This one-day event hosted by Loughborough University in February considered the importance of wellbeing on students’ learning and engagement. There were active discussions between delegates throughout the day as people engaged with the presentations and workshops.
Karisa Krcmar and Tina Horsman (both from Loughborough University) presented issues on the microscale of support. Tina Horsman facilitated an activity-based workshop on changing students’ mindsets. The activity promoted great discussion between delegates as they explored ways to recognise different mindsets and discussion/activities with students to help them develop appropriate mindsets for appropriate occasions. As part of her presentation, Karisa suggested an activity which can be usefully used in a 1:1 with a student who appears particularly anxious (SALEE):
STOP whatever it is you are doing
ASK if your student wants to talk about what is making them anxious
ENCOURAGE your student to seek professional help when appropriate
EXPLORE how their anxiety is affecting their learning
She also talked about the Mental Health 1st Aid available.
Mark Evans told the delegates about a joint initiative at De Montfort University where coaching is offered to all pharmacy students. The programme is included as a natural and integrated part of the curriculum along with online tools and resources and teaches students self-coaching skills. Its benefits have included increased facilitation of wellbeing conversations between students and personal tutors as well as, importantly, having a positive impact on the personal, professional and academic development of students. It helps prevent a difficulty becoming a crisis and thus decreases the call on resources on a 1:1 level within mental health support teams. I could see how this model could be developed to be included within workshops offered by careers and I am initiating talks within my own institution!
Loughborough University is known for its sports science and sporting prowess. Competitive sport may not be something of interest or even a possibility, for a student with mental health concerns; but a new approach called the Loughborough Sport and Physical Activity Offer was outlined by Anna Taylor, the newly appointed Recreational Sport & Physical Activity Coordinator, as a fun way to help students feel included rather than excluded without the pressure of competition. Anna showed the many ways students engage with physical activity, other students and with their own resilience and wellbeing. Delegates discussed finding out what their own institutions may have to offer students and how to signpost them in the right direction.
The importance of being able to give a named contact to students was highlighted in both this and the coaching programmes.
The day was brought to a close with a macro view of mental wellbeing present by Dan Doran. Dan set mental health and wellbeing into the higher education context as he talked about service and whole-institution approaches. He introduced important resources available from AMOSSHE to aid student resilience and talked about his involvement with Universities UK Stepchange. This is a framework to encourage university leaders to adopt a whole-institution approach to improving mental health. It is currently in a pilot stage across three institutions and is in the process of developing a suite of tools to be disseminated across the sector.
Further help can be found in Mindfulness for Study: from procrastination to action. A hands-on book incorporating mindfulness techniques with study skills aimed both for students and staff working with students: www.inspiredbylearning.eu/books
Brene Brown on empathy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EVwgu369Jw
Jessica Hartley: Rupturing the Cycles of Shame in Education. A TED talk at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fmOpm9vYTI
Brock, A. & Hundley, H., 2016. The Growth Mindset Coach. Berkeley: Ulysses Press.
Burwell, B. & Szumko, J., 2015. Re-framing Feedback. Journal of Neurodiversity in Higher Education, June, Volume 1, pp. 25-46.
Dweck, C., 2012. Mindset: How you Can Fulfil Your Potential. London: Robinson.
Krcmar, K. & Horsman, T., 2017. Mindfulness for Study: from procrastination to action. Inspired by Learning. www.inspiredbylearning.eu/books