• Student wellbeing and assessment in higher education: the balancing act

      Jones, Emma; Priestley, Michael; Brewster, Liz; Wilbraham, Susan J.; Hughes, Gareth; Spanner, Leigh; University of Sheffield; Durham University; Lancaster University; University of Cumbria; et al. (Informa UK Limited, 2020-06-24)
      This paper draws on staff and student consultations conducted during the development of Student Minds’ University Mental Health Charter to identify five key tensions which can arise in assessment design and strategy when seeking to balance the wellbeing of students with pedagogical, practical and policy considerations. It highlights the need to acknowledge the pressures of assessment on staff wellbeing as well as students. The particular tensions explored include the need to balance challenge against the psychological threats this can entail; the varying impacts of traditional and novel forms of assessment; the differing demands of collaborative and individual work; the tensions between ideal strategies and those which are practically feasible; and the ways in which feedback is given (as a constructive learning tool) and received (often as a psychological threat). These tensions can provide a valuable point of reflection for educators who need to critically and proactively navigate these conflicts within their own assessment design and practices, as part of a wider whole university approach to promoting student wellbeing.
    • Which aspects of university life are most and least helpful in the transition to HE? A qualitative snapshot of student perceptions

      Hughes, Gareth; Smail, Olivia; University of Derby (Informa UK Limited, 2014-12-12)
      Whilst there is a significant consensus, in the literature, that student transition to HE plays a major role in future academic performance and success, there is, as yet, no broad agreement as to how best to support students during this process. Theoretical accounts of transition offer some direction to educators but acting on these accounts may be problematic, as many students do not understand the process they are experiencing or the needs of their new environment. Without this understanding, well-developed interventions may fail to gain student engagement at that time. A better understanding of which aspects of university life do seem most relevant to students, during transition, may help universities to better target their support. This qualitative study requested two cohorts of students to respond to two open statements, seeking to identify which aspects of their experience they found most and least helpful. In this way it was hoped to gain some insight into which aspects of university life were most dominant in their thinking. To identify key themes, among which were (1) social support, (2) psychological mind-set and lifestyle, and (3) university actions, 498 responses were received, coded and analysed. Academic concerns did not appear to be a significant theme. The findings of this study suggest that transition support may gain better student engagement if it is initially focused on social integration and student wellbeing and lifestyle. Universities may also wish to pay more attention to the impact of administrative processes failing to meet student needs in the transition period.