A student wellbeing group that sees staff and students work in partnership has been named as one of the winners at the 2022 WELS Teaching Excellence Awards.
The annual event, which took place on 15 November, highlights exceptional examples of teaching that go above and beyond expectation.
Although the three winners are very different from one another, they all share a common purpose – improving the student experience and supporting learners to fulfil their potential. We are delighted to announce that the winners are:
Sarah Mander and the School of Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport (ECYS) Student Voice and Wellbeing Group* for raising the profile of student voice within ECYS and providing opportunities for students to participate at the highest levels as authentic co-creators.
Sarah Mander, Staff Tutor and Group Lead of the ECYS Student Voice and Wellbeing Group, was awarded alongside her fellow members for their efforts to promote positive wellbeing and strengthen student voice. Staff work in partnership with students, making valued contributions to The Open University that enhance everyone’s experience. Thanks to the group’s work, all WELS students now receive a Student Voice and Wellbeing Digital Induction Pack. It contains student contributions such as poetry, illustrations and anecdotes, all with the intention of removing the stigma surrounding poor mental health.
Student Ambassadors also make up the group, with many coming from a wide range of backgrounds to ensure diversity. Yasmin is one of those to benefit from being an Ambassador, and considers herself “very lucky” to be part of the group. She says, “I am very keen to represent students and make sure our voices are heard. If we all work together then big changes can happen.”
Students from the group were also acknowledged in the WELS Student Awards, winning in the Student Mentor Award category.
Deirdre Fitzpatrick, from the School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care (HWSC), for her work on enabling access to OU courses for students by removing barriers, as well as improving student outcomes and closing awarding gaps.
Deirdre Fitzpatrick was especially commended for a research project with Paulette Johnson into understanding and removing the barriers faced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students applying to the postgraduate Social Work programme. This led to a series of recommendations, several of which are already being implemented. Deirdre, who is the Professional Lead on Social Work for Scotland, also secured full funding from the Scottish Social Services Council for 11 postgraduate diploma students from under-represented or disadvantaged backgrounds.
In addition, Deirdre was recognised for being lead organiser of the conference ‘Shaping the future: Anti-racist social work’. Held for newly qualified social workers in Scotland, it was attended by 150 students and colleagues. Deirdre will next use funds granted by the Scottish government to develop work-based, social-work pathways to facilitate rural and urban-based students to progress.
Karen Storey (HWSC) and fellow module tutors** for adopting an enquiry-based learning (EBL) approach in their teaching, helping to bridge the theory-practice gap and encouraging students to take the lead in directing their learning.
Empowering students to own their learning journey resulted in Karen Storey and her fellow module tutors’ award. The enquiry-based learning method on KYN210 (Understanding nursing: knowledge and teaching) places students into small learning groups where they collaborate to gather information and research, staying connected via WhatsApp. A sense of community has developed, with students pulling together to make sure no one falls behind no matter what’s happening at home. The nature of tutorials – identifying and discussing triggers and questions for learning – also allows students who may have specific disability and learning considerations to participate, without feeling pressurised.
Dr Nicky Goodall, Lecturer in Adult Nursing and EBL specialist, explains just how valuable the approach can be when studies are completed too: “EBL helps nurses to develop as professionals. They can apply their skills to unique situations, and it also prepares them to expect they’ll encounter things they can’t do alone.”
A recent survey about EBL showed 68% of OU nursing students said it was helping their nursing practice.
The WELS Teaching Excellence Awards took place via a virtual ceremony, where the winners of the WELS Tutor and Student Awards were also announced.
Full list of ECYS Student Voice and Wellbeing Group members:
Full list of KYN210 module tutors: