational Research Institute, Institute for Health and Biomedical Innovation, QUT

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Professor Selena Bartlett is an award winning neuroscientist and a Group Leader in Neuroscience and Brain Fitness at the Translational Research Institute in the School of Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Health, QUT. She is a trained pharmacist and medically trained neuroscientist and was the Director of the Preclinical Development Group at the Gallo Centre at the University of California San Francisco for 8 years. In 2014, she launched the Brain Vitality Index mobile app and presented a TEDx talk about brain fitness and the neuroplasticity revolution. She won the Lawrie Austin Award for Neuroscience in 2019 from the Australian Neuroscience Society, Women in Technology (WiT) Biotech Outstanding Achievement Award and the Biotech Research Award. She recently launched a book called Smashing Mindset.


Ms Sheryl Batchelor


Yiliyapinya Indigenous Corporation

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Sheryl Batchelor is a proud Kunja woman with over 28 years teaching, training and leadership experience in a variety of educational, community and health settings. She has been involved in projects that have measurably improved the memory, attention, brain speed and social skills of the most vulnerable children, youth and adults with severe learning and behavioural challenges arising from trauma, abuse, neglect, disabilities and other causes including children in foster care and young people in the Youth Justice system. Sheryl is a certified trainer of various neuroplasticity programs and adopts a personalised approach with no one-size-fits-all. She has presented at conferences and workshops in Australia as well as in the USA and UK. She has a keen interest in working with communities to break the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage through using scientifically validated neuroplasticity programs aimed to improve the brain health of all individuals.

Yiliyapinya was established in 2019 as a not-for-profit, registered charity to assist vulnerable children, youth, adults, and seniors improve their quality of life. Our unique service offerings are grounded in one purpose – to close the gap in learning and earning outcomes of people who have experienced adverse life circumstances/toxic stress in a culturally responsive and contextualised manner.



 How to Apply Neuroplasticity  

Neuroscience to help Educators drive a Growth Mindset

Objectives: Understand the principles of neuroplasticity and neuroscience that underpins a growth mindset. Understand how psychological distress and trauma impact cognition and learn how to apply neuroplasticity to improve social and emotional learning and educational engagement in children, adolescents and adults.


Professor Bartlett and Ms Sheryl Batchelor will deliver a presentation and an interactive workshop to engage and educate you about your brain and how it is affected by stress and how this leads to cognitive impairments that disrupt learning and engagement in education. Understanding how to train the brain to manage stress and improve cognition is one of the keys to develop a growth mindset and social and emotional learning skills (SEL). We often hear that having a growth mindset and SEL skills are essential for the 21st century, however, there are few tools available that can be implemented in our daily lives, schools and communities. Scientists now understand that humans have the capacity to change our brains forever using the principles of neuroplasticity. The workshop will focus on the core principles to teach you how to train the brain to handle stress, improve cognition and SEL and develop a growth mindset.


Two Learning Objectives for participants will be to 1. Understand the neuroscience behind developing a growth mindset and 2. Help educators apply the principles of neuroplasticity to drive a growth mindset for themselves and their students.

Professor Robyn Gillies


Professor of Education and a Chief Investigator in the Science of Learning Research Centre. The University of Queensland


Professor Robyn Gillies' major research interests are in the learning sciences, classroom discourses, small group processes, classroom instruction, and student behaviour. Professor Robyn Gillies has worked extensively in both primary and secondary schools to embed STEM education initiatives into the science curriculum. 

Robyn M. Gillies PhD is a Professor of Education at The University of Queensland. Her research focuses on the social and cognitive aspects of learning through social interaction. She has spent over twenty years researching how students can be encouraged to engage in class and learn. Her research spans both primary and secondary schools and has focused on inquiry learning in science and mathematics, teacher and peer-mediated learning, student centred learning, including cooperative learning, and classroom discourses and processes related to learning outcomes. Her recommendations on how teachers can translate research into practice have been widely profiled in the international literature and on the website of the Smithsonian Science Education Center in Washington, DC.



