Category Archives: Uncategorized

Meet another of our Student Voice Champions

As our last article explained Student Voice Champions have been recruited to represent Sport and Fitness. You previously met Chris and Yasmin and this article introduces our third champion, Will.

My name is Will, I am a Level 2 Sport and Fitness student and I will be starting my final year this coming October. When I’m not studying, I currently work as a garden landscaper        and I am a coach at my local running club taking different ability groups. Another one of my passions is Triathlon, after starting a few years ago it has become a big part of my life, it helps me keep fit and I enjoy completing new challenges. My biggest achievement to date was completing a half-ironman in 5 hours 10 minutes. I am also a keen golfer and recently I achieved my first hole in one.

I decided that I wanted to be a student voice rep to promote mental health. Due to the current situation we find ourselves in, I think many OU students could benefit from more support whether this is just someone to talk to or more support from OU staff. I will do my very best to ensure that this support is in place for you. Please feel free to get in contact with me if there is anything you need.

Twitter: @GoreWill

Email: zx674027@ou.ac.uk

Meet two of our Student Voice Champions

Student Voice Champions have been recruited to represent Sport and Fitness. These new and exciting roles are designed for students to have a voice and share opinions and ideas  that represent those on the qualification which have the potential to inform the student experience. Your Student Voice Champions have been selected as they are passionate about having a voice as students and wellbeing as well as wider influences such as curriculum design and content, equality and diversity, promoting good mental health and other topics which are important for student success.

Meet two of your Student Voice Reps below:

My name is Chris Nash and I am a Level 1 student. Outside of my OU study I work as a data manager looking after timetabling, academic data and exam results analysis for a secondary school and sixth form in Dorset. I’m also a permanent wheelchair user and profoundly deaf, and until recently was a wheelchair racer participating in elite road races up to marathon distance (and had fun doing so!).

My experiences with my disabilities have also contributed to mental health struggles and alongside tirelessly fighting for a level playing field for those with disabilities I am also a passionate advocate for providing support for those struggling with their mental health. I love interacting with others both face to face and online and hope you will find me very approachable. I’m always ready to listen if there is something you would like to share, or indeed if you just need someone to talk to – and I love hearing and sharing success stories too!

Feel free to get in touch via Twitter @blackberrychris

My name is Yasmin, I’m one of the very lucky students who is a part of the Student voice team. Some facts about me are that I’m 25, mad about disability sport and love learning new things, when we aren’t in lockdown I’m often found hiding at the gym. I am very keen to represent students and make sure our voices are heard, if we all work together then big changes can happen. I’m coming back to studying after finishing my GCSE’s I went straight into working in design. My life got flipped over and I now live life with multiple disabilities and as much as I love design, I love sport and fitness more. I have my qualification in coaching wheelchair basketball and have been involved in wheelchair sport for the past 7 years. I like to think I’m approachable and anyone is welcome to reach out about absolutely anything using my email Yr474@ou.ac.uk.

For more information on Student Voice please visit the Student Voice page of the Sport and Fitness Website.

Student Voice and Wellbeing: Making the connection

** This post was originally published on the Ed Studies (Primary) webpage on Friday 4th December**

As a Sport Studies student you are familiar with being asked your opinion, possibly connected to module experience or maybe responding to a survey about a new initiative. This culminates in the final year of under-graduate study when in the Spring the National Student Survey (NSS) consultation is conducted. The NSS collates students view with an aim to improve the overall student experience and its powerful results are openly published.

On a different subject – or is it? – levels of poor mental health and low wellbeing amongst Higher Education students are disproportionately high compared to the remainder of the UK adult population, and are increasing (Thorley, 2017). It is no surprise that higher education attainment can be affected by stress, anxiety, depression, grief, sleeping difficulties and relationship problems. Students experiencing these issues report a lower sense of belonging and engagement with their university which can affect retention and progression. In 2017, the #stepchange agenda was launched by Universities UK to improve mental health and wellbeing in universities. The #stepchange framework comprises eight strands which identify the necessary focus for change:

 

The #stepchange agenda works to increase students sense of belonging and enable students to develop their social identity. This has the potential to improve retention and academic success and ultimately to enhance student experience (Thomas, 2012). In 2020 the #stepchange agenda was developed into a University Mental Health Charter where universities are required to develop a wellbeing strategy (link to OU mental health and wellbeing strategy) and can be nationally recognised for this work.

