Wellness 501:

Transform Culture: Create Leaders, Champions, and Advocates for Wellness

How Does this Program Work?

Create Leaders, Champions, and Advocates for Wellness


Language of Caring, Science of Change: Wellness Initiative to Boost Well-being and Transform School Climate offers activities for three groups:

1. Peer coaches: Student leaders train to become certified peer wellness coaches, leading wellness classes for other students and using evidence-based strategies to promote positive, lasting change.

2. Wellness class participants: Students become wellness advocates by taking wellness classes led by peer coaches and using interactive journaling as a primary learning tool.

3. Teacher and staff wellness champions: Teachers and staff model well-being themselves, and employ conversational and behavioral strategies in interactions with others to help establish new cultural norms.

Phase I

  • Peer wellness coaches train through an online course and live or asynchronous instructional support
  • Teachers and staff train through PD, and take the online wellness coaching course option
  • Competency assessment and course evaluation are conducted for the coach training

Phase II

  • Peer wellness coaches lead wellness class using interactive journals
  • Teachers/ and staff continue with PD sessions, support and supervision, and the (optional) online wellness coaching course
  • Real-time outcomes to assess interpersonal, intrapersonal, social, and overall wellness is monitored on a frequent basis among all wellness class participants. Outcomes assessment also include fidelity measurement

Phase III

  • Broad dissemination within the school community through continued practice, application, and sharing
  • Dissemination beyond the school community as program participants model and share



IWE’s instructional methods build practical skills. IWE‘s courses focus on helping students develop the mindset and practical skills that enable them to thrive. Our methods include direct instruction, video demonstrations, case-based assignments, deliberate practice, collaborative learning, real-time formative coaching and feedback, and frequent summative evaluation. These methods fulfill five key tasks for effect skill-building:

  1. Discussing the importance of the skill, its relevance, and relationship to other learned skills
  2. Presenting steps for developing the skill
  3. Modeling the skill
  4. Practicing and rehearsing the skill using real–life scenarios
  5. Providing feedback and reinforcement

Training Materials

IWE provides the training and PD through interactive online learning activities, live and recorded video- and audio-conferencing, printed, hard-copy workbooks, consultation, and onsite training. Student peer-coaches then lead wellness classes that feature interactive journaling using printed, hard-copy workbooks.

How Is Student Achievement Recognized?

Recognition and celebration are key features of the program. Students earn certificates of completion and digital badges for their participation in either the coach training or the wellness course. Peer coaches become certified as wellness coaches through IWE, and may earn up to three units of college credit.

Why Peer Coaches?

Peer coaches make supportive connections happen! Peer coaches are accessible and available in and out of school, every day of the week. They cost little to train and they serve for free.

Study data suggest that adolescent peers can be as effective, or even more effective than adults in shaping peers’ thinking and behavior about issues related to health and wellness. Three key factors help explain why peer education and coaching works to influence adolescents.

1. Adolescents are capable of positively influencing peer’s behavior through formal interventions.

A metaanalysis of studies comparing peer-led to adult-led interventions to reduce risky or unhealthy behavior provide evidence that adolescents participating in peer-led interventions engaged in fewer risky behaviors than interventions led by adults. 

2. Peer-led interventions can help youth improve social competencies. 

Peer-led educational interventions can boost adolescents’ social and cognitive skills, problem-solving, decision-making, coping, and increase their self-control and self-esteem. Adolescents in peer-led groups report that they feel greater satisfaction and enjoyment, and perceive greater practical value in the programs due to social influences.

3. Adolescents may be more receptive to non-cognitive learning when that learning is directed by peers. 

Adolescents may discount adult-led programs on health and wellness as lectures because they perceive the programming as just more adults lecturing and telling them what to do. In studies that taught adolescents to manage chronic diseases, peer leaders were perceived as more accepting, credible, and warm. Participants considered peer-led interventions as more fun and engaging.


Peer-led interventions:

↓ Reduced adolescent use of tobacco, alcohol and cannabis. 1

↑ May be more effective and result in greater positive changes in health behavior than adult-led interventions, particularly when the intervention addresses social factors. 2

↑ Provide greater satisfaction, enjoyment, and perception that the program is useful than adult-led programs. 3

↑ Yield reciprocal benefits because both students and peer coaches report a benefit from participating in coaching activities. 4

  1. Addiction. 2016;111(3):391-407.   2. Health Educ Res. 2000 Oct;15(5):533-45.  3. Respiratory care. 2012;57(12):2082-2089.  4. IWE, unpublished data. 2017.