You will hear a lot about active learning at USW. It might seem daunting, if you don’t know what it is. It means that, alongside traditional lectures, you’ll do the kind of learning that lets you test learning and ideas out. There are lots of types of active learning tasks you might do on your course. A few common ones are:
Active learning can be challenging, but should challenge you in a good way, stretching you just enough. Try to participate as fully as you can and remember that rising to challenge and gaining meaningful understanding boosts wellbeing. Taking a deeper approach like this is connected with feeling happy. It feels good when you achieve something and realise how much you already know.
At the same time, be kind to yourself if you sometimes can’t participate because of barriers, life experiences and circumstances, and so on. If you feel any active learning tasks might cause you difficulty, remember that you can ask staff on your course to consider this and give everyone advance notice about certain things. It isn't unreasonable to request information ahead of time about tasks that require physical effort or large amounts of social interaction, or involve loud noise, flashing/flickering lights, strong smells, and food or drink.
To support full participation in learning, it’s helpful to think about some things to be aware of and how you can look after your wellbeing. Below are some things to explore. You might feel some or none of them apply to you and be tempted to skip it. Read it anyway. You are part of a community at USW and you should try to learn a bit about each other and be aware of some of the things people might be dealing with.
Social isolation is difficult because we need each other to survive, though sometimes it can feel very hard to engage with other people. In your studies, you are learning with and from other people. Try to participate socially on your course as much as you feel you can. This is especially important if it’s difficult for you to socialise in other ways at university because of things like other responsibilities, part-time work, or other access barriers.
Social isolation might be particularly difficult if you’re an international student as you might be geographically further away from family, friends and community. Watch the video below. David Pye from USW’s Students’ Union talks about personal experiences of being an international student, living and studying away from home, and social isolation. The video has captions in English.
As David says in the video, seek out support if you need it. Have a look at the information on where to go if you need help as a starting point to see what’s available.
When we learn, we make mistakes, and it can make us feel vulnerable. Active learning enables up to try things out and it might not always result in expected results. This offers opportunities to learn, including about ourselves. It also sometimes alters our perspective about ways of approaching learning tasks, as well as about the world more widely. It helps to form good relationships with people on your course, build each other up and help each other when you do make mistakes. It’s good to be sensitive and constructive when you’re pointing out someone else’s mistake too.
Try to spread your workload out and give yourself breaks to do things like spend time with friends or family, especially around assessment time. Swap ideas on your course about managing time and deadlines. You might also find it useful to arrange group study sessions to help keep you on course with deadlines. If you have a lot of bunching of assessment deadlines, feed it back in course and module evaluation and through your Course representatives and Student Voice representatives.
These feelings can happen at any point during your time at USW. They often relate to ways you might feel different from other students. For example, you might feel this if you are the first in your family to be attending university and have had less opportunity to get to know the hidden ‘norms’ and ‘code’ at university. You may feel like you don’t belong at university. It can make you feel you have less to contribute and it's harder to speak up. As much as you can, try to engage in learning and the wider university. That can help you absorb some of the hidden code so you can use it strategically. There are many people at USW of different ages, socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, disabilities, genders, sexualities, religions, body sizes, and so on, and you are here because you have a lot to offer. You can make contributions that are meaningful to you. You can connect people with different experiences, perspectives and communities. You’ll also likely be able to offer a deeper understanding of how interdependent we really are as human beings.
Sometimes you’ll do activities in teams. This can feel daunting but try to think of working together as opportunities to help each other and build good relationships and friendships. Take the time to learn about your peers, and don’t push anyone to share anything they don’t want to. Remember that people have different communication styles. When responding to someone, especially when giving feedback on oral work, try not to focus on language style, pronunciation, body language, and tone of voice. Give feedback on the work, not the person. It’s usually helpful to focus on what you didn’t understand or if there’s missing detail. It may also be useful to have a team agreement that plans out who takes on what roles and who does what work and when.
If you have a history of trauma because of very stressful, frightening, harassing, or distressing experiences, sometimes the way you’re asked to participate in learning tasks can create issues. Remember that you don't need to share anything personal about yourself, that you can leave the room if you need to, and you may sometimes be able to opt-out altogether from activities that cause you distress. Remember that you can reach out for help if you need it, for example, via the Wellbeing Service. The section below provides some information about where to go if you need help.
There’s lots available at USW if you need help to support your wellbeing in learning. Below are some pointers to help you find what you need. You can also browse the A-Z to find useful information or contact the Advice Zone if you’re not sure where to go for help. USW offers mental health and counselling services and has a ‘Dignity at Study’ policy for issues related to things like bullying and harassment at USW.
Academic work at university can be quite different to academic work you have done elsewhere, especially in assessment. Assessment can be a very emotional process too. It can feel like you’re submitting not just your work, but yourself, for scrutiny. Student Development and Study Skills offer group workshops and one-to-one tutor sessions which offer safer spaces to talk about your concerns. Watch the video below. Staff member Jake Buckley talks about how the Student Development and Study Skills service can support your wellbeing. The video has captions.
Jake discusses mentoring in the video. You might want to join the mentoring schemes, so you have someone to talk with who has been through similar learning experiences to you.
You can also try the following links to help you with other academic-related concerns, including finding dedicated space to study (individually or in groups).
If you are on a course where placements are a significant element, you will usually find there is specific information related to placements available via your course. Seek this out. Ask staff on your course if you’re not sure where to find it. If you’re not on this type of course, try the links below.
If you need other kinds of help not mentioned on this page, or you are not sure where to go, staff on your course and Personal Academic Coaches can often direct your queries, or you can contact the Advice Zone.
To get help with your mental health needs, such as anxiety and depression, check out the Mental Wellbeing Service.
The Students’ Union is there to support and help students in any kind of situation. Whether it be academic or wellbeing support, the Students’ Union can offer guidance and advice. The Students' Union fosters a friendly and approachable space for all students regardless of their background or beliefs.
The Students’ Union also facilitates events that are inclusive, and that any student is welcome to attend. The Students’ Union assists students who may need support for their mental health and wellbeing especially in relation to the COVID pandemic.