 

The connectivity between student voice and wellbeing is evident in the way #stepchange is delivered; through co-creation between students and their university. Co-creation is the new buzzword in higher education and requires high levels of student participation, where student voice has the potential to make the most positive impact on student experience. Let’s contextualise our perspective of participation. You might be familiar with Arnstein’s model of participation, where power and control are represented in a hierarchical ladder and students (or citizens in the model) progress to achieve high levels of participation. The highest levels of participation are the hardest to achieve but bear the most fruit in respect of student experience and student success. They cultivate ‘buy in’ from students through authentic collaboration which lower levels of participation such as surveys struggle to achieve.

Arnstein’s Ladder of Participation (1969).

Research with children and young people informs us that a participatory approach to educational relationships produces the best outcomes (Lyndon in Williams-Brown and Mander, 2020). It is the same for higher education students and might be considered more meaningful because study at university is voluntary rather than statutory like school, and we engage in adult: adult relationships where power should be more evenly distributed. In respect of wellbeing, the Universities UK strategy is clear that co-creation opportunities should be available through a whole university approach if student wellbeing is to improve. However, the relinquishing of power can be uncomfortable and impractical. It is best managed as a conscious uncoupling (to use celebrity speak) of the old to introduce the new. It challenges existing, ingrained ways of working within universities, and reshapes the cultural climate which informs our identity as individuals and an institution.

One of the ways in which ECYS are improving student voice and wellbeing is to incorporate a student panel within staff recruitment processes. This happened for the first time in November 2020, with aims for it to be an integral activity in the future. Students who participated said it was a privilege and an honour, planning of activities including a scenario were enjoyable, working as a team was effective, and they felt very well supported and informed about the process. Their wellbeing was enhanced; they reported that being involved was fun and satisfying, it helped to build confidence and they felt valued because their opinion and input mattered. This leaves us wanting more student co-creation opportunities. Can you think of any you would like to be involved in? Let us know, we love to hear about them and promise to respond.

Sarah Mander is a Staff Tutor (line managing Associate Lecturers) and Tutor for E102 module. She is also a serial student, studying for a Doctorate in Education. Sarah leads the ECYS Student Voice and Wellbeing Champions group.

Sarah has researched and written about wellbeing, mental health and the student population for the publication Childhood Well-being and Resilience: influences on educational outcomes (Williams- Brown, Z. and Mander, S.Eds., 2020).

References

 Lyndon, H. (2020) ‘Listening to children the rights of the child’ In, Williams- Brown, Z. and Mander, S.Eds. ‘Childhood Well-being and Resilience: influences on educational outcomes’. Abingdon: Routledge.

Thomas, L. (2012) Building student engagement and belonging in higher education at a time of change[online]. [accessed 7 January 2020].

Thorley, C. (2017) Not by degrees: Improving student mental health in the UK’s universities. London: Institute for Public Policy Research.

Universities UK (2017) #stepchange mental health in higher education [online]. http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/stepchange/Pages/default.aspx [accessed 10 January 2020].

 

 

 

The importance of psychological resilience in extreme environments

By Dave Harrison

In extreme environments there are many things that can cause stress for people operating and performing in them. These stressors, such as isolation, danger, and risk (Smith & Barrett, 2019), would be the same for everyone at that given time but it is how an individual perceives and digests these stressors that is important to their overall experience. Indeed, extreme environments are complex, and the array of demands and stressors can give a perceived lack of control to people within them (Leach, 2016).

Resilience can help us to function more effectively under conditions within extreme environments. This short article will examine why understanding resilience is important to those functioning in extreme environments and reflect on what we can learn from emerging research in this area.

Why is it important to study resilience in extreme environments?

Psychological resilience has been described as the ability to use personal qualities to withstand pressure and maintain functioning (Fletcher & Sarkar, 2016), and there are two key components; a stressor (or adversity) and a subsequent positive adaptation (changes of a positive nature). This sounds simple enough, but it is important to remember that people are affected differently in the same environment at varying intensities and for different durations. This means resilience, like extreme environments, is complex, and can be influenced by factors such as your past experiences. For example, the past experiences you have had in the extreme environment as well as the personal qualities you have, such as motivation and confidence can help you to respond positively to the given demands of the situation.

However, if a cluster effect (where many different stressors come together) occurs in a particular order, intensity or timeframe you might struggle regardless of the amount of experience you have or personal qualities at your disposal. For example, you might be able to deal with a rainstorm for a short time but if it persisted, and the sky went dark and you had no shelter you might be less able to function. Resilience is a process that helps individuals deal with this complexity and there are also numerous anecdotal accounts of the importance of resilience within these environments.

