Wellbeing Presentations: Open & Inclusive Special Interest Group

Join us on Monday 14th September (14:00 – 16:00) online:

Adobe Connect Link for OU Staff

Link for external participants

openTEL and SeGA are pleased to announce that the next Open & Inclusive Special Interest Group will include three presentations from the following speakers:


Presentation 1: Elena Riva, University of Warwick

Presentation title:

Wellbeing in the Teaching & Learning Environment
Pedagogies and Strategies for the Classroom and Beyond


Students’ overall experience in Higher Education is highly impacted by the teaching and learning environment (Barden and Caleb, 2019). Such an environment plays a key role in students’ learning, but also in their personal wellbeing and ability to flourish and become engaged citizens (Hammond, 2004; Okanagan Charter, 2015). Therefore embedding self-care and wellbeing in educational spaces and across curriculum in Universities is an essential step for supporting and sustaining self-care of students and staff across Institutions. In this workshop we will look at wellbeing interdisciplinary pedagogies and strategies and Elena will share her understanding and ideas about how to foster positive wellbeing in the teaching and learning environment for both students and staff. Such ideas are drawn from her pedagogic research about students’ Wellbeing in educational settings as well as her teaching practice, including her experience of devising and delivering the interdisciplinary undergraduate course ‘Understanding Wellbeing’.


Elena is an Associate Professor and Director of Studies at the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL) at the University of Warwick (UK), and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

In IATL, Elena develops new modules, events, and activities that explore complex and global scientific topics and issues, creating connections between the scientific disciplines and the humanities.

Between 2017 and 2020, Elena has been awarded funding by the Warwick Innovation Fund, the Warwick International Higher Education Academy and the Office for Students and Research England for developing her several research projects aimed at improving students wellbeing in the teaching and learning environment.


Presentation 2: Theo Gilbert, University of Hertfordshire

Presentation title:

The Cognitive nature of Compassion: Game changing potentials for the distance-taught degree.


15 years’ of compassion-focused research in clinical psychology, group psychotherapy and neuroscience have identified that compassionate action can be activated by any number of emotions (or contexts). But it is then enabled by a psycho-biologically embedded motivation:  to notice (not normalise) the distress or disadvantaging of self or others and take action to reduce or prevent that.  This understanding of the cognitive nature of compassion (The Compassionate Mind Foundation) has enabled the evidence-based micro skills of compassionate communications – specifically in student group work – to be developed and embedded on some modules at the University of Hertfordshire (UH).   Because studies there have identified major implications of doing this for student-reported mental wellbeing, learning engagement, and the BAME awarding gap (compared to controls), the UH is rolling out the compassion-focused approach to group work as part of its new 5 year strategic plan.

But what do the key behavioural micro skills of compassion in student group work look like in action.  In particular, for many universities affected by Covid-19, how might OU staff lead and excel on a compassion-focused approach to group work that is conducted and assessed online? Theo Gilbert is delighted to share with you some fascinating answers that are emerging on these questions right now.


Theo Gilbert, PhD, is an Associate Professor in Teaching and Learning, at the University of Hertfordshire.  His applied research translates rich, current scholarship on the psychobiological model of compassion into evidence-based, practical micro-skills of compassion for group-work that can be taught, supported and assessed (i.e. credit-bearing) on the modern University degree.  In the UK and abroad, he develops HE educators from both STEM and social sciences in this approach, and is networking and supporting staff in, so far, 55 universities. He is creator of the Compassion in HE website of practical resources for compassion-focused educators: https://compassioninhe.wordpress.com/.  He was recipient of the Times Higher Education’s/Advance HE’s award for:  Most Innovative Teacher, 2018 and this year’s keynote speaker at the annual NTF/CATE symposium.  His research is published in a number of journals and book chapters


Presentation 3: Kate Lister, The Open University

Presentation title:

Mental wellbeing in distance learning


Student mental health is a critical issue in higher education. We know that higher education can trigger or exacerbate mental health difficulties, but research in this area has focused primarily on campus environments, identifying stressors such as halls of residence. However, distance learning students disclose mental health issues at a higher rate than campus students, and completion and progression gaps are on a par with the sector. With the increasing number of students studying remotely, it is critical that the barriers and enablers to mental wellbeing in distance learning are understood.

This presentation is on findings from a qualitative study that investigated barriers and enablers to mental wellbeing and study success that students experienced in distance learning. Students and tutors were interviewed using narrative enquiry and a variety of barriers and enablers were identified. Focus group events with staff and students were then held to identify ways to mitigate these barriers; this resulted in seven projects currently being piloted. More work is needed to evaluate the success of these pilots, but this project paves the way towards a more inclusive distance learning environment.


Kate Lister manages accessibility and inclusive practice for disabled students at the Open University, UK, and is an associate at Advance HE. Her role involves driving and coordinating inclusive practice in the Open University, supporting staff to be accessible and inclusive by design, and championing disabled student needs at different echelons of the University. Mental health and wellbeing in the curriculum are core research interests for her; she leads on the OU project to embed mental wellbeing in distance learning and she co-leads on the Advance HE collaborative project ‘Embedding mental wellbeing in the curriculum.’

 No need to register.