In my attempts to find the first article from this week’s list of readings, I came across a compelling article by the same author, Patii Dyjur. The topic of this article is using mental health and wellness as a framework for course design, something I am very interested in. Dyjur (2017) makes the important points that mental health and wellness is a concern for both students and instructors, and elements of course design can also affect wellness (Dyjur, 2017, p.1). One interesting aspect of this course design model is that they have deliberately adopted values, unlike other design models that aim for a values-neutral approach (Dyjur, 2017, p.3). One example is the belief that learning is a partnership between students and instructors.
Looking through this mental health and wellness lens, one needs to be aware of creating a good balance with respect to how many assessments there are in a course. If there are too many, the instructor could become stressed with all the marking, and if there are too few, the students could become stressed because each one would be so heavily weighted and one poor result would be disastrous.
When using mental health and wellness as a framework for course design, there are many facets I would consider: policies and values, academic expectations, learning environment and learning experiences, student assessment, and reflection and resilience. In combination with these elements, I would contemplate a number of questions that Dyjur (2017) suggests instructors think about when designing courses. Some examples are:
“How do your course policies support or impede mental health and wellness?”
“How can you maintain reasonable expectations for student learning within the constraints of the course?”
“How can teaching and learning activities be structured to foster mental health and wellness for students? For instructors?”
“How might you promote or support student resilience?”
I am looking forward to exploring the mental health and wellness lens further in Assignment 2.
There have been many instances since I began my master’s where I have been asked to reflect on my own experiences. Time and again, I am left wondering why it has taken so long for education to adjust to adapting practices that best serve students. LaFever’s (2016) article is another perfect example where I am left shaking my head. The Medicine Wheel teaching/learning framework has been around forever, so why are its virtues not common knowledge? In my design practice, I have been making a conscious effort to integrate a cultural identity lens. This aligns with Item 63.3 of the calls to action list produced by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: “building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect” (LaFever, 2016, p.169). The need for students to attain these important skills for life outside of the classroom cannot be overstated.
There are many reasons I want to incorporate concepts of the Medicine Wheel into my design practice. First, it includes all the components of Bloom’s taxonomy, with an additional spiritual domain; the merits of which are becoming increasingly well known. Second, the concept that movement between the domains is fluid as we are rarely in just one domain (LaFever, 2016, p. 173). Third, completing spirituality exercises will help students become mindful of others and not interested solely in their own lives. Last, LaFever (2016) asserts spiritual learning creates an atmosphere where every student’s identity is honoured and thus they are able to form strong relationships with peers, teachers, and members of the community (LaFever, 2016, p. 178).
Dyjur, P., Lindstrom, G., Arguera, N., & Bair, H. (2017). Using mental health and wellness as a framework for course design. Papers on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching: Proceedings of the University of Calgary Conference on Learning and Teaching, 2, 1-9.
LaFever, M. (2016). Using the medicine wheel for curriculum design in intercultural communication: Rethinking learning outcomes. Promoting Intercultural Communication Competencies in Higher Education. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-5225-1732-0.ch007