A course review process to maximise student mental wellbeing and engagement
A course review process in the Linguistics Department aims to systematically address the wellbeing of students as an essential aspect of student engagement. The focus is on six key factors: student workload, assessment stress and anxiety, students’ sense of belonging, teacher support for student autonomy, engaging with peers, and overall motivation to study.
In Linguistics, like many other Departments across the university, we take our Learning and Teaching very seriously. We have regular strategic planning days where we have discussions across our different teaching areas and come up with a strategic plan for the year, sometimes longer. Given our diversity, this results in some interesting and robust discussions around how we might devote our collective efforts to improve learning outcomes for our students.
By way of background, we have undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the following areas:
- Linguistics and Language Sciences
- Speech and Hearing Sciences
- Speech and Language Pathology
- Clinical Audiology
- Translation and Interpreting
- Applied Linguistics
- Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
In 2020, just before the COVID storm hit us, we identified student engagement as a key strategic priority (this was also a key theme from 2019), which we felt also aligned with key objectives of the Learning and Teaching Strategic Framework 2020-24. With the change to virtual working and living, we decided to run a series of “Swap Meets” using Zoom to share our new endeavours to engage all our learners, no matter where they were located.
In 2021, we considered recent research findings (Larcombe, Baik & Finch, 2021) and what these mean for student engagement. I have to give a shout out to my buddies in Sociology, Charlotte Overgaard and Jacqueline Mackaway for sharing the article with me earlier this year. In preparation for the strategic planning day, I prepared a summary of the research report and contextualized it for our particular concerns. Course teams had break out discussions to start the conversation about how we can systematically review our courses against the six key areas identified by the research as having direct links to student wellbeing, which we all considered an essential aspect for student engagement.
Discussions were held around alternative assessments, how assessment tasks are timed across units, how to unite different cohorts of students, how to alleviate students’ feelings of anonymity, and many more issues. In fact, one issue that stood out in a Phonology unit is already being addressed by a numeracy awareness intervention, which is being evaluated in an intervention research project, with Linguistics colleagues Mike Proctor and Nick Wilson taking the lead and working with Senior Learning Designer Olga Kozar. This, together with a project I am leading on designed-in and interactional talk to promote inquiry, collaboration and kindness in face-to-face and online learning and teaching are examples of the scholarship of teaching research that these planning days generate.
Over the next two months, course teams will meet and set plans for these course reviews, using this planner. Course Directors will report back to our Department Learning and Teaching leadership team in late April and we will set a strategy to revise aspects of our courses over the next 2-3 years.
Perhaps other learning and teaching teams across the university might see value in undertaking a similar process. I’d be happy to talk to you if you are interested.
Read a summary of the research:
If you have the time, download and read the full journal article:
Dr Philip Chappell is a Senior Lecturer and Deputy Head (Learning and Teaching) in the Department of Linguistics. His interests are in various areas of learning and teaching, including dialogic pedagogy, and he loves nothing better than to head for the hills on his mountain bike. View his Research Profile.