Cultivating a Growth Mindset: Teaching with dialogue to grow intelligence.


Did you know  "intelligence can grow". We have traditionally thought of intelligence as a fixed attribute but a number of studies in neuroscience, cognitive science and educational psychology demonstrate that intelligence is more fluid than we thought –it is learnable. Intelligence grows when students have opportunities to work in classrooms where teachers actively teach students how to engage critically and constructively with others’ ideas, challenge perspectives, and discuss alternative propositions. These are important discourse moves that students need to learn if they are to talk and reason effectively together. In these classrooms, students learn to develop a growth mindset where working hard to learn new things makes you smarter –it makes your brain grow new connections. This presentation will canvas the research on the role of dialogue and academically productive talk in growing intelligence and social competencies, discuss developments in neuroscience that support this claim, and share findings from classroom-based research highlighting particular practices teachers can use to foster these dialogic exchanges and help students develop a growth mindset.


Mr Thedy Veliz 


California USA - Neuropsychotherapy - Working with Youth and Their Families 
PhD Student in Transformative Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies

Thedy Veliz is a Relational & Developmental Neuro-Therapeutic CoachSM, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), a Certified Clinical Neuropsychotherapy Practitioner, and a Certified Resilience Coach (CreC) in private practice in Los Gatos, California, USA.  Veliz is founder of People Systems, a leadership & human development consulting firm through which he works with youth, adults, families, and couples who are experiencing challenges caused by behavioral, relational and emotional dynamics.

Thedy recognizes that children’s symptoms communicate the relational dynamics of the family, and uses a family systems approach to encourage parents to become curious about what aspects of the family dynamics might be showing up as challenging behaviors in their children. Thedy uses “Relational Neuro-Narratives” as the active ingredient of his Parent Relational & Developmental Neuropsychotherapy Protocol which guides his treatment of youth by working with their parents. 

Thedy combines 15 years of corporate engineering design and finance management experience with his experience in motivational speaking, leadership development, and his most recent education and training in neuropsychotherapy, counseling psychology, human development, and resilience & life coaching to provide families with a neuropsychotherapeutic path towards wellness by focusing on the power of dyadic relationships as the medium for healing. 

Thedy specializes in working with fathers and sons, and the entire family by utilizing “neuro-therapeutic coaching” in order to assist individuals to achieve resilience through personal fulfillment and creativity while becoming social innovation catalysts. Thedy is currently working on a PhD in Transformative Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies. His research uses a transdisciplinary approach to understanding the role of sensitivity and creativity/giftedness on the conceptualization of children’s behavioral, emotional, and learning challenges. Thedy has a Masters in Counseling Psychology (MA) from Santa Clara University, a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Notre Dame, and a Bachelor in Mechanical Engineering (BSME) from Iowa State University.



“The Ferrari Brain” - Creativity or Non-Compliance?

Developmental neurogenomics informed pedagogical interventions for challenging students



“What if the children about whom we worry most were actually those with the greatest promise? What if those youth whose lives are marked by turmoil and difficulty were plausibly heirs to the brightest, most creative futures? What if seemingly blighted and troubled childhoods could give way, under conditions of encouragement and support, to adulthoods bearing not simply normal lives and passable achievement, but deep, rich relationships and inspired accomplishment?  What if even the very real burdens of a child’s uncommon fragility could be reshaped, under responsive conditions, into the tangible advantages of human resilience? What if, in short, the apparent frailties and disarray of some young lives were redeemable – through the alchemy of nurturing families or communities and transformative care?

- W. Thomas Boyce, The Orchid and the Dandelion

Over the last few decades, research findings have been providing evidence suggesting that 15-20% of young people are more “sensitive” to the effect of their environment than the remaining 80-85%.  This sensitivity manifests itself in multiple ways including increased behavioral, emotional, and learning challenges; along with hypersexuality, risky behavior, addiction, and physical illnesses. It turns out that the neuroendocrine makeup of these youth is a result of a complicated interplay between evolution, genetics, and epigenetics that has resulted in them having what I call a “Ferrari” brain which predisposes them to becoming easily dysregulated; but also to being idealistic, creative and intelligent in very unconventional ways.


