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Improving students' wellbeing in the teaching and learning environment

Background

As reported in several national studies (‘Student mental wellbeing in higher education. Good practice guide, Universities UK, MWBHE, 2015’; ‘Poppy Brown, The invisible problem? Improving students’ mental health, HEPI Report 88, 2016’; ‘10 steps to address the student mental health crisis’, Sir A. Seldon, Times Higher Education, 2015, etc.), we are observing a crisis, which is growing each year, in student mental health and wellbeing in UK universities, including the University of Warwick.

In order to understand and improve students’ wellbeing in the teaching and learning environment at Warwick University, Dr Elena Riva and Victoria Jelicic (both IATL), together with Sarah Ashworth (Head of Mental Health & Wellbeing Support Services), have received Warwick Innovation Fund support for a project which seeks to identify and promote pedagogic practices that can be embedded in the teaching and learning environment that promote students’ wellbeing and mental health awareness.

Study Aim

This research will explore two main avenues for reaching project targets and generating valuable impact:

1) Our first aim is to study and understand Warwick students’ and staff members' perceptions and experiences of wellbeing in the teaching and learning environment through a number of diverse focus groups with undergraduates, postgraduates, and staff that will reflect and work on the matter. The results of these focus groups will guide our subsequent 'ad-hoc' scholarly research that will give us the opportunity to explore and identify possible pedagogic practices able to respond to these issues and to constitute possible solutions.

The identified practices will be subsequently embedded for the 2018/2019 academic year in two existing IATL modules, ‘Genetics: Science and Society’ (UG) and ‘Thinking Water’ (PG), and in the new IATL UG module ‘Understanding Wellbeing’ (see below), that will constitute a benchmark for practically evaluating the effectiveness of our pedagogical proposals.

Our intention is then to extend these practices to all the IATL modules (ca 25 modules that enrol around 500 cross-faculty students) and to evaluate and disseminate the further findings to the wider Warwick teaching community through e-material, seminars, events (i.e. participation in existing Warwick events such as the Teaching and Learning Showcase, Teaching Fellow Forums, Window on Teaching at Warwick, etc.) and publications (i.e. publication in peer-reviewed journals). We aim to have a profound impact on the Warwick teaching and learning community.

2) As a second avenue, we will create the IATL undergraduate module ‘Understanding Wellbeing’, which will be open to all students cross-faculty and will run from the academic year 2018/2019 (to be approved by the IATL module committee in January 2018). The module will be led by Sarah with the contributions of Elena and other Warwick disciplinary experts. The module will analyse the concept of wellbeing from the perspective of several disciplines (psychology, medical disciplines, sociology, business, and humanities) and will help students to understand the complexity of this crucial topic and the relevance of a holistic approach in order to solve the issues related to it. The module will embed the pedagogic practices previously identified and will constitute a further platform for working with students on wellbeing-related problems and possible solutions.

Elena has also received WIHEA funding to organise a Masterclass looking at mental wellbeing in higher education and the challenges for academic staff.

''The promotion of student and staff wellbeing is a key current issue across the higher education sector. Work is needed to understand how we can better integrate wellbeing into the fabric of universities – not only in terms of the provision of support services but also more centrally in thinking about how we embed wellbeing strategies into our ethos and everyday practices as well as the curriculum. I am very supportive of this particular study which is seeking to understand how we can integrate wellbeing considerations into both the content and the methods we use to teach our students.''
- Prof. Louise Gracia, Dean of Students, in support of the Warwick Innovation Fund proposal

Genetics module lab session

Sunlight shining through clouds

How to get involved

Our project relies on valuable input from members of Warwick's community. We are currently organising a number of focus groups with academic and administrative staff as well as undergraduate and postgraduate (taught and research) students. Students will receive a £5 for Eating at Warwick voucher for their participation.

We also welcome your ideas and possible contribution to the project on a more extended level - please get in touch if you are interested.

We have had an overwhelming response - thank you to all who have registered for the focus groups, registration is now closed. We will confirm your place and provide more information via email.

The focus groups will run for approximately 1-1.5 hours on the following dates, at various times in The Humanities Studio (H076, Humanities Building):

February 21st 2018: 13:30-17:30

March 7th 2018: 13:30-17:30

March 21st 2018: 10:30-15:00

 

Contact Information

For further information or staff enquiries, please contact:
Elena Riva
(E dot Riva at warwick dot ac dot uk).

For student enquiries, please contact:
Victoria Jelicic
(Victoria dot Jelicic at warwick dot ac dot uk).