Day 1: Student Wellbeing

Written by Alexandra Culloden

Wellbeing Project Coordinator, Access, Inclusion and Wellbeing, ANU

Welcome to the first ANU Online Course for 2018! In this three day Espresso Course-Fostering student wellbeing in your teaching practice- we will explore your role as academic staff in supporting student wellbeing. We will examine some of the factors that can support or undermine student wellbeing in diverse learning environments. As part of the three days you will have an opportunity to reflect on your teaching approach and identify opportunities to develop curricula and learning environments which can enhance student wellbeing. On day three, we will be live streaming on Periscope (via Twitter @anuonline , @alexculloden and #anucoffeecourses) at 10am to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about student wellbeing! This will be followed by coffee (on us, of course!) at Coffee Lab in the ANU pop-up village – RSVP Janene.Harman@anu.edu.au if you would like to join us!

This course has been developed using the Enhancing Student Wellbeing suite of resources. The content and videos throughout the modules is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The focus of this course is promoting and identifying opportunities within learning environments to support student wellbeing however topics such as mental health and mental illness can impact on people at different times and different reasons. If you have any concerns or need additional support please contact:


ANU Staff

 External Participants

 For 24/7 Support

  • Your local Employee Assistance Program provider or Human Resources Department
  • Your General Practitioner or health professional
Lifeline 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467


beyondblue: 1300 22 4636


Please note the course will include opportunities to discuss teaching practices and may involve reflecting on previous experiences relating to student wellbeing. As part of ensuring safety and confidentiality all comments will be moderated and any information which may identify individual students or services will be removed.

Mental health in higher education

Educator and psychiatrist Dr Lee Allen discusses what is meant by ‘mental health’ and how it affects student learning.

Why do some students experience higher levels of psychological distress?

There is growing research in to the increased risk of high levels of depressive, anxiety and stress symptoms for young people attending university compared to other young people in the community (Casey & Liang, 2014).

Last year Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, published ‘Under the radar: The mental health of Australian university students’ examined some of the risk factors which may increase the risk of psychological distress amongst students (Orygen, 2017).

These included:

Transition stress (relocation, change from school to university environment)

  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor diet
  • Drug and alcohol misuse
  • Financial stress
  • Pressure to perform/succeed

Many of these factors sit outside the role of academic staff to address or eliminate, however student wellbeing can be supported by settings and practices in the teaching and learning environment.

How can universities and academic staff support student wellbeing?

Research consistently identifies five factors that are essential for wellbeing, or positive mental health and growth:

1.       Autonomous Motivation

2.       A sense of Belonging

3.       Positive Relationships

4.       Experiences of Autonomy

5.       Feelings of Competence.

The acronym M-BRAC is used in this course to refer to these five essential elements of mental wellbeing.

What is M-BRAC?

Follow this link to watch a short video on M-BRAC and wellbeing essentials.

The activities across the next three days aim to offer strategies and examples to support staff to design teaching and learning environments that better support student mental wellbeing, thereby assisting all students to achieve their academic potential.


Learning Activity 1: What does student wellbeing mean to you?

Before we start looking at teaching practices and curriculum design over the next two days you are invited to take some time to reflect on your views on student wellbeing. Head to the bottom of the page to introduce yourself and include your thoughts as part of the comments (reminder-do not identify students or other staff if you are including an example of previous events!).

Here are some questions to get you started?

  • Do you see student wellbeing as the role of academic staff? Why/why not?
  • What made you enroll in this course?
  • Had you previously heard of M-BRAC?


Links to further information:

Mental Health Essentials – MBRAC 

Motivation and fundamental psychological needs in Self-Determination Theory


92 thoughts on “Day 1: Student Wellbeing

  1. Hi everyone. I’m Ang, a DECRA Postdoc in Ecology and Evolution (Research School of Biology).
    I definitely see student well-being as something academic staff should be thinking about when it comes to teaching. In teaching (not to mention in life in general), you never really know what other people might be going through, and you only ever really see through a small window in your interactions with others. It’s hard to remember that all the time, but, as the first video showed, there are so many elements to mental health that can be challenged in a university setting! Times and expectations are constantly changing and there are stresses now that didn’t exist when I was in undergrad (e.g., cyber-bullying). Surely, the more we can have empathy for our students’ situations, the better we can manage our expectations of them, and the better job we can do in our teaching…
    I enrolled in this course because I think the way I just outlined in the previous paragraph! I genuinely don’t believe that we think enough about these things, and it’s good to be exposed to the topic – especially as I am about to begin designing lectures for a Masters course I’ll be teaching into this year.
    I hadn’t heard of M-BRAC. I think that ‘experiences of Competence’ are particularly important in fostering confidence and feeding into the other factors.

    1. I agree with Ang above. There is so much more to students than their appearance in the classroom, and sometimes it is too easy to forget that everyone has things we cannot see, many of which will be struggles which few students will admit to their teacher/tutor. I feel also teachers/tutors often forget the small stresses involved with studying, which can often derive from issues outside of the classroom. Although there are limits to what we can do, as long as we remember the varying needs of people and how our interactions affect their wellbeing, there is always the opportunity to ensure students are as comfortable as we can make them by ensuring a welcoming and non-judgemental class environment. I’m looking forward to seeing what we learn over the next few days!

      1. Hi Chelsea,

        Thanks for your comments! You are very right in regards to the power of a welcoming and non-judgemental class environment can have on student wellbeing, this is something we will be looking at over the next few days so really keen to hear more of your thoughts.

        All the best,

    2. Hi Ang,

      Thanks so much for your comments and being the first one to jump on the discussion! Great to have you here.

      You hit the nail on the head in regards to times and expectations constantly changing for students but also staff. Curriculum design and teaching practices are changing significantly particularly in relation to technology and how students engage with material and how this aligns with the M-BRAC framework. We will be exploring this more over the next few days so looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts!

      All the best,

  2. Hi. I’m a learning designer at ANU and a fan of the Coffee Course team.
    Well-being is a _concern_ of academics, because it enables students to understand and engage. We also have a degree of responsibility for predictable impact of teaching and assessment choices. For example, given that a fraction of our students are survivors of childhood trauma or are members of stigmatised minorities, we use role-plays with care and consideration.
    M-BRAC is a new term for me. The focus seems compatible with Self-Determination Theory, which has proven to be useful in adult learning / higher education.

    1. Hi Russell,

      The Coffee Course team are great! I have felt very lucky to get to work with them to put together this course.

      We will be looking at the impact of teaching and assessment courses in more detail tomorrow and again on the last day with some case examples so looking forward to discussing this further with you.

      All the best,

  3. Hi, my name is Jonathon and I’m a PhD candidate in the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics, where I have contributed to the teaching of various undergraduate courses for the past 5 years. I’m also a casual Learning Adviser at the ANU Academic Skills and Learning Centre.

