Academic Wellbeing and Success
Wellbeing is a term that is used to mean a range of mental and physical approaches to feeling good as an individual. As educators at myprofessorbyasc.com we are interested in your academic wellbeing. For us, this is the effective use of the skills which drive academic success. The whole nation’s wellbeing is being challenged more than ever today due to the Coronavirus pandemic and self-care is important. In this blog we look at ways you can think about academic wellbeing and self-care to help you progress on your course.
There are so many elements to success at university – knowing your subject is probably the most important – but at undergraduate and postgraduate level it’s how you present and critique that knowledge that gets grades. There is a learning journey that happens through school and university which can get you to the top grades. But not everyone travels at the same speed or arrives at the destination at the correct time.
The skills that you need for success require as much attention as the core knowledge you have to remember to pass exams or answer assignment questions. If the skills aren’t in place then the facts won’t be well presented, critiqued or discussed. Thinking around your subject, reading with a critical eye, developing a personal academic stance, are approaches to academic study which enhance your subject knowledge and help you to produce high quality work. These skills are often overlooked, sometimes because it takes effort to develop the skills to a suitable level. It’s not just younger learners who may find this challenging. We have taught lots of mature students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level who have used our service to improve their skills.
As students, you have had to endure the most disruptive and disturbing global event for a generation, which will, undoubtedly, affect everyone’s learning journey. The pandemic has injected a huge amount of uncertainty and anxiety into our everyday lives which we could not have anticipated a year ago. Being a student at university doesn’t cut you off from uncertainty in the wider community. You have had to deal with the confusion over the A level results in the summer and the spread of the Covid-19 virus on campus. At the same time, universities are implementing the stringent health and safety regulations demanded by the government. There has been a lot of focus in the British media on how universities are dealing with the crisis, for better and for worse. Who knew the academic year 2020/21 would be so tumultuous?
In the meantime, you and your uni friends are in halls of residence or house shares trying to get on with the everyday reality of your course of study. Of course, it isn’t easy starting university during a pandemic but whatever stage of learning you are at there will be concerns. At myprofessorbyasc.com we have seen many students navigate the ups and downs of the academic cycle. As personal academic tutors we have witnessed the wide range of issues which concern students during their undergraduate or postgraduate degree courses. These issues are bound to be magnified during these difficult times. But we have also seen how resilient, creative and determined students can be to overcome issues. Our experience tells us that one thing is certain, individual students react differently to challenges and one size does not fit all in terms of academic support.
Academic wellbeing is rarely discussed in academic forums. There has been a big focus on attainment in universities in recent years. University league tables and the Teaching Excellence Framework have ramped up the competition. Whilst these rankings might help you to choose a destination university, they don’t necessarily help to foster the development of holistic skills that support academic achievement.
So, how do you begin to practice academic wellbeing?
Firstly, you have to know yourself. Think about which bits of academic study you find the easiest or most accessible. It might be remembering data, reading quickly, efficient note-taking or proficient use of tech. Capitalise on your strengths as much as possible. Can you use them to help you in other areas? If so how? Can technology help if you find reading to be a challenge or improve your time-management? Once you have acknowledged your strengths consider which areas you find more difficult. Make a list! Think carefully about the feedback you get from tutors, what are the areas for improvement? Break them down into individual elements. Universities often have academic advice services (usually located in the library), you could make an appointment with them.
Alternatively, there are lots of online resources which can help such as, Using English for Academic Purposes or the Academic Phrasebank; treat these resources as the yoga mat, cross-trainer or running shoes which you would use to practice academic wellbeing. As with all things it takes practice and requires some effort but without thinking about how to use your skills effectively it is unlikely that your work will improve substantially.
It may seem a bit superfluous discussing this at a time when there is so much going on in the world but if you are a student, and you want to progress, you can’t ignore this dimension of learning. Our experience shows that the main benefit of taking this seriously is that students who work on their academic skills feel more in control of their learning which is more important now than ever. A time when this is especially true is when students begin work on their dissertations. Writing a dissertation demands that you bring together all of your subject knowledge and skills to produce an extensive, original piece of work. Students often feel that the work is in control rather than them being in control of the work! Once you begin to focus on the process and the capabilities you have to drive through the task it becomes much more manageable. These are skills and capabilities which will be used in your professional and personal lives in the future. It’s not just a uni thing!
Taking advice and discussing your academic wellbeing should be part of your academic exercise regime. Thinking about how you approach an assessment task is just as important as getting started. Don’t rush work, it will show in the final submission. You can talk to other students on your course, your lecturers, university support services or online services such as myprofessorbyasc.com.
So, although these are difficult times and you may feel that university is challenging at the moment there are things you can do to help keep your academic wellbeing in good condition and there are places where you can look for help and advice.
Good luck and stay safe!