In essence, these children have brains that become easily bored, question rules and authority, and require constant stimulation.  But they are also very empathic, feel the injustice in the world, and are interested in complex social, political, and philosophical issues at a very early age.  These children require a different learning style that is more “hands on” in order to keep them engaged while providing a relationally safe environment required for the adequate balance of “here and now” neurochemicals (e.g., oxytocin, serotonin, endogenous opioids) and dopamine.


Researchers are learning that creative people can score high on both psychopathology AND psychological health as this is the nature of their “messy” unconventional minds.  Thus, how important adults in their lives see them will make a big difference into how they see themselves. These children constantly feel misunderstood by caregivers and peers; and consequences, shaming, and trying to change the way their neuroendocrine system has been evolutionarily designed would have adverse effects for these young people and those around them.  They are usually carriers of self-regulatory genetic alleles that make them susceptible to the environment “for better and for worse.” This means that a child or adolescent that is displaying a behavioral problem might not be in the right learning environment for his brain to be motivated to learn.  However, most educational systems were designed before we had an understanding of the developmental neuroendocrine differences of these children, and thus they might not be receiving a fair chance at developing their own unique talents.


This keynote presentation will provide the theory and research to help educators conceptualize “difficult” students’ challenges by using practical interventions to enhance the environmental experience needed for optimal learning by these children.  How caregivers conceptualize these children’s difference can make them or break them as many of them end up engaging in self-destructive behavior. And… how educators engage with and relate to these sensitive children and the resulting classroom dynamics has been shown to affect not only their education and future career opportunities, but also their mental and physical health.


Applied Interactive Workshop: How to “Join-in” With Non-Compliance as a Pedagogical Intervention That Would lead to Creative Expression


After being exposed to research, theories, and interventions that highlight the emotional, behavioral, social, and learning aspects of children that are “non-formulaic,” this applied interactive workshop will provide participants with an opportunity to ask questions pertaining to how the information presented in the keynote can be taken back and put into practice with students that might be showing signs of having a Ferrari Brain.

Dr David Collins

Clinical Psychologist




David is a doctoral trained clinical psychologist who has worked with young people for many years. David has worked in a variety of settings in public mental health, been an honorary research fellow with the University of Melbourne, and has been involved in local and international research collaborations developing treatment programs for a range of psychological difficulties.



Understanding and Harnessing Student Motivation in the Classroom:

A Brain Based Perspective


Every student enters the classroom with a unique set of strengths. Understanding what drives every student to achieve is a critical part of a teacher’s role. A teacher’s curiosity for knowing what energises a student’s behaviour towards a given goal is important, but understanding what is happening when motivational systems become disrupted is also important. Many different variables influence a student’s motivational state, including internal brain states, genetic factors, environmental and social conditions, as well as past experiences of learning at home and in the classroom. Disruption in any one of these can significantly impact on motivation, resulting in problematic responses ranging from aggressive behaviour to disengagement.  Working through concepts such as implicit versus explicit motivation, motivational contagion, the benefits and limits of willpower, and the social basis of motivation (as it relates to student-student and teacher-student relationships), this talk will aim to give practical information on how to engage students on learning tasks. A special focus will be on how fear based motivational systems may be effective in producing short term academic outcomes, but may be less effective in producing lifelong learners. 

David has designed and delivered training for Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, which is the peak body of youth mental health in Australia. He also sits on the board of the International Association of Applied Neuroscience. David has delivered keynote addresses across Australia focusing on the developing brain.