    I think academics definitely have a role to play in student wellbeing, especially when I get the impression that the numbers of students registering with Access and Inclusion is gradually increasing each year (source: personal experience). In particular, I was struck by how many “new” registrations I received just before the exam period last semester. From talking to some of these students themselves, I realised, as this module has already pointed out, that there were diverse factors outside of my control which contributed to my students’ ability to perform: competing work commitments, exam-related anxieties, and international students, in particular, who faced intense pressure to do well. Obviously, there is not much I can personally do for the students in these situations, but yet, I know I play a central role in creating a learning environment where they feel like they belong and feel a sense of accomplishment. Making myself available to students (e.g. holding longer office hours at different times) and just getting to know them (e.g. learning their names) were small things I could do help establish a safer space for them early in the semester.

    I have not heard of M-BRAC before, so I’m interested to learn about this in more detail over the coming days. I am also looking forward to reading about other peoples’ experiences and strategies for managing student wellbeing.

    1. Hi Jonathon,

      You will certainly bring some unique insights to the next few days with your combined roles!

      I think your point about what staff can do personally for students is incredibly important. Often when we talk about student wellbeing we think about the roles of individuals and there can be concerns about being qualified to support students however the role of academic staff in these situations really is to know where to direct students to seek additional help and to also reflect on how the structure of curricula and teaching practices can support students to be well.

      We will be looking at this more over the next few days so looking forward to discussing further with you.

      All the best,

  4. Hi everyone, my name is Jade and I work in Student Experience and Career Development in DSL, coordinating programs that support student orientation and transition.
    I studied Psychology in my undergraduate degree, but what I learnt in that context is interestingly very different to how we talk about embedding support for student well-being in University teaching and student services. A lot mainstream psychology focuses on one-to-one interventions, but the resources above have more of a focus on community support, relationships and belonging.
    I agree with this approach in an institutional setting, and believe that student well-being is the responsibility of all staff at the ANU – in order for support to be effective, it has to be in place across every level. Students are more likely to interact with academic staff than professional staff, so while professional staff may be able to deliver more specialised support, academic staff are more likely to identify a student needs that support and refer them on to an appropriate service.

    1. Hi Jade,

      Fellow psychology graduate here (welcome!)

      You are correct in acknowledging the difference between tradition responses to student wellbeing and more universal or organisational based approaches. I think this is an area where public health can have an important influence on how we look at these issues. There needs to be a balance between empowering individuals to take charge of their own wellbeing and organisations identifying how structural elements and processes and policies can impact on the broader community and individuals. As you mention many students interact with academic staff much more frequently than professional staff so there are many opportunities to support student wellbeing in this space.

      Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts over the next few days!

      All the best,

  5. Hi all. I’m Jamie and I teach the first year first semester course for the Fenner School of Environment & Society.
    • Do I see student wellbeing as the role of academic staff? Absolutely. Around 5-7% of students have great difficulties each semester, usually with mental health issues, and end up with Education Access Plans. Some of their personal situations are very difficult. I found that by actively identifying and engaging these students early around half can complete the course successfully. It has been very rewarding seeing students who were having difficulties thrive in later years.
    • What made you enroll in this course? I want to see if there are additional ways of assisting my students to do well at ANU.
    • Had you previously heard of M-BRAC? Never! Looking forward to learning more.
    Jamie Pittock

    1. Hi Jamie,

      Thanks for getting involved in the discussion. Great to hear you have found actively identifying students who may be struggling or at risk of difficulties (either in an academic or mental health sense) and actively engaging with these students to be a useful and successful approach. Over the next two days we will be looking at how you engage with students in a variety of context so it will be good to hear how this has compared with your experience.

      All the best,

  6. Hi there, I’m a Ph.D. student and casual tutor.
    I think that mental wellbeing is something that everyone has to be aware of, including academic staff. There is still not enough information available for everyone to recognise what is happening, how it might affect people, and how they can help. As a student myself, I understand how the many pressures can easily create mental health issues. As a teacher, I have dealt with plenty of students suffering and not known what the best thing to do to help them is. I don’t feel that recommending that a student goes to counselling is enough, even if they do, it is not a problem that is solved in a 30-minute meeting with a counsellor. Teachers need to be able to manage and anticipate the ongoing effects. Personally, I enrolled in this course to learn more about how I can incorporate wellbeing into my classroom practice. I have heard of M-BRAC before as a concept, but I have not heard much about using it in practice.

    1. Hi Lauren,

      Welcome to the course and thank you for sharing your thoughts!

      I am a big advocate of health promotion and prevention approaches in regards to supporting student wellbeing. We are very fortunate to be able to refer students to the support services on campus (and external) however I also live by the idea of ‘let’s not wait till the wheels fall off’. To me this is where the role of academic staff has enormous potential and opportunity and it will be good to explore what this looks like with you over the next few days.

      All the best,

  7. Hi All and Happy New Year! I enrolled in this course as over the last couple of years of teaching I’ve realised just how prelevant a range of mental health issues are in our student cohorts and how certain types of assessment, teaching and support can be seen to help or hinder certain students. With my teaching I often seek to challenge students to work and think outside of their comfort zones, and seek to provide as much support as I can to help them do this with confidence. However, how much comfort and support is required for a student to really thrive and not exacerbate any mental health issues is something that I feel I need to learn more about so that I can consciously tailor my activities (including group work and getting students to design and facilitate classes for others) to best help the students navigate both my courses and their associated lives.

    1. Hi Katherine,

      Fantastic to hear you have already been looking at your assessment design and teaching practice in relation to supporting student wellbeing. It is a difficult balance to challenge students to think outside of their comfort zones but also try to minimise any unnecessary exacerbation of mental health issues. We will be looking at some practical examples of this over the next few days as well as getting you to think about what this might look like for the courses/students you teach so looking forward to chatting more with you about this.

      All the best,

  8. Hi, I’m Tory. I’m a post-doc in Plant Science in the Research School of Biology. I think academic staff have an important role to play in supporting student wellbeing. As the main point of contact with students, we’re in the position to not only identify students who may be struggling, but also to help direct them toward resources that could help them. This is important because we all want our students to have the best opportunity for learning that they can at University.
    I enrolled in this course as I am interested to learn more about how I can support students that I am teaching, to help them learn and grow and be successful.
    I haven’t previously heard of M-BRAC, though I am interested especially in how we are motivated (intrinsic vs extrinsic). I’m looking forward to learning more!

    1. Hi Tory,

      Welcome to the course and great to hear you are keen to learn more about supporting the students you teach. I think you make such an excellent point that supporting wellbeing is not just about identifying students who may be struggling but also to support all students to learn, grow and be successful!

      Looking forward to hearing more from you over the next few days.

      All the best,

  9. I am both a postgraduate student and a staff member so I’m interested in student wellbeing from both perspectives. I think academics should play facilitator role with student wellbeing, ensuring students know where they can go for counselling on and off campus and introducing them to resources that can help them. Academics can also nurture a sense of belonging in their classrooms and build positive relationships through inclusion, empathy, and positivity. I haven’t previously heard of M-BRAC, but I’m interested in learning more.

    1. Hi Pamela,

      Great to have you involved in the course and really excited to have your perspective as both a staff member and a postgraduate student.

      The role of academics as facilitators is an excellent point. Knowing where to refer students to (in regards to on campus supports and online resources) and how teaching practices can build positive relationships and supportive environments is key to the activities throughout the next few days.

      Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts.

