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Wellbeing in learning and assessment: Session abstracts

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Wellbeing in the curriculum: what Bristol students have to say – Ros O’Leary (Acting Director of BILT/Associate Professor in Learning and Teaching)

‘The student is perforce required to venture into new places, strange places, anxiety-provoking places. This is part of the point of higher education.  If there was no anxiety, it is difficult to believe that we could be in the presence of a higher education.’  (Barnett, 2007, p. 247)  

Learning in higher education is by its very nature academically and intellectually challenging (Gibbs, 2010) and involves uncertainty and struggle for students as they grapple with new and challenging concepts (Meyer, Land and Baillie, 2009). Research which connects mental wellbeing issues such as anxiety with intolerance of uncertainty (Buhr and Dugas, 2009) suggests students’ abilities to deal with this uncertainty in learning  has arguably decreased: in 2020 more higher education students than recorded before reported mental distress or a decrease in mental wellbeing, which has worsened following the pandemic (Neves and Hewitt, 2020; Pereira et al., 2020).

This research study has explored the perceptions of second year undergraduates on 3 courses across the disciplines at the University of Bristol. The students engaged in an online survey and student friendship conversations – where in friendship pairs students discussed their experiences around themes of academic challenge and wellbeing.

This session explores the findings and the implications for how we design teaching and curricula that is both academically challenging, yet positively supports student mental wellbeing.

Panel discussion in response to Ros’ presentation – A panel made up of the following staff and students will bring their knowledge and experience to respond to the above presentation by Ros O’Leary and consider ways forward for wellbeing in the curriculum.

Panel members will include:

  • BILT Associates: Dr Alicia Gonzalez-Buelga (Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering), Dr Rabeya Khatoon (Senior Lecturer in Economics), Dr Christophe Fricker (Lecturer in Modern Languages) and Dr Lloyd Fletcher (Senior Lecturer in Management).
  • BILT Student Fellows – Ellen Graves (Blended learning and online community) and Kai Charles (Experiences of disabled students). 
  • Professor Tansy Jessop (Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education).

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