As we look forward to our next student hackathon we have taken the opportunity to pause and reflect the outcomes of July’s event.
During the hackathon, students reflected on their learning experiences and took part in activities to promote discussions about ‘What teaching and learning activities best support a sense of belonging and well-being?’. Students identified that developing a greater sense of belonging, through a stronger connection with the University of Bristol and increased engagement with their peers, would benefit both their well-being and academic outcomes. To attain this, students highlighted the need for the integration of well-being and belonging within academic learning.
In the final hackathon presentations four main themes emerged:
Create time and space for directed informal collaborative learning opportunities.
Frontload expectations, especially in relation to assessment.
Build in a sense of belonging and well-being within formal learning environments.
Increase opportunities for informal and open discussions with academics.
But what does that look like?
Create time and space for directed informal and collaborative learning
- Provide opportunities for students to build friendships in the classroom. Use seating plans and consistent groupings for a limited time to enable connections to be made.
- Organise a specific time and space for small group exercises without the presence of an academic.
- Establish reading groups to build connections through a common interest. Ensure groups represent different cultures and experiences. This will allow students to learn about expectations from each other and develop peer-to-peer support.
- Require students to plan and deliver unassessed presentations with peers who are both friends and strangers.
- Enable independent study to become collaborative by creating and timetabling writing/study groups to support those who are working independently to sit with others.
Frontload expectations, especially in relation to assessment
- Tell students about the expectations of the unit prior to the start of formal teaching, including assessments.
- Use student expectation surveys to find out about preconceptions in relation to both academic and emotional aspects of units of learning prior to teaching. Use the results to pre-empt and address misunderstandings and concerns before they arise.
- Make it clear what formative assessments are. International students are often unaware of the concept and purpose. The creation of study groups can answer those questions as well as addressing well-being without adding to the academic’s workload.
- Reiterate key messages throughout the learning and be consistent.
Build in a sense of belonging and well-being in formal learning environments
- Get student feedback on more than academic content. Hold in-lecture voting about emotions as well. For instance, how are you finding the pace of the lecture? How confident are you?
- Remove the disconnect between well-being and academic learning. Signpost support at relevant points within units. For example, when leading into an assessment period acknowledge that it can be a stressful time and signpost Mental health and well-being services. Or when approaching an essay reference the Study Skills service.
- In hybrid lectures build communities by explicitly connecting learning between lectures to create a sense of belong through subject.
- Support well-being by explicitly teaching learning styles. For example, how to make notes, approach a practical, or communicate in a group.
Increase opportunities for informal and open discussions with academics
- When holding seminars and discussions academics to sit with students and join in.
- Establish a space and time outside of the classroom for informal chats between academics and students. Be clear when and where this appropriate.
- Promote and enable curious enquires to be discussed. These could be held post lecture online or via Microsoft Forms.