The Healthy Campus Initiative has partnered with Employee Learning & Development and GBC's Retention Initiative to collaborate on an exciting new project – an online hub of videos featuring GBC's own faculty sharing their best practices in fostering well-being in the classroom. Grounded in an understanding of the important connections between emotions and learning, these short videos will support GBC faculty in understanding how to create learning environments that foster well-being and allow students to bring their 'whole selves' to the table.
Why this? Why now? Why faculty?
Not quite sure what faculty teaching practices have to do with student mental health? Isn't mental health Counselling Services' job?
Over the last ten years there has been an upsurge in research exploring the connections between student well-being and student success, learning, and retention (El Ansari & Stock, 2010; DeBerard, Spielmans & Julka, 2004; California Education Supports Project, 2009; Caulfield, 2007; Larson, 2009; University of Minnesota, 2008). It has been found in numerous studies that this relationship is multi-faceted: student well-being has a positive impact on learning, stress has been linked to decreased academic performance (Felsten & Wilcox, 1992), and the learning environment can both positively and negatively influence student well-being. This research supports the implementation of a broad, systemic approach to mental health promotion in schools that examines how all aspects of college life influence student mental health. For example, “there is evidence from the elementary secondary schools and higher education settings that classroom culture, course design, curriculum, assessment, assignments, physical spaces and instructors themselves may all have the ability to impact student well-being” (Dhaliwal & Stanton, 2013, p. 2).
Fostering mental health and well-being in post-secondary learning environments has also been shown to equip students with important skills and resiliency that they carry with them after they graduate:
Mental health is essential to students' academic success as well as their ability to participate fully and meaningfully throughout all aspects of their lives and throughout their lifespan. Empowering students to participate actively in maintaining their well-being as well as addressing mental health issues sets the foundation for increased ability to sustain well-being throughout their lives. (CACUSS/CMHA, 2013, p. 7)
Recent research in self-regulation has also greatly contributed to an understanding of how stressors impact students' ability to learn; academic success is highly influenced by one's ability to self-regulate (Shanker, 2012). The work of Dr. Stuart Shanker and others in the field of self-regulation helps us to understand the complex interplay between college stressors and student reactions to stress – in the biological, emotional, and cognitive domains.
For many people who work with students, the idea that students' well-being impacts their learning feels like common sense. However, recent research and guidance in this area can help college staff and students understand the complexity of stress and anxiety and how they might manifest in student behaviour, strategies that work to help students increase self-awareness, and ways to guide students to a 'calm, focused, and alert' way of being, thus maximizing their learning potential. The existence of confirming research and examples of promising practice can be extremely helpful in turning a best practice into a mass movement. Given this fact, this moment is a very good time to be doing this work, and faculty are some of the best-placed GBC staff to be leading the way!
Canadian Association of College & University Student Services & Canadian Mental Health Association. (2013). Post-Secondary Student Mental Health: Guide to a Systemic Approach. Vancouver, BC: C. Washburn, S.T. Teo, R. Knodel, J. Morris.
California Education Supports Project. (n.d.). The critical connection between student health and academic achievement: How schools and policy makers can achieve a positive impact. University of California: California.
Caulfield, S. (2007). Student health: Supporting the academic mission. Student Health Spectrum: 3-24. The Chickering Group.
DeBerard, M., Spielmans, S., & Julka, D. (2004). Predictors of academic achievement and retention among college freshman: a longitudinal study. College Student Journal, 38, 66.
Dhaliwal, R. & Stanton, A. (2013). SFU health promotion: Well-being in learning environments rationale. Vancouver: Simon Fraser University.
El Ansari, W. & Stock, C. (2010). Is the health and wellbeing of university students associated with their academic performance? Cross sectional findings from the United Kingdom. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 7, 509-527.
Felsten, G. & Wilcox, K. (1992). Influences of stress and situation-specific mastery beliefs and satisfaction with social support on well-being and academic performance. Psychological Reports, 70, 291-303.
Larson, M. (2009). Health risks and academic performance: implications for college students, faculty, and administration. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, 69, 3049.
Shanker, S. (2012). Calm, alert and learning: Classroom strategies for self-regulation. Toronto: Pearson Canada.
University of Minnesota. (2008). Health and academic performance: Minnesota undergraduate students 2007 college student health survey report. Boynton Health service: University of Minnesota.