David has delivered workshops for teachers, psychologists, counsellors, parents, and students across Australia in the neuroscience of young brains. David specialises in practical and entertaining workshops that attempt to distil the complex nature of the brain into something immediately understandable and usable. David is also the director of Braingrow, a whole school well-being program running in schools across Australia teaching young people about the neuroscience of well-being

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Dr Sonja Vanderaa

Trauma and Behaviour Consultant, nipaluna/Hobart,

lutruwita/Tasmania, Australia

BEd(Hons), Cert IV TAE, Grad Cert Dev Trauma, PhD

Sonja is a behaviour consultant specializing in whole school approaches to positive behaviour support, functional behaviour assessment, trauma sensitive practice and staff wellbeing. She has worked as a teacher, special educator, professional learning leader and behavioural consultant. Most recently, she has been employed as a senior training consultant and worked with educators across Australia.

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Sonja brings more than twenty years’ experience working with school communities, inter-agency teams and professional groups.Her award-winning PhD was on school-based functional behaviour assessment. Sonja has a particular interest in improving the social and academic inclusion ofstudents with challenging behaviours and intensive support needs.

Resources for Educator Resilience




“A healthy mind is one that monitors energy and information flow with a stability, depth and clarity that enables it to then be able to modulate that flow with strength and specificity toward integration. Knowing this, we can actually offer specific practices to take a troubled mind, one at risk for un-health and dis-ease, and, with intention and practice, help cultivate a healthy and resilient mind.” – Dan Siegel, Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology


This keynote presentation asks the question: What might we learn from attachment theory, neurobiology and neurophysiology, to strengthen educator resilience? Drawing on these multiple perspectives, resilience may be seen less as an individual characteristic, and more as an expression of context, relationship and awareness.



The interactive workshop which follows, explores practical ways to help us move from dysregulated states, back into our window of tolerance. Bottom-up approaches (using the body to calm the mind), and top-down approaches (using the mind to calm the body) will be shared. Resources for use before, during and after stressful experiences will also be considered. 


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Dr Anne Southall

Course Co-ordinator

Master of Inclusion and Diversity.

ASSC College of Arts,

Social Sciences and Commerce, 

La Trobe University, Melbourne


Anne Southall has over 30 years experience working in the field of special education and mainstream primary schools in both Australia and the UK. A Principal for many years, she developed an interest in the education of children from traumatic backgrounds and interventions which respond to the profound and long term impact on their brain development. In her current role she lectures at La Trobe University in student well-being while completing her PhD. Her research involves working with special education teachers to develop more trauma informed pedagogies which might alter the trajectory for these students.

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What does it mean to be a trauma informed school? 


As education systems become more aware of the profound impact of traumatic experience in early childhood, we have seen an increase in programs and policies that claim to be ‘trauma informed’. A review of this literature provides a range of responses to neuroscientific understandings, giving rise to a wide range of initiatives and frameworks being trialled in Australian schools. Anne will draw from current research being conducted by La Trobe University on some of these early trials, to explore the key principles involved in a ‘trauma informed’ education.

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Ms Maria Ruberto 

Director, Psychologist, Clinical Neuropsychotherapy Practitioner



Maria Ruberto’s work is dynamic, interactive and spirited. Her application of psychology is anchored by research in neuroscience and brain function - and framed by the science of optimism. A psychologist with over 22 years of clinical and industry experience, Maria delivers practical workshops and professional education to forward thinking organisations. Maria is focused on increasing the capacity and performance of individuals and teams who rely on highly tuned relationships and emotional intelligence to achieve professional, organisational and client success. Positive health activates well-being and success follows authenticity.




Educational leadership has experienced an influx of theoretical perspectives over the last decade to better inform sustainable transformations to lead and lift educational pedagogies and student outcomes.   The cogs turn slowly within Australia’s educational systems, and although there is a plethora of research in different styles of leadership like autocratic, distributed and transactional as examples, Australian studies turn their attention to a humanistic “honeybee” approach and invite neuroscience into their methodology. Sustainable leadership embraces aspects of humanistic management in that it includes valuing people and considering the [organisation] as a contributor to social wellbeing. We will look at school examples of Primary, Secondary and an Aboriginal setting.  The workshop will unpack the new Australian based DRIVEN model which lifts leadership into the social neuroscience domain and demonstrates how leaders who own and lead through resilience-based practices foster systemic innovation, increase staff engagement and create strong cultures of trust.  Under these conditions, student learning anchors in agency, and teaching practices anchor in psychological safety.  Resiliency therefore becomes a shared currency, and one which promotes prosocial investments , higher order learning and communities of excellence.

Mr Robert Rostolis is the current Principal of Diamond Creek East Primary School. Robert has been Principal at Diamond Creek East Primary School for the past 24 years. In his capacity as principal, he has developed significant leadership skills to enable the learning community to build a culture of teamwork and mutual respect underpinned by a well-being focus.


Robert has an avid interest in positive psychology and neuroscience and believes that educators can make a positive contribution to all stakeholders through modelling and developing fun and informative brain based activities in the form of rituals, presentations, programs etc. that assist in encouraging growth and a positive mindset. In essence providing lifelong strategies to promote brain fitness and self-care.

Mr Stephen Campbell is the current Assistant Principal at Diamond Creek East Primary School. Stephen is a passionate educator with a keen interest in helping young people reach their potential. Stephen has been a member of the Diamond Creek East Primary School staff for the last 8 years and enjoys playing an active role in the development of the school’s Well-being Program.

Stephen has worked closely with the school’s leadership team and expert consultants in the development of a revolutionary two day ‘Brain Fitness’ Conference which was delivered to the school’s Grade 5 and 6 students in 2017. The depth of knowledge and recall of key learnings and strategies acquired is still resonating throughout the school community.

Mr Josh Gee is the Well-being Coordinator and a Grade 5/6 teacher at Diamond Creek East Primary school. Josh has an interest in well-being and wants to help students become more resilient. Josh has been a teacher at Diamond Creek East Primary School for 4 years. He has assisted the staff and students at Diamond Creek East Primary School in the development of strategies to support mindfulness, gratitude and positive psychology.

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Ms Maria Ruberto 

Director, Psychologist, Clinical Neuropsychotherapy Practitioner





Maria Ruberto’s work is dynamic, interactive and spirited. Her application of psychology is anchored by research in neuroscience and brain function - and framed by the science of optimism. A psychologist with over 22 years of clinical and industry experience, Maria delivers practical workshops and professional education to forward thinking organisations. Maria is focused on increasing the capacity and performance of individuals and teams who rely on highly tuned relationships and emotional intelligence to achieve professional, organisational and client success. Positive health activates well-being and success follows authenticity.

Delivering professional learning in schools is a privilege but transferring knowledge to influence change can be challenging. Schools are busy places and for staff to be told that there is a "new" approach to consider, the first issue faced is the cognitive and emotional defences that are raised when staff believe there will be "more" work.  I will briefly talk about the Neuropsychotherapy approach to creating readiness, and leadership factors which enable growth promotion and learning cultures within school systems.


Teaching Brain Fitness to School Aged Children

The latest research shows that Australian students are currently suffering unprecedented rates of developing mental health problems. Building a health curriculum is therefore a social imperative to educate and promote positive growth, which serves not only to mitigate mental ill-health, but also foster greater neural capacity for learning outcomes and overall student success. In this session, delegates will be given theoretical context of the impact of stress on the brain and how this interferes with the learning process. We will explore the triune brain model [in a way which can also be presented to students], and the interplay of certain neurotransmitters in relation to learning. An overview to the main areas of the brain that highly align to resilience will be presented and how we can teach these concepts to children up to middle school, to provide the impetus for regulatory behaviours around motivation and attention. 

Character resources have been created by a team of educators to teach brain-based strategies to young children as a prevention against developing mental health problems. The characters take a narrative approach to help children understand the function of their brains under stress and what they can do to manage their body’s responses. The PERMAPLUS model of wellbeing is applied to bring context to the role the characters play in the development of resilience. The characters represent scientific strategies and enable children to apply them with confidence and meaning. Examples will show a whole school approach and footage of what it could look like within educational settings.