      All the best,

  10. Hi all, I’m a professor in the ANU College of Law and teach later year law students. I want to enhance and protect my students’ mental wellbeing for two reasons. First, I know from the research and my personal experience that many law students are vulnerable to poor mental health: good teaching can make a positive and lasting difference to people’s lives. Secondly, students with good mental health are good learners: the teaching and learning experience is much more enjoyable and satisfying for everyone. I hadn’t heard of M-Brac before, but it makes absolute sense. I suspect a side-benefit of this course will be the insights it gives into my own mental wellbeing and that of my colleagues…

    1. Hi Pauline,

      Welcome to the course, you have worked out the secret underlying message-this course does also give you the chance to think about your own wellbeing!

      ANU Law have done some really interesting work in this space so am looking forward to hearing more of your experiences.

      All the best,

  11. Hi! I am Anne, a group leader in CHM and I can only agree, student wellbeing is an important part of our role as academics (Not only student wellbeing thou, I think it applies to everybody, our students, staff and colleges and in particular to the once dependent to us).
    I enrolled because mental wellbeing for me was always kind of a common-sense thing and I thought myself as quite emphatic in this regard – until I got proven otherwise. So, I believe we have to actively think about these things to help us not make any false assumptions based on your own experiences, culture or attitude.

    1. Hi Anne,

      Thanks for getting involved and sharing your thoughts. Wellbeing does apply to all of us, when I first came across the M-BRAC framework I was able to reflect on how these elements have influenced my own learning and wellbeing.

      Actively thinking about student wellbeing is essential and hopefully the activities over the next few days will provide opportunities to do this. Looking forward to hearing more from you.

      All the best,

  12. Dear all,

    Thank you for the post. The M-BRAC video was a nice one to watch. I wonder if it falls into that trap of presuming that group psychology is an abstraction of relationships with individuals. This is some nice work (partly coming out the the ANU) which argues for the importance of the opposite pathway: interpersonal relations as a function of group psychology. But yes, some nice messages there.


    1. Hey Andrew,

      You are right we are very fortunate to have some excellent researchers and clinicians based here at ANU looking at the student wellbeing space.

      As you mention it is important to not lose sight of individuals when looking at group concepts such as M-BRAC. It is a challenging balance but hopefully the activities over the next few days will provide opportunities to explore this further.

      Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts.

      All the best,

      1. Hi Alex,
        Actually, my general impression of the field of workplace mental health is that managers and practitioners lose sight of the group. Thank you for the reply though, and I’d best start reading the next post.
        In case anyone is particularly interested, I would recommend the book ‘the social cure’ for a somewhat recent introduction to the research in this space.

  13. Hello, I am Tom Worthington, an Honorary Lecturer in Computer Science at the Australian National University in Canberra. I teach professional ethics and project management to students face-to-face and ICT sustainability on-line.

    I see student wellbeing as part of the obligations of any teacher (including university academic staff). Teachers need to avoid putting students in danger unnecessarily, looking for difficulties groups and individuals are having. However, teachers are not (generally) trained health professionals and so they should refer students at risk to specialists.

    There are some things teachers can do with good course design and delivery, such as budgeting student workload, scheduling assessment progressively and reminding students what they need to do when. Teachers can also use progressive assessment to help check how each student is going and identify those in need of help. I check the progress of my ICT Sustainability students every week, for 12 weeks.

    I enrolled in this course as part of my ongoing professional development as a teacher.

    I have not previously heard of “M-BRAC”: how do you pronounce it?

    1. Hi Tom,

      Welcome to the course, it sounds like you are already doing some great work in this space particularly in regards to utilising progressive assessment. We will be exploring how assessment design can support student wellbeing tomorrow and Wednesday so will be great to chat with you further about this.

      I think there are a few different ways of pronouncing M-BRAC, I probably show my Novocastrian heritage by pronouncing it with harsh vowels so ’em-brack’

      All the best,

  14. Charles Gretton, TechLauncher convener at the Research School of Computer Science.

    – Do you see student wellbeing as the role of academic staff?

    To a limited degree, to differing degrees based on our relationship with the student (individual project supervisor v.s. class member), and to be balanced with all our many other duties and commitments.

    Designing student interactions to be M-BRACish, and reflecting on these items seems like a good idea. Making students aware of M-BRACishness would also be helpful I expect.

    – What made you enroll in this course?

    A light-weight opportunity to become familiar with a topic I know little about. Indeed, I am only vaguely aware of the programs that exist, on campus and otherwise, to address welfare. Perhaps my selfish motivations were partially guided by my belief in the material implication: Well Convener -> Well Students

    – Had you previously heard of M-BRAC?

    not that I recall.

    Superficially, and after a good 15 minutes of consideration, I note that these concepts fit nicely with our TechLauncher approach.

  15. Hi everyone, I’m Krisztina. I have been teaching for over 20 years in courses or sessions of different levels and ages (undergraduate, postgraduate, even school-aged children), as well as supervising and managing research students. I agree with all comments I’ve read so far, that mental health is a serious and ever growing issue among our students and colleagues (thanks Anne for mentioning those). The problem with mental health is that in some cases it is very hard to recognise, or to recognise its presence in time. In a larger cohort of students, with increasing outside pressures on academics, we rarely have the chance to observe problems while they are small, or more importantly, to chase after them. While I can and will do everything in my power to help those who reach out, I’m always worry about those that I miss. And given the nature of mental health issues, such as depression, the person suffering, often don’t come forward.

    I do try to design a stress-free and collegiate learning environment, where students should not feel threatened or ridiculed, but again, can I provide this to all, or will those who already are under a lot of pressure feel the freedom and belonging I try to achieve, or will be withdrawn and try to hide?
    I enroled in this course to learn more ways to support student well being. I haven’t heard about M-Brac before, but was watching the video and reading the post with great interest and looking forward to learn more.

    1. Hi Krisztina,

      Fantastic to have you and your significant experience on board. It is very natural and not uncommon to worry about students who may be missed or fall through the cracks. For me this is one of the reasons I feel so passionate about holistic approaches that aim to support the broad cohort of students whilst also recognising the resilience and skills of individuals. I read an interesting article recently which posed the question:

      “Given all students have mental health, how can universities support the mental health of all students?” Hopefully over the next few days we can explore this question further.

      We will also be looking about how student wellbeing works in a research supervisory context on Wednesday so very eager to hear your thoughts on this as well.

      All the best,

    2. Hi Charles,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it is important to recognise that academic staff already have a high work load and that supporting student wellbeing will look different depending on the interactions occurring (course convening vs research supervision as an example). Hopefully over the next few days you will have opportunity to learn more about the programs and services that exist. If you haven’t already registered you should definitely come along to the face to face component happening on Wednesday.

      Looking forward to hearing more from you.

      All the best,

  16. Academic staff definitely have a role to play in student wellbeing, although as Tom pointed out we need to remain conscious that we’re not mental health professionals, so when a student is experiencing significant distress we should aim to make them aware of e.g. available counselling options, rather than trying to help solve all their problems ourselves. I think our most important role is in structuring the learning experience to promote wellbeing in general, e.g. by providing clear and reasonable expectations at the start of semester, designing activities which develop intrinsic motivation rather than making everything about the final grade, encouraging healthy interaction between students etc.