Emerging research on resilience in extreme environments

An interest in how people perform in extreme environments led me to pursue my PhD studies in this area, and I have investigated the challenge of an extreme environment and what impact it can have on resilience. For example, the environment plays a significant role on a person’s resilience in relation to the amount of challenge (risk and adversity) and support (from others) present. This makes extreme environments the ideal setting to investigate psychological resilience because there is usually an increased and inherent element of risk and or adversity. For example, during my first piece of research the extreme environment was the mountains of the UK, where team members had to deal with difficult terrain under foot and severe and everchanging weather.

In this research we observed that these demands and stressors can group together in a cluster effect. This is where the grouping of stressors within the environment can potentially have a greater negative effect on performance as opposed to if individuals were exposed to individual stressors (Smith & Barrett, 2019), and there is the potential to for stressors to cascade over time. People operating in an extreme environment have to deal with specific clusters of stressors before moving on to deal with the next set of stressors and this can take time. But time is not always a luxury afforded in these environments. For example, you might be out on the mountain for 15 hours before returning to basecamp tired with wet and dirty kit but you are back out on the mountain in a couple of hours. You would literally have no time to deal with these stressors before facing the next day’s stressors as seen in my research.

Also, people will identify different environments as extreme at different times. This is due to how they perceive their skills, qualities and support needed to perform within them so any environment that pushes an individual outside of their comfort zone can be considered extreme (Galli and Vealey, 2008). A 5km Parkrun might be considered an extreme environment for some but not for an experienced runner.  Therefore, people operating in extreme environments need to get experience of these stressors – to lessen the impact of them individually and within a cluster. These stressors are still present and in certain situations will still have (sometimes a major) effect but experience provides opportunity to learn what skills and qualities are needed first to maintain function and then for positive adaptation to potentially occur.

Adopting a challenge mindset

Increasing the time spent and getting the right experience in an extreme environment allows you to evaluate the risk associated with these stressors and links to something called a challenge mindset. A challenge mindset is the ability to see situations as a challenge and it is important that this is adopted and then maintained within an extreme environment to buffer against the potential negative effect of the cluster effect of stressors and allow individuals to function. This mindset allows individuals to focus on stressors as a challenge and not threatening. This is done by increasing their awareness of specific stressors, their importance and the potential consequences of not attending to them. Increasing your experience allows you to slowly build up exposure to stressors in the extreme environment and works to slowly inoculate you to the potential negative effect of stressors. So, you could consider your current situation is not as ‘bad’ as previously experienced and more of a challenge that needs to be overcome to be successful. For example, this current storm isn’t as bad as previous storms I have experienced, and I made good progress then and I can now.

This previous experience also allows you to develop the necessary skills and qualities to ‘protect’ yourself from the demands and stressors of the extreme environment which forms an important part of showing resilience. Fletcher and Sarkar (2016) highlight that individuals must positively evaluate the demands of the environment as a challenge and themselves (e.g. their own skills, thoughts and emotions). So, it is more your reaction to the environment (showing resilience) rather than the environment itself that is important. The question is therefore, do you have the experiences, skills and qualities to successfully deal with what the environment can throw at you to complete the task in the required time?

What can we take from this?

Extreme environments are not too dissimilar to other sporting environments. Each is different and individualised with clusters of stressors that are perceived differently by different individuals. There is risk and adversity albeit to a lesser extent than within an extreme environment where there is a potentially a greater risk of injury or death. So, how can ways in which individuals develop and use resilience in these extreme environments be applied to us in everyday life and in our own sporting pursuits?

  • Resilience is a complex and individualised process that changes over time and can be essential to maintaining function in our everyday lives, including our participation in sport and exercise.
  • Sporting environments, and life in general, can produce a cluster effect of stressors that can potentially cascade over time that individuals need to deal with.
  • Gaining experience of the environments/situations in which you will train/work/compete can help ‘protect’ against this cluster effect by developing the challenge mindset.

References

Fletcher, D. & Sarkar, M. (2016) Mental fortitude training: An evidence- based approach to developing psychological resilience for sustained success. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 7(3), 135-157.

Galli, N. & Vealey, R.S. (2008) “Bouncing Back” from adversity: Athletes’ experiences of resilience. The Sport Psychologist, 22, 316-335.

Leach, J. (2016) Psychological factors in exceptional, extreme and torturous environments. Extreme Physiology & Medicine5(1), 7–7.

Smith, N. & Barrett, E.C. (2019) Psychology, extreme environments, and counter-terrorism operations. Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, 11(1), 48-72.

