Writer: Alexandra Culloden
Wellbeing Project Coordinator, Access, Inclusion and Wellbeing, Australian National University
Welcome to the final day of ‘Fostering student wellbeing’!
Today we will be providing some examples of evidence-based teaching approaches which have been shown to enhance student wellbeing engagement and competence in a range of contexts.
How do you balance supporting student wellbeing with increasing time pressures and competing priorities?
For busy academics with competing (and pressing) demands, it may be challenging to re-design curriculum or develop new ways to facilitate learning that support students’ wellbeing.
A fact sheet has been developed identifying seven ‘Life Hacks’ for teaching. These simple tips can be used by all time-poor educators (with little preparation) to enhance autonomy-supportive learning environments and support student wellbeing.
Supporting student wellbeing in a research supervision context
As experienced supervisors are aware, although pursuing a research higher degree (RHD) is generally an extremely rewarding experience, many graduate researchers struggle at times with feelings of isolation, and a lack of ‘connectedness’ to their peers, their departments and the institution. Some students also come to question the outcomes and value of a research higher degree. It is therefore common for many graduate researchers, at some point in their candidature, to become de-motivated, fall in a slump and experience periods of psychological distress.
What can academic supervisors do to support the wellbeing of graduate researchers?
The following video ‘Good Supervision Practice’ looks at how you can implement good strategies that support student wellbeing.
Good practice examples:
There are a large number of strategies used by educators in a range of different teaching and learning contexts which you can read through via the link below:
Learning Activity 3:
Review the good practice examples linked above, and select a strategy relevant to your role. Provide a short explanation of the strategy you selected and why on the discussion board.
Live Stream Replay!
If you missed our live stream this morning, fret not! You can watch it here:
Casey, L., & Liang, R. P. (2014). Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2014.Melbourne, Australia: Australian Psychology Society.
Maclellan, E. (2004). ASSESSMENT FOR LEARNING. The RoutledgeFalmer Reader in Higher Education, 26(4), 85.
Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health (2017). Under the radar. The mental health of Australian university students. Melbourne: Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health
I picked the example for Small Group Teaching: motivating students to attend weekly class. In particular, I liked the suggestion to link the week’s activities to current events and issues in social media before each class. I mentioned on Day 1 that putting work into context was something I found to be a really important aspect towards motivation for myself as a student. I think linking content to something going on in the real world is a great idea to address this, especially if you can provide a clear way to identify the value of the content the students are learning. Using social media is also a great idea as it’s something the students are likely to be familiar and comfortable with, as well as relate to.
Angela, I suggest we should not assume that students are familiar and comfortable with using social media in the academic context. They may need help and practice presenting a well reasoned argument in a way which suits social media and also does not place the student at risk. International students are at particular risk of expressing views which are encouraged in an academic forum in the country where they are studying, but which will get them into trouble at home. Students need to learn what they can safely say in different forums.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am a big fan of harnessing the power of social media (as you may have guessed from the live stream!) and think it is a useful tool to support student wellbeing, with the caveat that it cannot be a cure all. There are some students who will not use social media at all or only use social media for personal purposes so it is important to ensure there is a balance.
Greetings from the Coffee Lab at ANU. There is a table for ten reserved for the coffee course. The staff were a little anxious as to when anyone was arriving, so I assured them there would be a crowd at 10:30am. 😉
Learning Activity 3: Review the good practice examples … select a strategy …
Today’s notes were about wellbeing of research students, but the “Good practice examples” were for coursework student. Even so many were relevant, such as using industry, helping students with social relationships and assessment skills.
However, I suggest more could be done for research students through advice on programs and design of programs. Graduate researchers feelings of isolation could be addressed by redesigning programs to use group work and requiring students to undertaking training on how to work in teams.
Students concerns over the value of a research degree are well founded. I suggest that students should be advised that there are few full time tenured positions in academia and very few research positions in industry. Also the students should be advised that a research degree is not designed for industry professionals and not valued in industry. Instead students interested in a professional career should be advised to undertake a professional degree, not a PHD.
I suggest all doctoral students, both research and professional, be required to complete training in professional skills. As well as communication and teamwork, this would include supervision. As well as improving their skills for their future workplace, this will allow teaching of skills to improve their wellbeing as a student.
