Why include Health and Wellness in the Central Six tenets of Transformative Learning? (Part 2 of 2)
Written by Christy Vincent, Ph.D., Professor, Organizational Communication –
In my last blog post, I highlighted the relationship between our students’ health status and their academic success and pointed to numerous health-related issues our students face daily. I acknowledged that many faculty members contend that addressing student health and wellness falls into the purview of Student Affairs rather than Academic Affairs. I suggested that there are ways that faculty members, even those of us not teaching in health-related disciplines, can play a more prominent role in helping students focus on their health and recognize its importance in their ability to succeed in our courses.
First, we can be connectors between our students and important university and community health resources. Faculty and students may refer to the UCO Health Resource Guide on every D2L course home page (right-hand column under UCO Student Resources) and at the following link: Health Resources
The guide provides detailed information you may use to inform your students about resources and to connect them to the proper people on campus who can support them. Because you see students regularly during the week, you may be the first, and perhaps only, campus employee who notices that a student is having a physical, emotional, or mental health-related difficulty.
You might consider adding a statement to your syllabus that encourages students to attend to their health status and to seek campus and community resources when needed. I have provided a sample syllabus statement at the end of this article. Feel free to use it in your syllabi.
Second, when we have to be absent from the classroom, we can call on UCO’s Center for Counseling and Well-being (CCWB) to make presentations to our classes on subjects such as Total Wellness, Suicide Prevention, Substance Use and Abuse, Self-Care, Mental Health First Aid, Time Management, Stress Management, Eating Well, and Healthy Relationships. Information about the outreach programs of the CCWB can be found at this link: CCWB Outreach Programs
Third, we can consider creating small assignments that help students more clearly recognize the relationship between their health status and their academic success. One such assignment I have used for a number of years meets this objective. The assignment, a personal health reflection essay, asks students to reflect and respond to a series of questions in a 2-3 page essay. The questions are as follows:
- What are the ways, if any, in which your health and wellness have been related to your academic performance in past semesters?
- What are the ways, if any, in which the health and wellness of someone close to you or someone in your family have been related to your academic performance in past semesters?
- When considering all of the factors that contribute to your academic performance (e.g., your academic skills, your level of motivation, the amount of time you have to devote to studies, your job, family, and social responsibilities), how influential has your health and wellness status been on your academic performance in comparison with these other factors?
- Through the Health and Wellness Transformative Learning tenet, UCO places emphasis on the integration of the “physical, spiritual, environmental, emotional, intellectual, and social/interpersonal well-being of students to help them live, learn, and work effectively, living life with vitality and meaning so they may reach their goals as scholars, employees in the workplace, citizens in the metropolitan area and beyond.” What is your reaction to this Health and Wellness description? This description characterizes the university’s desire for your health and well-being. Do you share those same desires? What would it mean for you to live life with vitality and meaning?
- What if any actions would you like to take to ensure that your health and well-being support your academic goals rather than detract from them?
I assure my students that I will be the only person reading their essays. The essay is designed specifically to help students examine the influence of their health status and health-related behaviors on their academic performance. My observation is that the essay typically accomplishes this goal. Students’ essays often report “a-ha” moments about their health-related issues and their ability to perform in their courses. They also often commit to increasing their consideration of their health status as they make decisions about the responsibilities they take on.
For busy faculty members, the idea of assigning such an essay may seem like more work for little reward. That may be right. Nevertheless, I have made this assignment for a number of years. My experience is that it does benefit the students and it also benefits me as the instructor. I am able to learn more about my students as individuals and generally more about the young people who come to us to obtain degrees. I learn about the typical problems they are facing, about their successful and unsuccessful attempts to meet all of their obligations, about their families, jobs, and friends. I believe that this knowledge helps me to be a better professor and to know how to counsel my students to manage their competing obligations, to attend to their health issues, and to come to my classes more prepared to learn.
In addition to my role as a professor, I am the Faculty Liaison for the Health and Wellness Transformative Learning Tenet. I want to help faculty members, particularly those who are not in health-related disciplines, to support this tenet. If you have any questions or would like to visit with me further about how to implement this or other assignments to support students’ health and create assignments that may be STLR-tagged with the Health and Wellness Transformative Learning tenet, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sample Syllabus Statement: Maintaining your health and wellness is an important factor in your capacity for learning and growth. The university provides multiple resources to support student health. You may find a complete directory of campus and community health-related resources in the UCO Health Resource Guide located on the right-hand side of your D2L home page under UCO Student Resources. You may also connect to resources at the following link: Health Resources The UCO Center for Counseling and Well-being provides numerous programs to help you address your physical, mental, and emotional health needs. You may receive notifications of these programs and events by signing up at OrgSync@UCO to receive notifications of the variety of programs, events, and sessions the counseling center puts on during the year. OrgSync is a centralized Campus Engagement Network that connects students to organizations, programs, and departments on campus.