    I’ve enrolled in this course because, as a convenor of a large, challenging first-year course, I know that my course can generate a lot of stress for some students, and I want to make it as painless as possible!

    I hadn’t previously heard of M-BRAC, but it seems like a helpful lens through which to view the student experience and evaluate how our activities contribute.

    1. Hi Josh,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! It is great to have several staff on here who teach first year courses, it is a challenging role but you really have the opportunity to start laying some of this groundwork in regards to the M-BRAC elements.

      We will be looking more at some of the ways curricula and teaching practice can be structured over the next few days so will be great to chat with you more about this.

      All the best,

  17. Hello All

    My name is Vivien Holmes and I’m an Associate Professor at ANU Law. I’ve worked with colleagues on issues around the mental health of law students and the legal profession. I’m familiar with Self Development Theory, but hadn’t heard of M’BRAC before – it sounds very similar, to SDT, but I particularly like the overall concept of Autonomous Motivation. I imagine that’s a key concept for designing curriculum to support wellbeing . A few colleagues and I are working on a tool that academics can use to ‘measure’ their courses against the things that might make for [what is in effect] autonomous motivation – so this course comes at a very good time for us!
    The autonomous motivation idea is particularly of interest, because quite a number of law students are doing law ‘because they got the marks’ or other similar reasons. So I”m really looking forward to learning more about good curriculum design. While of course students academic experience is but one part of their uni experience , which is itself only one part of their lives, I do think we academics should be aiming to have as positive an impact as possible in our area of influence.

    1. Hi Vivien,

      Great to have you hear and thank you for sharing your thoughts. There are a lot of similarities between SDT and M-BRAC and very interested to hear more about this tool. If you haven’t already registered make sure you sign up for the face to face session on Wednesday, would be great to chat with you further.

      All the best,

      1. Oh dear, think my caffeine levels must be low! That should of course be ‘great to have you here’!

  18. I have just joined the ANU College of Law staff, but have been a casual tutor in the College for many years. I think that while academic staff cannot take the place of mental health professionals, there is a very important role that academic staff can play in fostering student well-being, both in the way the educational experience is framed, and also in making their teaching practice inclusive. I also think when a person discloses mental health issues, it is important for the person hearing that disclosure to be able to respond skilfully, because their response can have a very deep impact – my view about my own teaching practice is that it is therefore incumbent on my to continually improve my own insight and capacity for skilled responses. It is to this end that I signed up for this course, especially as Law students and the legal profession have among the highest rates of mental illness.

    The term M-BRAC was new to me – notwithstanding my skepticism about acronyms, it definitely resonated and I am interested to find out more about it. I think that the university experience offers both challenges and opportunities in each of the M-BRAC subheadings, or perhaps both challenges and opportunities in the same instant, depending on how it is framed. For instance, the process of learning can be both daunting to one’s sense of competence and may involve some failure, but can also be exciting and give a student a sense of mastery. I feel there is some role that academic staff can play in framing the learning in a way that promotes well-being rather than undermining it.

    Thanks for the course.

    1. Hi Radhika,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You are correct in the distinction between role of mental health professionals compared to the role of academic staff particularly in terms of academic staff focus on fostering student wellbeing and creating inclusive and supportive environments. We will be exploring this more over the next few days and I look forward to chatting with you more about this.

      All the best,

  19. Hi everyone,
    I’m Rebekka, and I work as a course support officer within the educational development team at CoL.
    I believe that student wellbeing should fall under any teacher’s duty of care, including teaching staff in the tertiary sector. According to the Access & Inclusion presentation at the SAS Forum last year, there has been a massive increase in students applying for EAPs, and it would be fabulous to see a proactive response to this. As Tom has mentioned above, course design can play an important role, and making changes in regards to workload, assessment design, and accessibility has the potential to support students who might otherwise struggle.
    My job is to support convenors as they teach, and so it is important for me to have a broad knowledge of factors affecting both academic staff and students. Wellbeing is also a personal interest of mine, and I’m hoping that this course might give me some ideas to take back to our team at CoL.
    I hadn’t previously heard of M-BRAC, but it seems a useful framework. I’m looking forward to learning more about this over the next few days.

    1. Hi Rebekka,

      Good to hear you were able to get to the Access & Inclusion session at the SAS Forum last year, the A&I team have an important role on campus in supporting students who may be experiencing a range of health challenges including mental ill health.

      Your role is incredibly important in regards to being aware of the factors facing both students and academic staff so I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts over the next few days.

      All the best,

  20. Hi all,
    I work in teaching and learning at ANU, and I enrolled in this course to get more ideas on how to support student well being, inside and outside the classroom. This is a really important issue to me – although I don’t believe all instructors/teaching staff need to be prepared to counsel students directly, I do believe it is their job to create positive, empowering learning environments, and to be prepared to listen to students’ issues and direct them to the proper resources…and have compassion! Mental health seems to be a growing issue among undergrad and postgrad students, so I think it’s necessary for us to reevaluate the way we teach. I have not heard of M-BRAC before, but it certainly resonates with my belief that students should feel empowered by learning and achieve a sense of ownership over the skills gained in university.

    1. Hi Camile,

      You make an excellent point about supporting student wellbeing not meaning that staff should counsel students directly. A few people have touched on the role of academic staff in referring student on to existing supports which is great to see. The activities over the next few days will be looking at some practical considerations and case scenarios so will be great to get your thoughts on these.

      All the best,

  21. Hi all – I’ve been a lecturer at ANU for about ten years and have done a lot of undergraduate teaching. Over time I’ve noticed what seem to be increasing levels of stress and associated health problems among students. A lot more students who initially seem motivated and capable then seem to struggle to complete courses and I’d like to understand this better. I’m interested in finding out more about how I can adapt my teaching and assessment design to ensure that more students are able to progress with confidence and get more out of their learning.
    I hadn’t heard of M-BRAC and am looking orward to learning more over the next few days.

    1. Hi Russell,

      Great to have you here and thanks for sharing your thoughts. We will be looking at some practical activities over the next few days relating to teaching and assessment design so I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

      All the best,

  22. Hi, I’m Ed Russell, a lecturer in the Research School of Management. I’ve been teaching postgraduate and undergraduate students at ANU for twenty years and been a program convener for most of that time as well. I’ve interacted with many students over the years with poor wellbeing or mental health problems; unfortunately I often become aware of their difficulties later than would be ideal, for example when they’ve failed a course, or been pinged for plagiarism.

    I imagine most academic staff would not feel they have an official responsibility for student wellbeing, but some are well positioned to pick up early warning signs. I’m not sure that most know what to about it, however. Is the student who hands everything in late at risk, or just partying too hard? If you suspect mental illness, how do you proceed?

    What I can say is that I think all course conveners have a responsibility to, as far as possible, support the M-BRAC principles in their course design. Of course some, maybe most students will be taking your course because they have to, not as a manifestation of autonomous self-actualisation. However, you can do things to create a sense of Belonging, possibly provide experiences of Autonomy, and, especially, opportunities to experience feelings of Competence. Sometimes you might be able to help a bit with positive Relationships.

    An example of the latter: when I taught our first year undergraduate course, I systematically put students into groups for a class activity every week, in such a way that each student got to meet as many other students in the class as possible over the duration of the course. The students responded very positively to that, and I like to think it led to some social ties that might otherwise not have developed.

    I think building a bit of M-BRAC into a course is quite compatible with effective pedagogy.

    I enrolled in this course because want to understand the bigger picture – I tend to categorise issues as “mental health”, “culture shock”, “procrastination” and so on, but I suspect there’s a lot more to it and my mental models are inadequate.

    I hadn’t heard of M-BRAC before today.

    1. Hi Ed,

      Welcome to the course and thank you for joining the discussion. It is great to hear some examples of how you have structured courses and class activities to support student engagement and wellbeing. We will be exploring more practical examples over the next few days so I look forward to chatting with you about this more.

      All the best,

  23. Hi everyone. I’m Rachel, a visiting fellow in the Research School of Biology. I see student wellbeing as the role of academic staff, in the sense that academic staff have opportunities to create learning environments that align with the M-BRAC framework – through their interactions with students but also through curriculum design (e.g. by creating opportunities for autonomy). Alex highlighted changes in curriculum design and teaching practice as things that are changing rapidly. I wonder to what extent these changes influence how the M-BRAC framework can be applied. For example, with the change to more online course content we, as teachers, will need to think about different ways to foster a sense of belonging among students.
    I think that academic staff also have a very important role to play in shaping the broader university environment. I did my undergraduate at ANU, and felt a strong sense of belonging within the department where I spent most of my time, which was due to the academic staff and HDR students. I moved to a different university for my postgraduate studies and was shocked at the lack of community. I hadn’t heard of M-BRAC before today, and I enrolled in this course because in the past I’ve felt that I haven’t done enough to support student wellbeing and I’d like to learn more about tools and resources that I might be able to use to improve in this area in the future.

    1. Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your experiences both as an academic staff member and ANU student. You are very right in your comment regarding the changes to online course content and how this impacts on students sense of belonging.

      We will be looking at some practical examples over the next few days so looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts!

      All the best,

  24. Hi everyone,
    I have been lecturing in the School of Art full time for the past year. Prior to that I taught sessionally in most of the Art Schools in Melbourne. Over the past 15 or so years I have noticed increased attention to, and prevalence of mental health issues among art students. Obviously it is great that this issue is now more openly discussed, but I also wonder about the role that social media and constant connectivity plays.
    I was drawn to this course because I want to have a framework to reflect on this observation and on my own course delivery, and to get some strategies which I hope will help me create learning environments that work for all students.
    Student wellbeing is definitely part of our responsibility as academics, but I think we have to be careful to not find ourselves doing jobs we are not trained to do… eg counselling. I s’pose this is stating the obvious, but it can be quite a fine line in an art school setting where students are often creating work from subject matter prompted by personal experiences. (Part of our job/challenge is to expand their horizons and help them contextualise their interests within contemporary art practice and history.)
    I’d not heard of MBRAC before, although as a parent of teenagers a lot of the content of the vimeo video is similar to stuff they learn at high school, or that is brought to our attention as parents.
    A few weeks ago I read an excellent article about care and attention. The authors argued that care, as a mode of practice, is being lost in the flurry of contemporary university teaching. Reflection and contemplation through making etc. I am hoping to incorporate ideas from this in my teaching this year. A way of slowing down and making space in reduced face to face teaching time.
    I’m also in the final throes of my PhD. My experience has made me very aware of the ways in which students respond to different kinds of feedback. Reflecting on how I cope with robust feedback, and how much I need a glimmer of a compliment amongst the important critical discussions that take place between student and supervisors, has taught me a lot about the kind of teacher I am, and wish to become!

    1. Hi Rebecca,

      Welcome to the course and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      The point you make about being careful as academic staff not to tip in to the role of counsellor is incredibly important and something I hope we can expand on more over the next few days. If you haven’t registered to attend the face to face catch up on Wednesday please do, would be excellent to speak with you more about this.

      All the best,

  25. Hi Everyone! My name is Jules and I work in the Student Experience side of Student Experience and Career Development.
    I worked as a school teacher (mostly high school) for about 15 years before jumping ship and coming to work at ANU. I am passionate about creating a collegial community in which all students and staff feel they play an integral role.
    I have witnessed too many times where students have felt misunderstood, unsupported or ostracised and it has had terrible consequences on their health and well-being. I’m looking for solutions.
    I am vaguely familiar with M-BRAC and think it’s a great model, particularly when dealing with larger sized communities.
    I have joined this course because I hope to be able to get some ideas of other ways we can support students and create a strong sense of community and belonging without judgement. I hope to find people on here who feel passionately about student wellbeing and who may (or may not yet) have some ideas that we can work on collaboratively.

    1. Hi Jules,

      Thanks so much for joining the course! As a fellow solutions focused person it is great to have you on board. Your point about the importance of creating a collegial community is so important and the next few days will be exploring more ways to do this particularly within academic settings so I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts!

      All the best,

  26. Hi Everyone, I’m Juliey from RSB. I’m sorry that I joined this discussion a bit late because I was traveling yesterday. As a teaching academic I am so interested in this topic that I decided to do this course while on annual leave. So useful that it is on-line and accessible from anywhere. I agree with the discussion thread that doing our best to look after student well-being is definitely part of the role of teaching academics and all staff. I had not heard of M-BRAC, so I am learning already! I really liked Chelsea’s point that sometimes when under the pressure of teaching and deadlines and also as Alex pointed out that we are continually expected to update teaching practices, the pressures that these aspects equally (and often invisibly) have on students can sometimes get overlooked by Academic staff at every level. Ang made a great point, that in our often short interpersonal interactions with students, it can be difficult to recognize what is really going on behind the scenes in someone’s life, be it academic or personal struggles. Also, my experience is similar to Jonathon’s in seeing numbers of students with mental health problems and registrations with Access and Inclusion seeming to skyrocket in recent years. I would like to be able to improve or adjust my teaching approaches in order to help these students as best I can.

    1. Hi Juliey,

      Great to have you join us particularly while you are on leave! Gold star!

      The challenge of all of the competing priorities and deadlines for academic staff is a really important point and hopefully this module will begin to explore ways to build student wellbeing in to work that is already occurring rather than an additional task to complete! There are some more practical activities on day two (today) and case scenarios as part of day three (Wednesday) so I am really looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts.

      Thanks again for making time for this course while you are on leave!

      All the best,

  27. My name is Samantha Schofield and I am a Project Officer with the SECD team (previously working in the residential space).

    The impact of student mental health concerns for campus communities is wide-spread and systematic, inclusive to student wellbeing, academic attainment and student retention.

    Every ANU community member (academic, professional, student) has the potential to play a role in fostering an environment of wellness by promoting mental health advocacy, literacy, and support. By layering programming with elements of positive mental health and wellbeing we work to mitigate institutional risk and empower students for success – At the end of the day isn’t that why we’re here!?!

    By raising the level of mental health literacy on our campus, we work to provide a ‘support network’, rather than ‘support people’. There are however ‘boundaries’ to our roles which should be effectively communicated and maintained.

    This is a passion area of mine and I am always excited for opportunities to develop skills and knowledge in this space. The M-BRAC model isn’t something I have previously used in programming however looks like a useful tool to enhance student wellbeing – Great!

