The Wellbeing Enhances Learning (WEL) Model

What is the WEL Model?

The Wellbeing Enhances Learning (WEL) Model theorizes that student wellbeing improves engagement and learning. It identifies key goals toward enhancing student wellbeing across the six dimensions of the Bakken Center's Wellbeing Model (health, relationships, security, purpose, community, and environment) and supplies a descriptive list of practices that contribute to each goal, along with supporting research and resources.

Each practice also comes with three suggested strategies and examples that you can adapt for your courses. You can browse the Model for new practices, use it as a reflective tool, or follow the five steps that we suggest in the WEL Model toolkit.

Wellbeing enhances learning model overview

History of the Model

The WEL Model has been used by Bakken Center instructors and faculty since 2013 and was initially called the CSH Unifying Framework. It was created after the Bakken Center’s leadership gathered focus groups of instructors to identify key teaching practices that they used in their courses to support student wellbeing. These practices were then examined and supported with existing research and in relation to principles of transformative learning, contemplative pedagogy, social/emotional learning, and collaborative learning.

In 2020, the Bakken Center’s Learning Resources Group reviewed the model in response to the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism and incorporated additional practices that draw from Universal Design guidelines and anti-racist teaching practices. Based on feedback and presentations to University partners, the Learning Resources Group conducted another round of revisions, including surveys with instructors, two new focus groups, and a literature review in order to identify gaps in the model, update general practices, and add more actionable strategies. 

Research on Wellbeing and Learning

Research on the workplace indicates that wellbeing can enhance engagement as well as productivity and less turnover (Gallup). Although the workplace is a different environment with different goals than an educational setting, the analog begs a valid question: how does wellbeing relate to student engagement, performance, learning, and retention?

Research is beginning to seek answers to this question in areas such as mindfulness-based interventions and positive education. The body of literature about the positive relationship between student wellbeing and academic performance is growing. One study identifies a reciprocal relationship between student wellbeing (i.e., a student’s health awareness and health behavior) and a student’s academic performance (El Ansari, Stock 2010), and a review on positive psychology interventions in higher ed highlights promising results, not only in terms of student wellbeing but also in terms of academic outcomes and teacher wellbeing (Shankland, Rosset 2017)). There is also a substantial body of literature on specific teaching practices’ contribution to wellbeing. For more information, see the resources section of the WEL Model toolkit.