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: A pragmatic formative process evaluation was conducted 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 may be undertaken in the development and evaluation of interventions already in routine practice: 1) identification of innovative local practice; 2) scoping review of evidence-base to identify existing intervention programme theory; outcomes; and contextual characteristics that influence programme theory and implementation; 3) establishment of a Transdisciplinary Action Research (TDAR) group; 4) co-production of an initial 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 may be iterative and not necessarily sequential. 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 a case example of how such an evaluation may be undertaken.