It was great to meet with you at Coffee Lab and thank you for your participation in the course. I think the idea of students being trained in professional skills is an excellent one. It would hit a lot of the M-BRAC elements!
First – thanks for this course. Sorry I couldn’t join you for coffee, but I have a meeting at another part of campus at 11 am.
I’ve chosen the examples for giving students insight into their learning:
To help students understand their learning processes
Also to help students identify the elements of their discipline that are helping them to develop their skills.
Ask students to explain the processes they used to complete a particular assessment.
Give students ample time to express themselves in their own words, without judgement or criticism of their response.’
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I now think it’s sometimes important to spell out for students how the curriculum hangs together, because they don’t necessarily understand how an assessment or aspect of the curriculum is building their skills. An example from the course I teach ( first year law course) is the requirement that students do an annotated bibliography that then builds toward their essay. It is clear from some of the feedback that some students didn’t see how the bibliography assessment skills [potentially ]contributed to the essay assessment. Doing the exercises suggested above in small seminar groups, once the annotated bibliography has been submitted, might be a very good way for students to reflect on what they’ve learned about the research process etc, that they can build on in their essay. The exercise would also give students the opportunity to learn from other students about different ways of tackling the research process – and so pick up tips they can apply to their essay preparation.
thanks again for this course.
Thank you for participating in the course and thank you for your feedback!
I think your example and idea around having students work in small seminar groups sounds excellent and I would be interested to hear how this goes. I am available to chat further about this or any other components of the course so please feel free to get in contact with me via email@example.com (this offer is open to every one!)
I work in the library as a communications specialist
I would choose to ask a student (or multiple students) to volunteer to coordinate social events and learning activities in collaboration with the library, such as a social study group. Students can build relationships with peers by creating an informal forum within the library space to talk with and learn from each other. This would also help build positive relationships between librarians and students.
I really like the idea of getting students to work with library staff to coordinate events and learning activities! I worked with some of the Chifley Staff at ANU last semester to run a #sleepforsuccess campaign which promoted sleep hygiene to students (in particular-don’t sleep in the library!) and it would be great to have additional students involved in campaigns like this.
Thanks once again for being involved in the course.
All the best,
I’ve chosen the example from the Large Group Classes – specifically ‘Helping students with self-care and help-seeking’. One of the suggested activities to facilitate this was to “Build an LMS quiz about how students are going in different aspects of university life, with feedback”.
I have been involved in two courses with a mid-semester self-assessment for students to complete. It was optional for students, and involved them giving themselves a mark out of ten and an opportunity to add comments about how they felt that their own progress was going. The tutor would then review the responses from the students and respond to what the student raised, either agreeing with the student’s self-assigned mark or proposing a different mark. The marks themselves did not count towards the students’ overall mark, but it was a very interesting tool to “check in” with students. I found that students tended to under-rate themselves. I also found the comments to be very insightful and helpful, as they gave me an insight into the students’ experiences. For example, sometimes a student would disclose that they sometimes felt that they wished they could raise their hand more, which was a prompt for me to reflect on whether there was a way that I could change my approach to foster more discussion. It was also a good opportunity to provide reassurance and positive feedback to students in a way that wasn’t tied directly to a piece of assessment, which gave more freedom to comment on “bigger picture” things that students were doing well. Interestingly, many of the students who did not complete the mid-semester self assessment wrote in their end of semester SELTs, and to me personally, that they wished that they had done it.
My own experience of this self-assessment is that it is a positive and valuable inclusion in courses, and I think it fosters good practices for students to reflect on their own learning and good way of facilitating their ability to seek help and identify issues.
Thanks again for the course.
What an excellent activity and very interesting to hear how students rated themselves as well as provided feedback to you in regards to how they were finding the course. Is this something you plan to run again?
All the best,
I’ve found all of the links, videos and discussions not only interesting, but also helpful in how I think about my current skills in tutoring.
For today, I found all of the topics useful, however I particularly like the capstone experience section. I feel that a lot of students feel like they’re accruing useless information if they can’t relate it to multiple things or use it in different ways. Engaging students in discussion not just on topics you’re introducing, but also how it might relate to previous topics they have learnt, is something I really like the idea of.
Sorry I couldn’t attend coffee, however I very much enjoyed this course and appreciate the new information I can use for future teaching!