 

Dave Harrison is an AL on the OU S&F modules E235 and E313. He also works at Sheffield Hallam University as a Lecturer in Sport Coaching and is currently undertaking a part time PhD on Psychological Resilience in Extreme Environments at Nottingham Trent University. You can find him on Twitter: @sheffclaret 

How to have the best experience of studying sport at The Open University

By Simon Rea

Firstly, welcome to The Open University and secondly, thank you for choosing to study on the sport, fitness, and coaching degree. We have a range of fantastic courses for you to study to support you towards achieving a fulfilling career working in sport or fitness. During this turbulent year of 2020 it seems to me that sport has become even more important. Research has shown that fit and healthy people are less affected by Covid-19 and as a result we have   been encouraged to take daily exercise outdoors, and the fitness industry has seen a surge in people engaging with online fitness platforms. During this time I felt lost when there was no live sport for three months and like many others have binged on sport since its return.

As a sport and fitness student it is likely that you feel as passionate about sport and fitness as I do and in this blog I want to encourage you to make the most of your undergraduate studies. I want you to get the best value for the personal and financial investment you have undertaken and the sacrifices you may have to make. While sport and fitness offer a range of exciting careers and the opportunity to work with interesting and inspiring people the job market is highly competitive. Sport science, studies and sports coaching courses are now the most popular degree course in the UK with around 15,000 graduates a year leaving around 138 universities that offer these degrees. Indeed there are almost 1500 students enrolling, along with yourself, on year 1 sport and fitness modules at The Open University.

Therefore, it is advantageous to get ahead of this competition and give yourself as great an advantage for the future as you can. We appreciate that you have busy lives and finding time to study may not always be easy as you juggle work, family, and social commitments. These conflicting priorities can lead to students being tactical in how they study. To encourage you to make the absolute most of your time spent studying with us and to maximise your learning and enjoyment I will offer three pieces of advice for you to consider whilst studying.

 

  1. Engage with all the resources available to you and read as much as you can.

In your module materials you will find a range of resources. There are readings, audio and video clips to watch and listen to, websites to visit and activities to complete. We will also offer additional resources at certain points so that you can find out more. We would encourage you to learn as much as you can about the subjects you are studying by reading widely and visiting websites related to the subject. Social media offers a plethora of opportunities and you can follow experts and influencers that you are interested in. For example, Twitter enables you to follow coaches, personal trainers, and academics in sport.

 

 

  1. Engage with your tutor and your fellow students as much as possible.

Before you start your module you will be assigned a tutor and a tutor group. Your tutor will tell you how to contact them and you will be given information about the schedule of tutorials. You will also find out about your online tutor group forum where you can meet and interact with other students.

This engagement with other people is crucial to your understanding of the module materials as some of the most valuable learning is described as social learning where you learn from other people. Discussing and debating can give you different perspectives on a subject and hearing other student’s experiences can broaden your own understanding. This kind of learning will happen during tutorials and during collaborative tutor group forum activities. During the learning process it is vital that you do not accept all content without questioning it. Ask yourself – ‘where did this knowledge come from?’ ‘Are there other ways of doing things?’

Discussing, debating, and questioning will improve your understanding of a subject but it will also develop critical skills that are so crucial in higher education and valued by employers.

  1. Always keep in mind the question ‘How does this relate to me?’

While knowledge is exciting to have it is most valuable when you can actually apply it. This may be applying it to your own working practice or to help yourself and other people. So, you must always find opportunities to apply your knowledge. This may be reflecting on past experiences and gaining new perspectives on them or thinking about how you can use the knowledge now or in the future.

I have always found that when people know I am involved in sport science they have questions about their training or their diet. Let people know you are studying sport and fitness and talk to them about it and express your views if the opportunity arises. Sharing your knowledge with other people is a great way to increase your own knowledge and understanding of a subject.

 

Final thoughts

As I said earlier we appreciate that studying is just one factor amongst many competing for your time and it may be difficult to implement all three pieces of advice consistently. However, if you bear them in mind during your studies you will improve your chances of success both during your studies and in the future.

We hope you have a wonderful experience during your time studying sport, fitness, and coaching at The Open University.

 

Simon Rea is a Lecturer on the sport and fitness award at The Open University and the author of the books Careers in Sports Science (2019) and Sports Science – a complete introduction (2015).

Credit transfer to BSc (hons) Sport, Fitness and Coaching

Perhaps you are feeling unsatisfied or demotivated with your current degree study and you need a different way of studying to unlock your academic potential? If so, then it might be time to think about transferring credit to study the BSc (Hons) Sport, Fitness and Coaching degree at The Open University. We have a range of interesting and exciting modules from level 1 to level 3 which make up our degree. Typically, students transferring credit will study level 2 or level 3 modules depending on their circumstances and their available credit. We have two level 2 modules (E235 Sport and Exercise Psychology in Action; E236 Applying sport and exercise sciences to coaching) and two level 3 modules (E313 Exploring psychological aspects of athletic development; E314 Exploring contemporary issues in sport and exercise).

