Developing whole-school mental health and wellbeing intervention through pragmatic formative process evaluation: A case-study of innovative local practice within the School Health Research Network
Gobat N., Littlecott H., Williams A., McEwan K., Stanton H., Robling M., Rollnick S., Murphy S., Evans R.
Abstract Background: The evidence-base for whole school approaches aimed at improving student mental health and wellbeing remains limited. This may be due to a focus on developing and evaluating de-novo, research led interventions, while neglecting the potential of local, contextually-relevant innovation that has demonstrated acceptability and feasibility. This study reports a novel approach to modelling and refining the theory of a whole-school restorative approach, alongside plans to scale up through a national educational infrastructure in order to support robust scientific evaluation. Methods: We conducted a pragmatic formative process evaluation of a routinized whole-school restorative approach aimed at improving student mental health and wellbeing in Wales. Results: The study reports seven phases of the pragmatic formative process evaluation that researchers, policy-makers and practitioners may undertake in the development and evaluation of interventions already in routine practice: 1) identification of innovative local practice; 2) scoping review to identify intervention theory of change; antecedent and emergent contextual characteristics; implementation and outcomes; 3) establishment of a Transdisciplinary Action Research (TDAR) group; 4) co-production of intervention logic model with stakeholders; 5) confirmation of logic model with stakeholders; 6) planning for intervention refinement; and 7) planning for feasibility and outcome evaluation. The phases of this model are seen as being iterative. Conclusions: Formative, pragmatic process evaluations support researchers, policy-makers and practitioners in developing a robust scientific evidence-base for acceptable and feasible local innovation that does not have a clear evidence base. The case of a whole-school restorative approach provides an exemplar of how such an evaluation may be undertaken.