All the best,
Thanks very much for the feedback and your involvement in the course. I am really glad to hear you were able to take away from practical components as well as gain some new information!
All the best,
Thanks for the course, it has been very useful to reflect on my practices and learn from others. I was interested in the masters by coursework – using industry as a source of feedback topic. This has been important in my masters course on climate change adaptation which usually has ~40 students from ~12 countries. The experience and contributions from the (mostly) mid-career students is really a highlight of the course. I think that the students’ roles in contributing examples, challenges and solutions is affirmative and reflective for them individually and fosters a collegiate dynamic in the class. I need to think about how to encourage this more in the first year class. We have been setting first year assignments asking students to assess issues from the place they are from and their lives, which often has engendered great enthusiasm.
I will continue to respond to your comments over the next few days however I wanted to take a chance to thank you all for your engagement and enthusiasm for this course! It has been great to connect in with you all and I encourage all of you to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to continue these discussions.
Thank you once again!
Apologies for the late replay (and missing coffee) – I had full day of teaching!
At ASLC, we are currently running the five-week intensive Introductory Academic Program (IAP) for Australian Award students, which mainly consists of postgraduate (Masters by Coursework) students, so building students’ assessment skills is what I am all about at the moment (as indicated in the good practice examples). This semester we have a cohort of approx. 40 students. The IAP prepares students for study at the ANU by teaching them some of the skills necessary for academic success, everything from time management skills, effective note-taking strategies, exam preparation, and essay writing. As part of this, students complete scaled-back versions of assessment they would experience in a normal course. IAP students submit an annotated bibliography, an essay plan, a 1,000 word essay, contribute to forum discussions, and deliver a presentation. All of this is supported with a detailed course outline, coursework booklet, marking rubrics, and feedback on each individual piece of assessment.
One of the activities we did today, for example, when looking at how to structure an essay conclusion required students to work in small groups to un-jumble conclusions from peer reviewed journal articles. The learning objective was for them to identify what makes a good conclusion. Earlier in the session, we looked at an example of a well-structured conclusion, then we looked at some examples of some not-so-good examples. So for the task I set, students had to use their understanding from the previous discussions to un-jumble a conclusion (broken into six parts). Students first did this in pairs, then in small groups (as a way of challenging each other). We came together as a large group to discuss their results. The students really enjoyed it.
Although I understand this sort of assessment support is not available to all students, being conscious of the fact that not all students know how to write an introduction or conclusion goes along way. Promoting student well-being can be about referring students who are struggling to the appropriate services on campus, such as the Academic Skills and Learning Centre or Access and Inclusion. This goes for undergraduate, postgraduate coursework, or higher degree research students.
Hi Alex, thank you for this course: it’s been very informative and its bite-sized format has worked really well for me. I haven’t posted reflections for days 2 and 3 partly because I didn’t have time, but also because the instructions for the reflections didn’t match what most engaged me re the content. On Day 2 the material got me thinking about the constraints on assessment (eg not many staff to teach very large classes and compulsory recording) that then impact on student wellbeing. On Day 3 I found the Lifehacks doc very useful. Thanks again for a great course.
Thanks so much for these tools – lots of great ideas!
I like the idea of ‘helping students develop insight in their learning’. It would be great for students to reflect on their learning process and identify what works and what needs improvement. Hearing how other students approached the same assignments could give them different tools and perspectives for completing the next one! I am also going to try asking students to organise social events. I am looking to start regular morning teas and a mentoring program, but getting students to organise social events outside of uni would be great for cohort cohesion… and a great way to highlight the importance of cultural/ social enrichment as a valuable part of their post-grad program.
Thanks again! I’ve really enjoyed taking time to reflect on these concepts and develop some strategies to improve student well-being.
Charles Gretton – TechLauncher CECS@ANU
A large part of what I convene can be categorised as a “capstone experience”. The centroidal agenda is group project work. The strategy of fostering peer group support in class appears the most relevant to me.
The courses I am responsible for are designed so that students are not undertaking identical activities, but rather commit to a diverse set of roles and responsibilities, and showcase their efforts and the value they are driving in that setting. They practice and develop their technical expertise, as well as their professional skills. We execute a periodic 360 process, where students provide constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement. We engage industry and government stakeholders, and professional academics, and recruit them to participate in that process. Thus, we solicit constructive criticism for a wide range of experienced professionals, as well as from the student corpus. As a general rule are treated equal, and encourage student-driven innovation.
