It’s a chilly but bright Friday morning in October. Since starting our newly-created roles as ‘Learning Support Coordinators’ here at Farnham, my small team and I have been busy getting our teeth stuck into all manner of projects with our central (and sometimes daunting) aim being to promote and increase inclusive practices at UCA.
In the light of recent DSA changes, it would seem that a cultural shift is occurring in Learning Support. As a result of government cuts to funding we are moving from the traditional ‘deficit model’ of support which involved much one-to-one in-class support, to a new way of supporting students which we hope, ultimately, will improve the experience of teaching and learning for ALL students. How? By embedding good inclusive practices more firmly into our learning environments.
However, it’s early days! Our initial research has covered areas such as peer-buddy/mentoring schemes, improving mental health resources, support for new students during transition periods and much more, which has included looking at successful schemes running in other universities.
Today started with a meeting between us LSCs and the two counsellors here at Farnham. Although many new ideas were discussed for how we might improve mental health provision, it was also inspiring to hear more about the good practice that already exists: For example, mental health first aid training for staff, ‘mood boost’ sessions for students (to enable students to identify their own ‘tool kit’ of resources for the difficult days), relaxation sessions, confidence building sessions. But why not encourage the increased use of social media for students in the anxiety-inducing transition stage of waiting to begin a course? Could peer-buddies be used for those who arrive early on campus and struggle to settle in? Could a support group be created specifically for the ever-increasing numbers of students struggling with anxiety? And how can we promote the increased use of what is already available??
Although I felt we could’ve usefully continued this discussion all day, it was then straight off to an ‘Open Platform’ session for all staff facilitated by the Annamarie McKie, the university Learning and Teaching Facilitator. We recently learned that these sessions are an opportunity for all staff to engage in exchange and dialogue over any aspect of teaching in the creative arts and thought we should check it out. Not long into the session we found ourselves to be very much engaged in dialogue over the nitty gritty struggles of one particular tutor grappling with issues such as retention of 1st year students. This tutor also shared some of her own techniques for enabling more effective group-work and we were struck by what a fantastic opportunity this could be for sharing good practice.
As we left the session to continue our individual research projects, we were left inspired by the good practice that is already going on right across UCA campuses. And how might we promote a greater awareness of these? How might we encourage more staff to see sessions such as these as an opportunity for sharing ideas and supporting one another, rather than another thing for the already over-stretched to-do list?
Rosie Holmes, Learning Support Co-ordinator, UCA Farnham
For further information on the role of the Learning Support Co-ordinators, please contact Sharon Hocking, Learning and enhancement support manager, UCA