Staffordshire University recently held the Learning and Teaching Festival (LTF [Monday 6 June to Friday 10 June 2022]). The festival provided an opportunity for the University community to share and develop innovative learning and teaching practices from across the University. The day consisted of a variety of different styles of talks (e.g. presentations, simulations, workshops, demonstrations, discussions, and 5-minute pecha kucha) across diverse topic areas. There were also opportunities for networking as people from across the University came together to share practice. The festival talks covered several key themes, including: Learning support; Co-creation between peers, staff, and students; Digital technology; Social mobility and resilience; Innovative pedagogies; Employment; and Addressing differential outcomes for students.
Several talks were provided by members of the Psychology department. Dr Dan Herron and MSc Foundations in Clinical Psychology student, Jack Beardmore, discussed experiences of using a world café to understand student feedback. Dr Jenny Taylor and Dr Nikki Street delivered an interactive session providing attendees with a taster of the mindfulness intervention they recently facilitated for Psychology students which was aimed at improving a range of outcomes including wellbeing, resilience and student experience.
Using a world café to gain a rich understanding of student feedback
By Dr Dan Herron & Jack Beardmore
When I (Dan) saw the abstract call for the LTF I thought my recent experiences of gaining rich feedback from students was an example of good practice which would be useful to share across the University. Jack and I wanted to provide an interactive demonstration of how I gained a deeper understanding of MSc student feedback (mid-course) using a world café technique.
Before jumping into my reflections of the workshop, it is important to reflect on the reasons for why I decided to collect this feedback and in this format. The main driving force was that the previous years end of course feedback did not provide the reasoning behind the student scores. For example, students identify on a scale from definitely agree to definitely disagree with written responses, where students can provide reasons, being optional. Therefore, from my experiences with world cafes, I thought this method would be ideal and provide rich insight, which would allow for informed changes to the course.
It is also important to understand a little bit about what world cafés are and how I applied them. How world cafés are utilised varies based on their purpose- for gaining student feedback, I had two one-hour world cafés (same time and same place but a week apart) because of the availability of students. As illustrated in Diagram 1, world cafés can consist of several tables, and on each table, there is a host who facilitates the discussion, and 4-5 participants. We had one question per round (all students, across all tables, discussed the same question at the same time) and there were seven rounds across the two sessions. After each round, students moved (as randomly as possible) to different tables.
Jack and I worked collaboratively to develop and deliver the workshop. I asked Jack to come along and provide his perspective (as a participant) of world cafés to gain student feedback. We had planned for it to be an interactive workshop, where the audience took part in a mini- world café, but due to the amount of people in the audience (less than needed) we decided to go to plan B and focus more on our experiences of the world café sessions. For different, but interlinked reasons, we both found usefulness in world cafes- for me, they helped to provide rich insight which was developed through collaborative discussion between students; for Jack, it provided the space and opportunity to dive deeper into their issues, share perspectives and give feedback as a community. We shared these views and experiences with the audience.
We had interesting and useful feedback about the content of the talk and suggestions of how it could be used beyond feedback (something I have previously done when teaching thematic analysis). I feel Jack’s perspective, as a participant, really added value to the talk.
Mindful Students: Mindfulness interventions to improve student outcomes
By Dr Jenny Taylor and Dr Nikki Street
This interactive workshop discussed the background research exploring how and why mindfulness interventions may have had a positive impact on student experience as well as providing a taster of a mindfulness intervention in the form of a guided meditation recently delivered to a small group of our undergraduate psychology students. The benefits of mindfulness are well known, particularly in terms of health and wellbeing. The general benefits of engaging in mindfulness for students in a learning context are also well documented but we know less about its impact on specific constructs such as resilience, perceived academic control, and sense of belonging. The research also is lacking more qualitative insight into the impact of mindfulness therefore our study looks at not only quantitative changes across an intervention but also explored students individual experiences in qualitative interviews to offer further understanding of the potential benefits that practice can have.
Both Nikki and Jenny are trained Mindfulness Now practitioners (a version of mindfulness that is approved by the British Psychological Society) and, as academics, are particularly interested in how mindfulness can help our students.
Nikki and Jenny were awarded funding from the Staffordshire Centre of Learning and Pedagogic practice (SCoLLP) to explore the impact of an 8-week mindfulness intervention on a range of student outcomes including wellbeing, resilience, belongingness, perceived academic control, and student experience. The weekly sessions involved Nikki and Jenny facilitating a small group of students to engage with mindfulness in a variety of different formats including meditation, activities, stories and poems, as well as providing space for personal enquiry and reflection. Students were also encouraged to engage in some mindfulness ‘homework’ each week in order to further enhance their practice.
To assess its impact, students were asked to complete a survey pre and post intervention as well as taking part in a follow up interview about their experiences. This data will be analysed in conjunction with data we collect from the additional roll out of the intervention. To date, feedback from the students has been overwhelmingly positive with one student commenting on their general enjoyment of the intervention:
Another student commented specifically on how they felt the intervention had helped them during the examination period:
The workshop delivered for the LTF presented an overview of the project, our reflections so far, as well as a taster of some of the practices that we guide our students through. The workshop led to some interesting discussions around the potential use of mindfulness for students across different contexts and discussion around potential cross discipline applications.
The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.