Credit for the development of this strategies goes to others. It was developed over many years by folks including Shayne Flint and Lyn Johns-Boost, amongst others. We are constantly examining ways to improve this on a number of fronts, and are happy to take suggestions.
Sorry I missed today’s interactive and f2f sessions. I need a bit more notice to block out that much of my calendar. Thank you for posting the session online.
I chose the very first example – “Encourage students to use consultation time wisely”. I think this would help both students and teachers. For students, having a clear goal of what they want to get out of the consultation/meeting should help make sure that they come away from the meeting with the answers they needed. For some students that I’ve supervised, I’ve asked them to bring one specific question with them. We would end up discussing many more things as well, but it gave both of us something to focus on at the start. The example also suggests allocating specific consultation hours, and I agree that this is important. Students might be uncomfortable approaching a lecturer outside pre-determined consultation times. I’ve never taught a large class with specific consultation times, but I think this is equally applicable to small groups or research student supervision.
Thanks Alex for the great course!
I found all of these resources really useful – thank you for running a great course, Alex!
I really like the point in the Teaching Practice Examples resource about helping students to develop insight in their learning, although to me this suggests not just identifying processes that they used to complete one particular assignment – which can be extremely useful in identifying gaps in the process – but also acknowledging the different ways students learn and techniques that assist them in learning the way that fits best. In regards to my role, this can mean providing multiple ‘versions’ of resources – for instance, audio file versions of articles for students who learn more effectively aurally. From experience teaching high-school students, the acknowledgement that there is no ‘one’ learning style can be transformative, as it allows students to experiment with what fits them best and then take ownership of their own ‘style’. It can also allow teachers to shift their delivery and experiment with activities – for instance, facilitating jigsaw-style activities that allow different learning styles to come together and contribute something of equal importance to the one project. Hopefully, students’ insight into their own learning processes would in turn foster some of the M-BRAC principles – at the very least, an experience of autonomy over the way that they learn.
Hi Alex, Thanks so much for the course. I’m sorry I was interstate and couldn’t attend the face-to-face part of the course (and the accompanying coffee). It has been really useful and well timed in terms of Semester one, and a new year.
I found all the good practice examples interesting and useful in different ways. I focussed on the Small Group teaching because that is mostly what I do:
To help students understand their learning processes
Also to help students identify the elements of their discipline that are helping them to develop their skills.
Ask students to explain the processes they used to complete a particular assessment.
Give students ample time to express themselves in their own words, without judgement or criticism of their response.
We already do a lot of this sort of reflection and group feedback. But I like how this is framed through well being and getting students to express what they learnt through what they did. I also really like reading FAIL somewhere: FIRST ATTEMPT IN LEARNING
In the School of Art failed attempts are often where the most interesting, productive and exciting learning happens. It’s hard for students focussed on perfection to believe such a thing could be true.
Encourage students to use consultation time wisely
Just like a job or at home time is precious and making the most of it needs a little planning, a bit like an outing with friends/family trying to figure out how we can finish work and get the kids to dance practice i.e. what time are we meeting, where are meeting, for how long are we meeting and what do I need to bring or come prepared with, who else will be there. It is just like creating a framework for how your online or face to face class works but being human, approachable, making mistakes and doing what you say builds rapport with students. If students know what is expected of them they can hopefully make use of the consultation time wisely i.e. I try a face to face as well as online or email so they know when to expect a response (this helps manage stress and anxiety)
Hi again! Sorry I missed you online and at the Coffee Lab. Technical issues and then a meeting. 🙁
I guess for this session (and I am very late posting this), the Large Group strategies are what are most relevant to my current (Student Experience) and substantive (inbound students Global Programs) roles as my focus is on ensuring that large groups of new incoming students to the ANU are provided with a great deal of information in a short time and that we are able to create a sense of belonging, community, support and safety within only 1 session.
As Inbound Coordinator, I found building this sense of community was much easier because I was dealing with 200 instead of 2000 students (as we do currently in O-Week Induction) and I had plenty of opportunities to engage with students and they were (almost) a captive audience because they relied on me to give them all information quickly as they were only here for a short stint.
What I have found works well in both cohorts is having some humour, lots of variety in activities, various opportunities to meet other students, extra tours and sessions and a number of ways to learn about services both on and off campus.
Using ‘keep warm’ messaging to engage students even before their arrival along with social media that is monitored and responded to quickly helps to build the confidence of new students and assures them that they will find it easy to reach out to someone and that there are people willing and able to help.
At Global Programs, I tried to increase engagement and support by running walking tours and shopping trips, sightseeing tours and I set up a coffee drop-in session for new students during N and O Week and it was wonderful because every afternoon there would be 10-20 students just sitting around trying Vegemite, Weetbix, Minties, coffee bags etc. and making lots of new friends while picking my brain on how and where to get things done.
I think that it is really important to have very casual drop-in sessions as a way to support students as it is often much less intimidating and allows plenty of opportunity for building networks.
Thank you for your idea of casual drop-in sessions Jules. I can see how this could facilitate a very positive experience for students, including enhancing collegiality and a sense of belonging to the university community. I will try to find some opportunities to do this for my students this semester.
Also, thanks for the course Alex. You did a great job. Nice to (virtually) meet the rest of you! 🙂
I like the idea of asking online students to post a 5 minute video about themselves. My co-convenor and I posted a number of online videos last year, firstly about ourselves and then to provide support for different activities. The students’ feedback about this was very positive. I hadn’t thought of asking them to do the same for us and each other, so will do that this semester.
I also like the idea of getting students to talk to each other in class about their interests, previous university and learning experiences. Asking them to then relate the information about their peer to the broader group ensures that they listen carefully to each other.
I like most of the suggestions in the link and have sent them to my colleague. We will actively include these in our course this year. Thank you.
I chose “Creating a sense of connection and relatedness” in “Online courses”: teachers who can do this for any substantial number of students really stand out. The MCHSE suggestion is to demonstrate that you are personable and approachable by creating weekly video or audio messages to the class, deliberately using the tone and style of an informal face-to-face class. When I am a student, I find this draws me in pretty well at first, but sustaining that illusion of connection requires more: the “tone” begins to sound false if I don’t get meaningful responses to my own questions and contribution.
Thanks for the engaging course Alex – it’s really helped to open my perspectives to more things to consider in my teaching practice.
The example I chose was encouraging a community of sharing and pride among students. I really liked the example of encouraging everyone to share something they are proud of in the last 5 min of class. My research lab have a similar activity at each lab meeting where we each share something we’ve progressed on that we’re happy about. It serves to boost individual confidence (hey, I did actually have a good result this week!) and also to build the sense of community in the lab. I can see how this would also be fantastic is small group teaching to foster pride among the students and bond the students. Like Friday high-fives!
Reflection on good practice: The examples I chose were on building social relationships and skills in masters students (or even postgraduate students in general).
These two examples brought me right back to my awesome postgraduate experiences! My supervisor took it upon herself to start up a writing club for postgraduate students where 12 of us met in a café every two weeks. We were from all different schools and stages of honours, masters and phd or early post-doc positions. We always loved chatting and mentoring one another before and after the formal discussion. Together we read and discussed chapters from books on academic writing and as we went along we essentially each wrote a paper ourselves and formally reviewed the writing of someone else in the group who had similar interests. In addition, she invited staff to join us a talk about their writing experiences in the real world – what they were proud of or frustrated by…
It was a wonderful experience as we
a) became familiar with talking to incredibly successful academics (who had previously been too ‘scary’ to approach) – great networking opportunities arose too!
b) developed good relationships with peers
c) learned valuable skills with regards to writing and reviewing journal articles
d) had a paper to publish at the end!
Thanks for running this course – I’ve really enjoyed the content and discussion.
The Large Group example is very relevant to the programs we run in Student Experience and Career Development. Sparking student interest is something I see when students in how students seek out information once they accept their offers – there’s a large gap between acceptance and arrival at University, and we receive many enquiries from students who are eager to receive knowledge even though it’s not necessary they have it until they do actually arrive. Receiving this knowledge earlier on doesn’t necessarily help them logistically, but once they have it they feel more connected to the University and know what to expect – the whole experience is less daunting, and you can really see the emotional shift in their responses when they’re reassured by the information. The prepare to arrive, information for late arrivals websites are really useful in this regard, as are keep warm emails and other online resources.
Hi Alex, thanks for this course. It was very digestible to do it over the three short sessions – as you can see I have only just fit in ‘Session 3’ a couple of weeks after the final post! I picked ‘Online courses’ and in particular ‘creating a sense of connection and relatedness online’ to think about as a teaching strategy I am interested in. I teach a Masters course that runs concurrently with a face-to-face group and an online group, and I have been concerned that the online group is short-changed in terms of interaction and connection with myself and my co-convenor. We do post a summary of what happened each week in the face-to-face lecture on an online Discussion Board, for the online students to connect with, but I it is just text with a few photos and could be more personal. I like the idea of this summary being a casual video rather than written text – to help the online students see their course convenor communicating with them in person each week. I’ll give it a go!
Provide a short explanation of the strategy you selected and why on the discussion board.
Getting to know students and their backgrounds is really important, particularly in a leadership or management role. It shows you care, and it can create a bond between you and your group members, and between the group members themselves. Ice breakers are lame, but they work, and they can be less painful if you devote time to making them creative and new. I am just starting a role of volunteer management, and so this will be part of our first training to make sure everyone feels welcome and valued.
I picked Small Group Teaching and motivating students to turn up:
I have an interesting strategy where I build it into the assessment. Basically, I say that they need to hand in a reflection of the last week’s class in the next week’s class at least a few times during the semester and they need to hand it in IN CLASS as well. This ensures that students generally turn up.
To make it worth their while, I ensure that I give them great feedback on what they hand in and make sure I get it back to them in the immediate next class so that the feedback is timely.
Some students express a little unhappiness in this but by the middle of the semester everybody understands why I do this and those who expressed unhappiness early on always tell me how much they love doing them. In fact some students hand in more work over and above the requirement (i.e. when they have already received full marks and are told they no longer need to hand in work they continue to do so just for the feedback)
I was lucky to have studied the posts before the semester started. I’d like to share two strategies helpful to build a sense of belonging in first-year classes (tutorials).
In the first tutorial, I spent five minutes talking about the “transition stress” in this Day 1 material. Most of the students were the superstars in their middle schools. But after they came to ANU, they might find they are just “normal”. I also shared my experience of conquering this problem. The class atmosphere was suddenly relaxed. Recently a student told me he thought these “small talks” were more useful than the course material. (Should I be happy about it?)
As suggested in this course, I also looked up the programs the students are enrolled in. All my extra examples are specifically targeted in their disciplines. A few students say they’re thrilled (oh, really?) when they hear an example in their own area. Yesterday a student told me he knew I did care them. I was moved.
Thanks for all the discussions in this coffee course.
Suggestion on the CAPTCHA Code: just click “Refresh” (the round button to the right of the picture) and fill in the new one
I relate to the Capstone Experience of helping students to draw on earlier course learning experiences. I feel this ties in strongly with Day 2’s element of purposeful organisation and sequencing. From the first day of class, I encourage my students to link learning experiences and materials. For example, comparing how different readings approach the same subject. As the semester builds, I constantly get my students to cross-reference themes, materials, and experiences from previous weeks. This fosters M-BRAC, as it enables students to understand the course’s relevance (and thus, their competence) holistically through supportive autonomous opportunities.
I chose the small group teaching strategy for motivating students to attend classes. I chose this one because it is the most relevant context to my teaching, and also addresses a challenge I have faced many times across a number of different courses. I usually tutor classes of 5-20 students, but this number always significantly drops off towards the end of semester — starting from week 2. This is especially difficult in tutorials which are optional. I really liked the way Anneline got students engaged on a week-to-week basis rather than forcing attendance with assessment. I really loved her weekly video summary of the course, especially her focus on the assessment task and what was expected of students for it. I also liked that the second video was based on a question on Facebook that several students were confused about. It shows her responsiveness to the class and their needs. I think that students in her class would have felt very secure in where the course was at and what was expected of them on a weekly basis. I would especially love to incorporate the weekly videos into my teaching, although I would make them much shorter than hers.
I chose large group classes, sparking student interest early on. The strategy is to provide supplementary material on the course topics from early on, in orientation week, to set expectations and spark the students’ interest in the topic. The chosen method was short videos on key concepts of the subject. This ensures that students without previous education in the discipline are familiar with basic topics they need to know about and that more experienced students revise what they do know, enhancing students’ confidence.
I would love to do this. Naturally, I want my students to be as enthusiastic as I am about the topics I teach. I can see how this could be beneficial not only for teaching key concepts, but getting students excited about the topic by creating mini documentaries on some of the more fun subject matter covered in the course. I hope that establishing this confidence in the student body would give more students confidence to speak in class and contribute to discussions. It may be helpful to use videos like this to summarise key points from weekly readings so that the students can feel more comfortable before diving into readings themselves.
I was attracted to more of a mix of strategies that were encompassed in a variety of different course types (interdisciplinary by name and by nature…) fostering peer support in class, encouraging a culture of sharing and pride amongst students and helping students develop insight in their learning. I think these all actually relate to a single goal which is to increase learning outcomes by enhancing students ability to evaluate their own achievements and by constructively evaluating others work. I think that marking other people’s work is actually incredibly useful for reflecting on your own work, but to do that you need to create a really supportive and open environment between the students, so that feedback is given and taken in the right spirit. In the Vietnam Field School students do presentations of their research projects to the rest of the class (and local students) and other groups get a chance to ask questions and comment or offer suggestions. This seems to work very well, but there are only 25-30 students on the school and they all get to know each other very well so it is easy to create a good atmosphere for this. I think I need to reflect on how I can do this well in a course with 100 people.
I selected ‘encouraging a community of sharing and pride among students’. I used to teach English as a second language in an adult education centre, and found it very important that my students had the language tools to talk about the things they needed/wanted to talk about. So the first 10 to 20 (sometimes even 30 or 40) minutes of my class were always devoted to sharing experiences and stories. Some weeks, I’d focus on the topic at hand. e.g. when we talked about cars and traffic, I asked my (very international group of) students to talk about what had surprised them about traffic rules after their move to Belgium (which is where I taught). Other weeks, we’d talk about what had been in the news, or what events were going on in the city, or shared personal news. Even though these were very informal chats that my students conducted in small groups (3-6 students), I could see my students really engage. They would be taking notes, looking words up, asking me lots of questions, etc. While the groups were chatting away, I would move between them and help where needed. When I had a spare minute, I would jot down interesting expressions or vocabulary in a Word document which I displayed on the overhead projector. At the end of the activity, I would ask each group to report on something interesting they had learnt – whether it was an interesting story or some new interesting vocabulary. I feel that it really helped students feel engaged and built a sense of community!
My plan is to supplement my Wattle cite with weekly short videos where I in a casual lecture style very briefly summarise what the learning objectives and key concepts were. This supports a stronger teacher presence, community feel, and my approachability. I can also use this recap as an opportunity to show I am a human with mistakes (i.e., no editing of mistakes but rather simply correcting them as part of the video recording), allows students to better assess where they are in their learning, and gives me a chance to make them motivated/curious by having some follow up questions.
I chose ‘Masters by Coursework’, ‘Using Industry as a source of feedback’. This gives students the opportunity to test the skills they need for the assessment, in a low stakes activity during class. The ProfPrac 2 course provides students with an opportunity to work on real world projects with an Industry Partner. We previously small group teaching for these sessions Industry joins the sessions on occasion to mentor the students and feedback on their project progress. By the end of the semester when major tasks are due they have had multiple opportunities for formative feedback on the development of skills and competencies.
The cohort is largely international, and the sense of belonging is even more important for this cohort, particularly in the first semester of study. Course reps have suggested in the past to run a social event social event but by the time week 4 arrives they are too busy trying to manage the workload. I agree that something early in the semester is necessary if trying to organise such events. Usually the international students in my cohort are not in-country during O-Week so miss out on such orientation and social activities that would otherwise benefit them immensely.
I found the concrete examples of activities and strategies in today’s module very helpful. I have been thinking about how to best engage students online. I wonder if point six from the Lifehacks for teaching on showing the ‘real world’ relevance of the course matter could be helpfully combined with trying to encourage use of the discussion forum? One suggestion under the lifehacks was to encourage students to send you relevant videoclips of articles relating to your topic. Perhaps, instead you could set up a dedicated discussion forum for this on the wattle page. The teacher could then post a recent clip or news article etc. once a week and encourage students to share their own discoveries in the forum.