    Thank you for coordinating this project Alex and further bolstering the conversation on why mental health literacy on campus, at all levels, is important.


    1. Hi Samantha,

      Thanks for your lovely feedback, it has been really exciting to get to read through all of the comments and start expanding on these important conversations.

      Boundaries are such an important part of these conversations and often something we don’t think about until we realise they aren’t as robust as we needed them to be so thank you for raising this point. Hopefully we can chat about this more tomorrow as part of the teaching practice examples.

      All the best,

  28. Sorry i’m late, I work a 9 day fortnight to promote my own well-being! I’m a lecturer and research fellow who works across the Medical School and the Research School of Population Health.

    I think promoting student well-being is central to my role as a lecturer. At the Medical School my job is not simply to get students through the course but to create compassionate, competent doctors. Both university and the work environment place enormous emotional strain on the students. To continue to treat patients with compassion while they are being challenged through multiple stressors requires the students to have built up a number of skills to maintain their own well-being. I think a lot of the difficulties in relationships within hospitals and between patients and doctors is contributed to by the poor well being of the doctors themselves. Within medicine we also see high rates of mental illness and I have had a colleague commit suicide. So in the interest of both the student, and their future patients, I see my time with the students as a unique opportunity to promote their well-being, while also teaching them a few things about medicine.

    I enrolled in the course to build new skills. I’m fortunate to work in a unit that see’s well-being as central but it’s always good to get others opinions as well.

    I’ve never heard of M-BRAC but it makes a lot of sense. I just wonder why it isn’t M-CRAB – that would be much easier to remember and you could make a whole bunch of puns!

    1. Hi Jason,

      No apologies necessary, it is great to have you here!

      You make an excellent point about how vital wellbeing is for students long term, not just while they are here at university. Setting up strong foundations now can impact a students career and personal life moving forward!

      I do like the idea of M-CRAB although I think I can probably guess why the creators may have steered away from that.

      Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the rest of the course.

      All the best,

  29. Hi everybody, my name is Rey Guerrero-Proenza, and I professor and researcher in the National Center for Distance Education at University of Informatics Science, Havana, Cuba,

    I think teachers should not be dedicated only to instruction; they must have education as one of their aims, understanding here Education as the formation of personal values, and in this, wellbeing may be, on the one hand, the result of a social and personal appropriate behavior. On the other hand, wellbeing contributes to making students more capable of achieving their instructional objectives.

    I have never heard before the term M-BRAC, and, despite the conclusions related to it, has an empirical foundation, I think, it is consistent with other existing psychological theories, like Activity Theory.

    I particularly think, that wellbeing is one of outcomes to be considered in designing adaptive virtual learning environments, and that’s one of the reason I am reading these interesting posts.

    1. Hi Rey,

      Great to have you here and thanks for connecting in from Cuba! You many get the gold star for furthest away participant!

      I would be interested to hear more about your thoughts on adaptive virtual learning environments as this is an area which continues to grow and will have significant impact on student wellbeing moving forward.

      All the best,

  30. Hi everyone, I’m Anna, based at JCSMR / RSB. I’m currently in a research-focused role but have done a fair amount of undergrad teaching and postgrad supervision in the past (at a different university). I’m hoping to get involved in teaching again in the future, hence enrolling here to keep learning.

    I think academic staff definitely have a part to play in student wellbeing. Being a student can, in its own right, be incredibly stressful, especially when tertiary study is a new experience, but this is often compounded by other sources of stress in a student’s personal life. There are often small and simple things we can do as teachers that make learning – and learning opportunities – more accessible to students who are experiencing illness, anxiety, family difficulties, financial pressures, external pressure to succeed etc. Relatively small measures can make a big contribution to a positive and supportive learning environment.

    One important role of academic staff is as sources of information about the support networks available to students. We are usually much better connected to these services than students who are new to the University or even the city. In the past I’ve been able to help students access support, counselling, additional tutoring etc, simply by knowing which appropriate services were available to them and being able to refer them on. On a couple of occasions I think I’ve even made the initial contact on the student’s behalf (with the student’s permission of course!). I think this is especially relevant to those of us who teach / have taught introductory first year units. Of course this all depends on the students raising their concerns with staff in the first place. I’ve found some are quite forward in making an appointment to discuss their progress and explain that they are struggling because of XYZ. I may try to gently initiate a conversation with others if I have concerns. But it isn’t always obvious when a student needs support. Which leads back to the importance of setting up a welcoming and supportive teaching environment in the first place…

    I haven’t previously heard of M-BRAC, but I was really interested to learn about this.

    1. Hi Anna,

      Welcome! Academics play a very important role as sources of information for students so it is great to see you identify this and share you previous experiences.

      Looking forward to hearing more from you.

      All the best,

  31. Hello!
    I lecture in English lit here at ANU. I had never heard of M-BRAC but found it useful. In watching it I thought of two things: helping my 11 year old to learn multiplication tables and trying to convince undergrads that being there matters when it comes to lectures and tutorials. I asked myself: am I accounting for the fact that they need to value what they are doing for their own reasons rather than just doing it to please me? I enrolled in the course because I care about people and I am dismayed at how much fear my students seem to experience just giving things a go. Some describe crippling anxiety which defeats them week after week. Last term I received a medical document that stated that attendance at university classes would exacerbate my student’s condition (anxiety). As it happens that student took the risk and came along and participated a lot and did pretty well; but I felt really confused about the professional advice because I believe that university is one of the few places these days where you can actually cultivate the skills of face-to-face communication, negotiation, collaboration etc. And it is scary. I have first-hand experience of anxiety. I share this one with my students: at my first lecture at ANU I ducked down behind the huge lectern/console thing to put in my stick drive. It felt so safe hiding there I actually delayed standing up again. I thought: I wish I could just stay here. I’ve learnt to read those terrified feelings as a natural part of doing something new or worthwhile. I consciously re-code them as part of the adventure rather than as stop signs. Could this kind of mental game help any of my students do you think?

    1. Hi Kate,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the course! I particularly appreciated your example of sharing a time you had experienced anxiety with students. How has this been received in the past?

      I always find sharing some vulnerability (within the context of appropriate boundaries) not only helps students identify that we are all human but that it is ok to not have it all together all the time. It would be great to chat with you more about this. Feel free to email me: alexandra.culloden@anu.edu.au

      Thanks again,

  32. I had not previously heard of M-BRAC.
    I received an email about this course and hoped to gain insights into mental health as I see the number of students affected is growing. Would like to develop skills to become more supportive in my interactions with domestic as well as international students.
    It is important to acknowledge that educators can contribute positively to students’ mental wellbeing. I think we are one of many factors which makes a contribution to this wellbeing. As a sessional staff member, I feel pressed for time to be able to get to know students closely. I can’t help but reflect that the ANU has cut semester length from 16 week many years ago, to 12 weeks; and from 6 hours to 4 hours of contact time for units in my area. Compounding this, the ANU has turned to sessional staff for a great majority of it’s teaching. Sessional staff are paid for preparation and contact time and are not supported to follow up on student mental welfare, outside of set contact time with students.
    This raises the question about curriculum design – should we teach less or cram in more information in the reduced time. The current curriculum puts more work pressure on students to follow up on self learning from online sources – usually in isolation – which can’t contribute positively to student mental wellbeing.