For all our modules, you will learn online in a range of engaging ways to meet your learning needs. This includes learning through interactive activities, academic readings in books and journals, listening to audio and viewing videos such as sport and exercise in action, using exercise science apps, and tutor group forum discussions with other students and your tutor. The online distance study provides you with great flexibility to study from home or on the move and enables you to fit your study around your other commitments such as work and family life. These are just some of the key benefits of studying in this way with the OU. The video below explains more.

Although you will study independently as an online distance student you certainly will not be alone. In fact, you will receive a high level of support from your tutor via tutorials, assessment feedback, forums, emails and telephone contact. We also have a fantastic Student Support Team and a range of other study resources to support your academic progress. There are many other great opportunities and benefits of being a Sport and Fitness student at the OU. The Sport & Fitness team holds a range of conferences and events that you can attend online and in person. You will also be part of the OU Sport and Fitness community and have an identity as part of #TeamOUsport.

If you would like to explore your options for credit transfer and take the next step towards studying the BSc (Hons) Sport, Fitness and Coaching degree at the OU please visit http://www.open.ac.uk/study/credit-transfer/.

Join our team: Lecturer in Sport and Fitness

Salary:  £41,526 – £49,553
Location: Milton Keynes
Reference: 17329
Closing date: 8th June 2020 (midday)

Note: This post is available as a full-time post or two 0.5 part-time posts.

We are seeking to appoint an enthusiastic Lecturer in Sport and Fitness to join our vibrant team and undertake responsibilities that include:

  • the development and delivery of Sport and Fitness modules and resources
  • writing and updating distance learning modules and resources, including print, audio, video and information/communications technology materials
  • contributing to the Faculty’s programme of research and scholarship and to the academic development of the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies at The Open University.

The successful candidate will have:

  • a higher degree or equivalent professional knowledge in Sport and Fitness or a related field as well
  • proven experience of curriculum development and course design
  • an understanding of different approaches to studying Sport and Fitness
  • evidence of engagement in research and scholarship through a variety of activities such as publications, gaining of external funding and/or widely recognised and disseminated contributions to learning and teaching in Sports and Fitness
  • a strong record of research and/or knowledge exchange that is commensurate to the position.

For more information click on the links below:

Job Description

Information about Sport and Fitness qualifications at The Open University

Information about the Sport and Fitness team at The Open University

Click here for more information and to apply

Join Our Team: Lecturer in Sport, Exercise and Coaching

Salary: £40,792 – £48,677
Location: Milton Keynes
Reference: 15260
Closing date: 27 November 2018 (5pm)

 

We are seeking an enthusiastic Lecturer to join our vibrant team of nine academic staff involved in writing online/print materials, overseeing online teaching and engaging in research that connects with our growing BSc (Hons) in Sport, Fitness and Coaching (around 2,700 students). You will be able to teach a range of sport and exercise related topics and work collaboratively with colleagues to develop high impact text, video and audio resources for students and wider public engagement.

You will join a team which has created an innovative Sport, Exercise and Coaching curriculum. We would welcome applications from specialists in a particular field of sport and exercise, but you will be expected to write some teaching materials outside your subject area. You will contribute to our existing curriculum and potential new curriculum (e.g. new modules and qualifications).

You must have a higher degree in Sport and Exercise Science or a related field, some published research, and a detailed knowledge of teaching this in sport, exercise or coaching. You will have an understanding of distance learning; an ability to write clearly for a diverse student audience and have proven experience of teaching in higher education.

Job Related information (including person specification)

Information about Sport and Fitness qualifications at The Open University

Information about the Sport and Fitness team at The Open University

Click here for more information and to apply

 

Student Story: John Curd (part 2)

Back in 2016 we featured John Curd in one of our ‘student stories’. John has a truly inspirational story and shows how studying with the OU can really turn your life around. John has now completed his BSc (hons) in Sport, Fitness and Coaching and recently attended his graduation ceremony. As you can see from the photographs he had a great day. As one of our older graduates John is proof that’s it’s never to late to achieve your dreams. We are very proud John and all of our sport and fitness graduates. If you have recently graduated and would like to share your graduation photos and/or tell us what your graduation day was like please contact us at WELS-Sports@open.ac.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To read part 1 of John’s student story click here.

To read all of our student stories click here.