Support is a word that many people shrink away from. It can suggest ‘You are weak’, ‘Something is lacking in you that needs fixing’. Many students would rather suffer low mental wellbeing than walk through a door where the word ‘Support’ is written because it is like admitting weakness and defeat.
It is a question that LifeRoute raises – are there things within our evolved education pedagogies that infer to the students that there can’t be anything nothing wrong with the systems therefore the cause of issues must be within themselves? Does the fact that ‘this is the way things have been done for generations’ promote an attitude of ‘gold standard’ equivalents that are not open to question?
Whilst societal influences and messaging may contribute to a sense of personal disempowerment, the Thriving Learners research conducted by Scotland Universities / Mental Health Foundation highlighted within the 15,000 student respondents in Scotland, that they felt they were being ‘pushed’ down a ‘default pathway’ towards services such as counseling and clinical intervention in the absence of alternatives. Despite their intuitive feeling that these services were not the optimal solution, but just the best of what was being offered beyond the advice to go for a walk.
At the same time, the majority of Student Support Services would agree that mental wellbeing support was not the originally intended design and purpose.
The non-cognitive thinking skills to cope with the everyday stresses of life are the same skills that can be encouraged to develop in the student through the design in which curriculum content is covered. These include the ability to question and to problem solve either by oneself or in collaboration with others, which 75% of employers state they especially need but find lacking in the students they hire.
Whether it is spoon-feeding or ramming facts into the student’s mind, just as a postman would deliver mail through the letterbox, is not a diet for mental wellbeing. It just creates lecture theatres and tutor/seminar rooms full of zombies.
When the educator hones their own meta-cognitive and non-cognitive skills, which include abilities to question and problem-solve, to discover creative ways, to collaborate, to show caring and cooperation, then they automatically role model and start the ‘educere’ of education: the drawing out of the best in students. As the educator grows, so too will the student. And where there is growth there automatically is the feeling of wellbeing.