    1. Hi Marlena,
      You make some really good points here. While I am not a sessional tutor, as a researcher there is a constant tension between time for students and time for research. I am still learning to balance this.
      Best wishes,

    2. Hi Marzena,

      I touch on some of the time constraints faced by academic staff in the video from Wednesday as it is definitely a factor which impacts on student wellbeing but also the wellbeing of staff.

      It would be great to speak with you more about this, please feel free to email me: alexandra.culloden@anu.edu.au

  33. Coming in to this late so playing catch up (I had an exam on Monday so my my thoughts were elsewhere). I work in an academic support role with VET Lecturers, but previously had 10 years or so of training a wide range of students from senior school to (very) mature age.
    Do you see student wellbeing as the role of academic staff? Why/why not? Yes, absolutely! Particularly in VET where trainers/Lecturers are often with their students for up to 3 years. The role isn’t just one of trainer – you become confidant, informal counselor, career adviser, health support, friend …
    What made you enroll in this course? In VET there is a huge focus on ensuring trainers have relevant and current CPD in VET and in training and assessment, as well as current relevant vocational skills in their industry. Caring for student wellbeing is something that is often overlooked in formal PD. In my role I share what I find with staff so I’m here to check this course out as a valuable resource for our staff. Thanks 🙂
    Had you previously heard of M-BRAC? No – but I’ll be looking to find out more.

    1. Hi Sue,

      Great to have you here and thank you for sharing your experience. I hear a lot of professional and academic staff speak about the fact that student wellbeing has not featured in formal professional development or if it has it has been more around the crisis end of supporting students in distress.

      I hope this course provides a good start to the conversation!

      All the best,

  34. Hello
    The name of this coffee course made me enrol. I work with students and their wellbeing is my priority one.

    The role of the academic may be facilitating and supporting a student on their learning journey however as human being we develop relationships which can be of support to and motivate students. Practicing and encouraging well being while working or studying is important and helps us succeed despite life’s challenges.

    I hadn’t heard of M-BRAC on its own but elements of it are familiar particularly motivation and a sense of well-being.

    1. Hi Bel,

      Great to have you here! I appreciate you sharing your insights in to the role of relationships in supporting and motivating students, such a huge factor particularly when considering sense of belonging.

      Looking forward to hearing more from you.

      All the best,

  35. Hi, I’m a Research Fellow convening one of the Masters of Public Health courses. I like the M-BRAC and feel that it applies on many levels to our students. In particular, as many of them are overseas students, their sense of belonging could be challenged, particularly at the beginning of the course, when they might not know many others.
    While they will have chosen to do this course, perhaps some of the assessment tasks challenge their sense of competence and the personal autonomy that led them to chose the course. Many struggle with English and sometimes I have felt that this has created a barrier to them being able to communicate the difficulties that they are having.
    Thank you for such an interesting and relevant introduction.

    1. Hi Jane,

      Lovely to have you on board, I just completed my MPH and have taken a lot of public health principles in to my role and the work being done here at ANU.

      I wasn’t able to speak much about cultural considerations in this course however would be very keen to speak with you more about this. Feel free to email me on alexandra.culloden@anu.edu.au

      All the best,

    2. Hi Jane,
      Liana here – I am also one of the course conveners in the Masters of Public Health and share your concerns about overseas students having support and a sense of belonging. I have had a few students under a lot of pressure (either from themselves or others) to do well in their course, and this has impacted on their mental health. I like the M-BRAC acronym as it emphasises factors we can do something about, and that is empowering. So we might not be able to give an overseas student all the cultural support we would like to, but we can work towards assisting with building opportunities for relationships and belonging within classes/courses. To me it is very important that I am approachable as the course convener, so that students can come to me early on if they are having difficulties or would like feedback.

  36. Hi, I am an assistant to teaching staff and have convened some courses in biology. I definitely feel that as teaching staff we are responsible for creating the best learning environment possible. Perhaps helping students with M-BRAC is of particular importance in first year when many students find themselves away from home for the first time. It is in this first year that we set the trend for the rest of their time at uni and this can either be a positive trajectory or a negative one. Unfortunately it is also a time when class numbers are really high so it is challenging in some ways! Sara

    1. Hi Sara,

      Post O Week replies coming through, apologies for the delay!

      Great to have you engaging with the course. You are very right with regards to class numbers influencing practice, definitely check out day three teaching design and practical strategies. Would be great to hear your thoughts!

      All the best!

  37. Student well-being is part of the university experience and we have a responsibility to create an environment where that is promoted and protected. Teaching students the skills to protect and promote their own well-being, and supporting them when that takes a hit is a role we all can have.

    I am both staff (SECD) and a PhD student, so I have two lenses through which to view student well-being, but both mean that there is so much work to be done. Courses like this are very encouraging, and while I had not heard of M-BRAC before, I thought the video and its explanation was excellent. Hope to use that in the future.
    What made you enroll in this course?
    Had you previously heard of M-BRAC?

  38. Hi Everybody

    I’m a lecturer in the School of Management and I teach a course that focuses a great deal on wellbeing and mental health. In this regard I do get the opportunity to spend many weeks just talking to students about mental health.

    In regard to whether it is the responsibility of academic staff, I must admit I am torn. On oneside I think it is the responsibility of all us to keep an eye out for those who are around us and whether they are ok. I also think as “teachers”, there is some level of a pastoral role that we take over our students. Having said that, when there are hundreds of students or when we encourage students to not turn up (i.e. tell them they can just listen to a lecture online), then this makes it very difficult to do so. When students don’t turn up, then we are less likely to interact with them and care for them (or refer somebody who is more specialized in this area to help).

    I haven’t used M-BRAC but have used things which are very similar to help

  39. Hi all. I believe student wellbeing is as important as, if not more important than teaching knowledge. The reason is that I was a victim in a disastrous supervisory relationship ten years ago. I was thinking if I could survive and teach in the future, I would first make sure my students know they are being respected. But I carried a little too far in my very first teaching contract. The students had too much trust in me and asked me for suggestions on many private issues. I have been trying to find a balance between a professional relationship and some proper support for students. Through this coffee course, I’d like to learn how to foster student wellbeing more systematically.

  40. As has been touched on above, I see student wellbeing as covering the gamut of concerns and approaches that affect students’ mental and physical health, and as such, is intrinsic to student life and learning. Therefore, I believe it is the role of the entire university campus to help foster student wellbeing. While academic staff already have a lot on their plate, student wellbeing is something that should be prioritised more. Academic staff usually have the greatest interaction with students (outside of Residential staff). They are best placed to identify at-risk students and foster inclusive and supportive environments.

    In a previous life, my role at a university was to identify and work with at-risk students, and foster student well-being more generally. This experience taught me that there is always more to learn in this field. I am hoping this course will continue to teach and challenge me in this space. While I have come across M-BRAC previously, I look forward to developing it more here.

  41. As has been mentioned above, I see student wellbeing as encompassing the gamut of concerns and approaches that affect students’ mental and physical health, and as such, is intrinsic to student life and learning. Therefore, it is the entire university’s responsibility to foster student wellbeing. While academic staff already have a lot on their plate, they need to prioritise student wellbeing more. They generally have the most interaction with students (outside of Residential staff), and thus, are best placed to identify at-risk students and create inclusive and supportive environments.

    In a previous life, my role at a university was to identify and assist at-risk students and foster student well-being generally. Some of the greatest challenges included breaking down the stigma around mental health and student wellbeing. From those experiences, I realised that there is always something new to learn in this field. I hope this course will continue to develop and challenge my approaches to student wellbeing. While I have come across M-BRAC before, I look forward to delving into it in much more detail.

  42. I was drawn to this course because, when I was an undergraduate many years ago, I had several university friends with serious mental illnesses who struggled very hard and received no compassion from staff at the time. I have seen how badly these experiences affected them later in life – over a decade later – and how resentful they are about how they were treated, to the extent that some of them have such an aversion to the university we were at that they cannot return to the campus. This is certainly not how I want any of my students to feel about their university experience.
    I started teaching only last year and at first I was surprised to find how many students need EAPs, but I think that if such services had been available when I was a student, my peers might not have suffered so badly. I feel somewhat helpless as an educator, feeling that there’s little I can do for students who are suffering other than to be compassionate and recommend the counseling service. I’m glad to know that there’s more I can do through my teaching.
    I hadn’t heard of M-BRAC before, but it is so sensible and useful to know. I had not thought before about autonomous motivation, but it really speaks to me. I’ve certainly found that I am most productive and satisfied when I’m not trying to do what I think others want me to do at the expense of my own happiness. I would love to know how to get students to feel that doing my courses aligns with their own goals and interests!

  43. Do you see student wellbeing as the role of academic staff? Why/why not?
    What made you enroll in this course?
    Had you previously heard of M-BRAC?

  44. Hi Everyone,
    I’m Julie, and I am an Academic skills Adviser at The Fenner School of Environment and Society. I felt motivated to complete this course as I hope it will build on some training I did recently on providing psychologically-informed academic support. I see student well being as the role of not only academic staff, but all staff in the university. Whether students are attending lectures/tutorials, asking for support from one of the university’s services or seeking help from administrative staff, I feel they should be treated with care and respect, particularly as many will be experiencing some level of anxiety simply because they are at university. Every interaction with university staff matters, and the way it is handled can either help students navigate the maze that is a university degree, or could contribute to further stress and anxiety.
    I enrolled in this course to learn more about how the quality of our interactions with students can make all the difference to their well being and to get some ideas about how to improve my interactions with students. I hadn’t previously heard of M-BRAC, but my initial impressions are that it is a useful framework to use when considering how we can facilitate student well being.

    1. Hi Julie, welcome to the course! Glad to hear your thoughts around student wellbeing being the responsibility of all staff in the university – I think approaching all areas of work in universities with care and empathy for students’ lived experiences is absolutely critical! (I could go on all day about this really so I won’t get too far into it just yet!) One of the things I think was really valuable in thinking about how my work (as an educational designer) impacts student experience and wellbeing was around course and curriculum design. I’d love to hear more about your perspective about how your role as an academic skills adviser can support and impact wellbeing too!

  45. Hi Everyone,
    My name is Edwina and I’m a postdoc at Fenner and convene two courses, one of which is the Vietnam Field School where I take 25-30 students to Vietnam for 3 weeks every January. I enrolled in this course as not only do I broadly believe it is the responsibility of staff to ensure, to the best of our ability, the wellbeing of students, the unusual nature of my field school means I am much more exposed to students who are suffering some kind of distress. This either happens in Vietnam, as its often an intense experience for students: a new country, difficult practical research tasks, and little privacy can overload anyone, but can be particularly taxing for students with existing mental health issues. However, my more common experience is that the close relationships I inevitably develop with students of the field school means that as they continue through their degrees when they have issues in their studies or personal lives, I am the lecturer they feel they have the most connection with and come to me for advice, help or even just a friendly face. So I am really just keen to have as many tools at my disposal as possible to navigate these situations as well as I can. I hadn’t heard of the M-BRAC framework before but it seems like a great way to positively conceptualise where wellbeing comes from.

  46. While I am not teaching at the moment, I found this module really valuable (should have taken it sooner!). In my work, I support early-career academics (ECAs) at ANU NECTAR. It is really useful for me to know about services they can use should they experience psychological distress. Our team are trying to do our bit by raising awareness, e.g. by organising a social event with the advisor to staff in October (mental health month).
    But what I have been really pleased to learn is that ANU offers services to family members of ANU Staff as well, e.g. via the Employee Assistance Program. This is really useful for me to know because I have been reaching out to partners of ECAs. Many of them have moved here from overseas, and this puts them at risk of feeling homesick and isolated. So it is good to know that there are services for them out there, should those feelings become too overwhelming. What we have done is put on a few activities to bring partners of ECAs together, and it has been amazing to see how easily they connect with each other – I think because they have had the shared experiences of moving continents for their partners’ careers. Now that we have been running these activities for a few months, I am starting to see the longer-term effects; e.g. how they have helped each other out, how they have become closer friends, etc. While we do not provide psychological assistance, I feel that these activities really do have positive effects on the participants’ mental health – and on my own! Having moved here from overseas for my partner’s career at ANU, I feel very passionate about making a difference in this space. If you’d like to find out more about this initiative, visit https://nectar.anu.edu.au/family-members/

  47. I do see student wellbeing as the role of academic staff. In developing communities of learning we need to take responsibility for caring and support the individuals within the community. In my practice I have found the priority largely lies with the identification for the need for support and to be careful not to overstep our role as educator/academic/ANU staff to provide medical advise outside our professional bounds. Most importantly I have felt it important to know what services and support is available for staff and students at ANU. Often students are not aware of what these are or how to access them when in need, particularly international students where many of the support needs we offer at ANU are not typically part of the social culture. When I suggest a student consider a, b and or c I found that I need to follow up and ask/check if the student was able to receive the help at the time. Often if students are in a state of distress or need, we have a responsibility to be sure that they feel supported from beginning to end.

    I have not previously heard of M-BRAC but this is a useful acronym, thank you.

  48. Do you see student wellbeing as the role of academic staff? Why/why not?
    Absolutely. We have a very high duty of care, and also part of our role as educators is to teach and lead by example about looking after our community so that our students can proceed to their carers as caring and competent individuals. Last but not least, with the hierarchy of human needs, one cannot really learn if one is not healthy.

    What made you enroll in this course?
    I am a deeply concerned about the health of our student cohort in computer science. They are mainly young adults living overseas from their safety network — this makes them high risk and I really wish them to be empowered to manage this risk and feel better.

    Had you previously heard of M-BRAC?
    Yes, I have as part of my mental health first aid training.

  49. I see fostering student wellbeing as being an important aspect of teaching. I have primarily thought about my role in fostering student wellbeing until now in terms of ensuring that I provide a friendly, inclusive and supportive learning environment for students and that I am approachable and available if students have additional questions. I haven’t specifically considered how courses could be designed in ways that better facilitate student wellbeing so I am interest in learning more about that. I haven’t heard of M-BRAC before, but it intuitively makes sense to me as a framework to think about student wellbeing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *