Wellbeing in the Curriculum in the News!

art photo of woman with flowers representing mindfulness

Zoe Swan, Senior Lecturer in Law has won the Brighton Student Union Innovative Teacher Award 2019 for her work on introducing wellbeing into the curriculum. You can listen to Zoe’s podcast on Anchor.fm and read a full transcript of Zoe’s podcast here. Zoe says:

“It’s about us surely recognising that [students] have a heavy workload and what can we do to support them with that. I think my mission is actually understanding how I can incorporate that in the curriculum, which I’ve started to do. I’ve incorporated some wellbeing and resilience work into the first year. That’s kind of taken the shape of two lecture sessions where the students have had some actual taught content on understanding what resilience is. So really unpicking what that word is. What does it mean to them? What does it mean to them in the context of studying law? And also their wellbeing, the environment that they’re studying in, how it makes them feel. The volume of work – what kind of skills they need to have to be able to respond to those pressures and demands in terms of work-life balance.”

She also talks about the benefits of yoga, healthy diet, meditation and breathing exercises for students – perhaps the next steps would be to get these into the curriculum 🙂 In the meantime, interest is growing in Zoe’s approach with an article appearing in The Times – it’s behind a pay firewall, but here’s the University of Brighton report on the article about Zoe in The Times.


Meet a Curriculum Adviser: Holly Raber

Photo of Holly interviewing using SkypeHolly Raber is a student Curriculum Adviser who is in her third year studying for a BA in English Language and Linguistics. For her Curriculum Adviser project she worked with her lecturers Sarah Varney-Burch and Vy Rajapillai to interview Professor Suresh Canagarajah, who is the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Applied linguistics, English, and Asian studies at Pennsylvania State University, USA. The interview took place via Skype and was recorded, and is being edited to make 3 vodcasts that will be used in teaching in the English Language programme.

Professor Canagarajah is from Sri Lanka and taught in universities in Sri Lanka before having a long career in the USA, where he does research into translingualism, language as a mobile resource, and code meshing, which relate to people’s ability to communicate across cultural and linguistic divides. His own background feeds into his teaching as he teaches groups of multilingual students. As Holly says “he is very candid about his own linguistic background and… and how this helps him when he is with his students”.

She decided to join the project because she wanted to give something back to the course, and because she was interested in learning different things, and interviewing Professor Canagarajah seemed like a great opportunity to do a decolonisation project, although as Holly points out “It’s the first time I’ve come across decolonising the curriculum. I wasn’t really aware… of how much middle aged white men dominated all the literature”. So this was an important opportunity to do something different.

Kingston University’s Curriculum Consultants Scheme

Kingston university building








A new journal article has just been published in Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching on Kingston University’s Student Curriculum Consultants Scheme, which was one of the inspirations for the University of Brighton’s Curriculum Advisers initiative. Their Curriculum Consultants “work with staff in a variety of ways, providing feedback on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) experience of individual modules, the inclusivity of teaching resources, and areas where the curriculum represents potential barriers to some groups of students”. There were many interesting and useful findings that can be fed into this project – particularly on the effect it had on students themselves:

“Perhaps one of the most significant impacts that the programme has had is to engender the principles of inclusion in the consultants themselves… One of the consultants commented: ‘I learned to think about things from not just my own perspective’. Similarly, another consultant said: ‘the job challenges you to think from various people’s perspective’.”

The article gives some great case studies that can help develop new projects, as well as having lots of background info on why these kinds of projects are great!

Annie Livingstone Hughes, Christina Michener, Kamal Mohamed, Nona McDuff 2019 Curriculum co-creation as a transformative strategy to address differential student outcomes: the example of Kingston University’s Student Curriculum Consultant Programme. In Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching. Volume 12 Issue 1.



New Approaches to Creating Reading Lists

photo of shelves of books

Reviewing, refreshing, and revisiting reading lists is, on the surface of it a straightforward activity. Isn’t this what happens every year to keep course materials up to date? But this is a very different kind of activity when considered as part of Developing Learning Communities, and it highlights that these are more than just things to read. The contents of reading lists represent what is central, valued and embedded within a discipline and a curriculum – what is left out is as important as what is in, how they are organised and presented reflects the values of their creators. This blog post on creating reading lists called The Forgotten Stage of Designing the Curricula asks a series of challenging questions that can be used by staff and students when they are reviewing their reading lists:

  1. Why do you want your students to learn about this subject?
  2. What do you envision is/are the possible social change(s) may come from this course?
  3. What are the different perspectives that can be included in your reading list?
  4. What are the leading arguments concerning this topic? Are they the only ones which students should be considering?
  5. What are the range of contexts which should be considered?
  6. What type of sources are you offering your students in their reading lists? Is there a range?
  7. What types of questions do you want your students to ask about this subject? Why?
  8. What role can the Library play in supporting academics in this forgotten stage of designing a decolonised curricula?

Their focus is on decolonising the curriculum, but questions of perspective, contexts, and range of sources are relevant to all inclusive practice approaches. Perhaps the most important question is “what type of questions do you want your students to ask?” – not what questions, but what type of questions.

Thinking of planning a staff-student project?

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The Developing Learning Communities initiative encourages people to think about chains of partnership activities all linked together, rather than focussing on just one partnership activity, which on its own may involve just a handful of students, or quite a small resource being created. This Planning and Evaluation Grid helps develop your ideas, and also evaluate the success of the project in terms of how many students and staff were involved and what the students level of input was.

To give you an idea of how this could work, here is a description of an imaginary project:

During a course meeting the course reps give staff some feedback that they’d collected from the students in their year – they felt really overwhelmed and stressed during the final week of term when they were tired but still had quite a few hand-ins. They were dreading the end of next term when several assignments were all due in. It was too late to move the submission dates, but staff and students decided to work on a project together. A group of them got together over coffee in the canteen and talked through some ideas. The five students thought that tiredness and feeling drained was a key part of the problem, rather than a need for more academic advice. Between them they decided they could create a two minute audio motivational message for each day of hand-in week. Students then met separately to consider who should read the message, and what the content should be. They decided on Stress-busters! as the name of the project and one quickly pulled together a logo. Staff then organised getting staff members to participate, and wrote the 2 minute scripts that were approved by students. Staff then released these during assessment week. The course reps then collected feedback on the project from the rest of the year, and a few of them were invited to co-present the idea at the School T&L Day.

One way of evaluating this would be to say that five students were involved in creating 10 minutes worth of resources, but actually all students in the year were involved and were impacted, and students took roles including being consulted, collaborating with staff, working in partnership and taking control of some aspects of the project, and in inspiring, planning, rolling out, evaluating and disseminating it. This Planning and Evaluation Grid Exemplar gives you some idea of what that project could look like if captured in this way.

Meet a Curriculum Adviser: The Digital-Wellbeing Project

photo of smart phone with social media apps

Written by Josephine Hart.

For this project I worked in partnership with David Harley, senior lecturer in applied social sciences and author of Cyberpsychology as Everyday Digital Experience across the Lifespan. We both felt that of the possible topics, we would be best suited to try and integrate topics of digital-wellbeing into the curriculum.

In our first meeting, we picked apart what was meant by “digital-wellbeing” and what issues might specifically affect the staff and students of Brighton university. We came up with four distinct areas:

â—Ź Cyberbullying.
â—Ź Digital Inclusion.
â—Ź Problematic Use.
â—Ź Engagement with Technology in a Social Learning Context.

In our next meeting, we delved a little deeper into each each of the above issues, and discussed the most effective way of disseminating this information. We identified that both staff and students would benefit from this information, and that we should focus our efforts within the school of applied social science as we felt we would have the most opportunity for impact here.

As the field of digital-wellbeing is still relatively new, we decided that conducting a small research project would be useful in our understanding of how digital technologies impact people within the university. With the support of David I designed a between groups experiment examining the effects of smartphone usage and presence within a social learning context. This research gained tier one ethical approval from the Cross-School Research Ethics Committees (CRECs) and the External REC Review Panel (ERRP). Sixty participants were recruited for this study from the school of applied social sciences and humanities respectively. The findings from this study were that people felt more socially connected when their smartphones were put away. This was an interesting finding as it furthers the debate on whether or not smartphones should be restricted in certain places or during certain activities. From a digital-wellbeing point of view it is certainly worth considering the social and psychological impact of being in a phone present or phone free environment.

Following this experiment I gave a 15-minute presentation on “digital-wellbeing”, specifically focusing on problematic use of smartphones and social media, as well as some positive ways in which we can use technology.

Fig 1. iPhone Screentime App and Android Digital Wellbeing app.

Building on the interest generated by the first presentation, myself and David designed a second presentation and seminar activity on “Digital Kindness”. This was presented to first year psychology students enrolled in the psychology of wellbeing module. Unlike the first presentation “Digital Kindness” was designed to be an interactive experience, in which students used their phones to post comments and answer questions live during the talk.

Fig 2. Student comments: Interactive portion of the “digital kindness” seminar activity.

Overall I found this project extremely enjoyable. David was an invaluable in providing information and encouraging me to push my ideas further than I would have been comfortable otherwise. I found working in partnership with a member of academic staff extremely informative. I was also surprised by how much trust and independence I was allowed, and I really feel this helped me develop my professional skills.

Over the next few weeks, we will be working on transforming the materials we have created into online resources for anyone to use, with the hope that they will provide information on digital well-being as well as an example of what can be achieved in a student/staff partnership.