The student experience

This month, our guest editors, Dr. Benjamin Cheung and Hiro Ito, will be exploring the topic of the student experience, and sharing a few resources that can be helpful for promoting student wellbeing in the context of teaching and learning. Benjamin is a lecturer and Indigenous Initiatives Coordinator in the Department of Psychology. He has research interests in teaching and learning, service and experiential learning, cultural psychology, and student engagement. Hiro is an undergraduate student studying Psychology and Health and Society. She has worked as a research assistant with the Health Promotion and Education Unit in the Department of Student Services and is currently working with the UBC Health and Adult Development Lab.

Communication can be a powerful tool for fostering student wellbeing and humanizing student-instructor interactions. Hiro experienced this first-hand when she visited Benjamin’s “Bagels with Ben” office hours as a student in his PSYC 217 class. Through fun discussions about their favourite eateries, Benjamin was able to foster a learning environment that allowed students like Hiro to feel welcomed in the class. During this unprecedented time, Benjamin continues to connect with his students through interactive #MukBenCh chat sessions on Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.

These positive student-instructor interactions exemplify how a sense of connection and social belonging can impact student wellbeing and learning. As highlighted by UBC Wellbeing, there are several ways in which instructors can consider the student experience in their teaching practices. For example, instructors can recognize that the student experience extends beyond academics by also engaging in conversation not directly related to the course, and support students’ learning and motivation by helping students find value in the learning process. These teaching practices can be beneficial for students in both online and in-person learning environments.

The Myth of ‘Learning Styles’

Learning styles is a persistent myth in psychology. While many people swear by a particular learning style (e.g. visual, auditory/aural), Olga Khazan’s article highlights evidence that matching study habits with learning styles doesn’t necessarily improve academic performance. Insisting on studying this way may lead to frustration and academic disengagement. Students should study in ways that are suitable for the content or that lead to deeper understanding instead.
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Instructors play a key role in the student experience.

In recent years, the Wellbeing in Learning Environments movement has gained momentum across many higher education institutions. One of the highlighted features is the role that instructors play in shaping how students experience the learning environment.
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Supporting student wellbeing during the pandemic means being mindful of a few extra considerations.

While the impact that instructors can have on their students’ wellbeing remains unchanged, the current situation has led to additional considerations for supporting students in remote learning environments. Based on the preliminary findings of research focused on Australian students engaged in online learning, Dr. Nicole Crawford shares seven practical tips on how to support student wellbeing during this challenging time.
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Take the time to chat.

Now more than ever, instructors may wish to explicitly discuss wellbeing topics with their students. In this powerful article, Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda shares his experience facilitating wellbeing discussions in the classroom. By sharing his students’ feedback and gratitude, Dr. Pegoda stresses the importance of creating safe spaces for wellbeing discourse in the classroom.
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Let’s not forget about graduate student wellbeing.

When discussing student wellbeing on campus, graduate students are often overlooked even though many graduate students report struggling with wellbeing, as Kathryn R. Wendemeyer-Strombel’s article discusses. She mentions her personal struggles as a graduate student and provides advice for graduate students.
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What about instructor wellbeing?

Embedding wellbeing practices may seem like a daunting task. However, it’s important to remember that there are lower stakes ways to incorporate these practices into the classroom. There may even be practices that you have already introduced to your teaching that fosters student wellbeing. That being said, instructors need to take the time to care for their wellbeing as well. In this article, Andrea Eidinger shares her tips on how instructors can maintain their emotional boundaries.
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Enjoyed reading about The Student Experience? Learn about other topics we covered in the May 2020 edition by reading the complete Edubytes newsletter. To view past issues, visit the Edubytes archive.

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