Teaching Brain Fitness to School Aged Children

The workshop will apply the triune brain model as context to the Bee Hive Characters which underpin the learnings delivered to students via story and concept. Each character will be defined and described to their role in wellbeing. The characters will be described and brought to life as the neuroscience is explained and the characters act out their wellbeing tools. Two characters will be explored in detail together with live demonstrations of content delivery. Delegates will participate in character activities to demonstrate how this can be applied in the classroom.

Learning Outcomes: 

1. To understand brain function that relates to learning and brain health 

2. To use teachable concepts to primary aged children on mental fitness 

3. Become familiar with the Mental Fitness Characters that can be used with ease with 

children and help identify early experiences of mental health problems and how to address the symptoms and build wellbeing

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Ms Rose Jost

Wellbeing Coach

Melbourne Girls Grammar School

Rose Jost is an educational wellbeing professional, with a background in psychology, collaborative therapy and program development.

As a foundational member of the world-first Wellbeing Coaching program at Melbourne Girls Grammar School, Rose and her colleagues were responsible for designing and implementing a model for individual wellbeing that focuses on identity, values, emotional agility and accountability.  The Wellbeing Coaching model posits that wellbeing and learning are synonymous, individually determined and require flexible and nuanced approach for future success.

With a focus on policy and evidence-based best practice in wellbeing and education, Rose is currently completing her Master of Cognitive Psychology and Educational Practice. 

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Ms Emma Grant

Health & Physical Education

Wellbeing Specialist

Braemar College

Emma is an accomplished wellbeing educator and passionate advocate for young people learning to self manage and develop a repertoire of wellbeing strategies and skills, while paying equal mind to their social and emotional skills, cognitive function and sense of belonging and purpose.

Emma’s career successes span Australian Champion rower and International Professional cyclist, with a career as a teacher in between, followed by roles as Director of Coach Education at Cycling Australia, a pioneering Wellbeing Coach at Melbourne Girls Grammar School, and now Teacher and Wellbeing Educator at Braemar College. As a foundational member of the world-first Wellbeing Coaching program at Melbourne Girls Grammar School, Emma and her colleagues were responsible for designing and implementing a model for individual wellbeing that focuses on identity, values, emotional agility and accountability. 


Emma has a thirst for knowledge and a natural energy that is devoted to the welfare of others, as evident in her extensive skill set as a teacher, mentor, coach and director.  She holds a Master of Education (Student Wellbeing), has a focus on
adolescent psychology and her work focuses on her core value of understanding human behaviour in the broad context of the person, the situation and the culture. The Wellbeing Coaching model that Emma co-created posits that wellbeing and learning are synonymous, individually determined and require flexible and nuanced approach for future success. Emma firmly believes that truly knowing a person and understanding the relationship between this and their behaviour is critical in maximising the learning that is so essential for growth as the ‘whole person’. 



Wellbeing is Learning: the case for the adolescent brain, and the need

for individualised wellbeing.

Wellbeing in Education is not a new concept, however there is a gap in cohesive, consistent ideas around its value and how it looks. As a result, wellbeing is often considered an adjunct to academics, and is mostly a top-down process.

The adolescent brain is both a learning organ and an emotional centre, and in order to function well, it requires understanding, balance, challenge and rest.  The educational imperative is to pay equal mind to students’ social and emotional learning, their cognitive function and their sense of belonging and purpose, if we want them to reach their academic potential. 

A growing body of evidence stresses that we, as educators, compliment the focus on academics with the development of the social and emotional skills and competencies that are equally essential for students to thrive in school, career and life. We know that during adolescence, young people search for a sense of self and personal identity, through an intense exploration of personal values, beliefs, and goals.

Now in its 3rd year, The Melbourne Girls Grammar School Wellbeing Coaching Model recognises that each student requires her own, personalised wellbeing approach. Predicated on the evidence base for the requirements of the adolescent brain, coaches and students co-construct a wellbeing partnership that supports their senior years journey.