09 March 2021

SEDA presents: Establishing a Wellbeing Equilibrium – Staff Wellbeing

Wellbeing is a critical and topical area in HE due to many headlines about mental ill-health and attrition of students and staff. The HE sector has responded by producing the Universities UK Step Change Framework (2017) and the Student Mind Mental Health Charter in 2019 but these workshops help us to consider and share ideas and initiatives that different universities are exploring to support student, staff and educational developer wellbeing.

Each workshop will hear from a range of contributors about work within their institutions followed by Question and Answer. The second part of each workshop will be time to discuss and consider together practical developments, any barriers, learning from others and general conversations about wellbeing.

Come along to hear about how some universities are trialling new methods to support wellbeing within their institutions and for you to have a pause to think about wellbeing and a time to be inspired of ideas to try in your own area.

Workshop Two: Staff Wellbeing

Supporting the wellbeing of academic staff in HE has become a growing area of importance within the HE sector. In this event, there will be short presentations looking at different angles of staff working in HE and different methods of ways we can support them in their work.


The workshop will be presented via Zoom on 9 March 12.30-2.30pm.

Presentation 1: Supporting the Health and Wellbeing of Academic Staff – Not just a Trend, a Priority – Ruth Pilkington

Dr Ruth Pilkington (NTF, SFSEDA, PFHEA) is a freelance educational consultant and Visiting Professor at Ulster University. She contributes to several UK institutions on academic leadership, professional learning, continuing professional development, and Fellowship as reviewer and assessor, and especially with respect to her work on dialogue in the context of making professional learning visible for assessment and mentoring. She trained in mindfulness and applies this in her mentoring and dialogue work. She works for the Staff and Educational Development Association and is a longstanding member of its Professional Development Framework Committee.

Supporting the Health and Wellbeing of Academic Staff – Not just a Trend, a Priority – Ruth Pilkington

In her chapter Ruth builds on her research and expertise in the areas of professional agency and wellbeing. She explores how staff across F/HE organisations can be supported to develop their wellbeing as a priority. For example, whilst students dominate the numerous studies on health and wellbeing, few studies explore the needs and situation for lecturers. This webinar offers participants a chance to discuss the challenge of wellbeing for the lecturer (academic) as a professional who is managing their own emotional and physical wellbeing as well as that of their students. It suggests health and wellbeing starts with appreciating the practice environment, the individual’s needs and what we do as professionals.

1. How can staff (academic and professional service) more effectively address health and wellbeing for themselves, and in turn draw on this to support students?

2. What is agency in this context?

3. What challenges still need to be addressed and how when creating a healthier more balanced learning environment?

Presentation 2: Professional Identity, Transition and Wellness – How can we Support New Academic Staff in the Early Stages of an Academic Career? – James Moran and Sarah Turner

James Moran is a Senior Fellow of the HEA who has worked as an Academic Practice Development Adviser at Loughborough University since January 2017 and, prior to this, as a Teaching Fellow in the Centre for Learning Innovation and Professional Practice at Aston University and Placement Tutor in the Aston Business School. Before moving in to academic related roles, James worked in student services at a range of institutions providing immigration and welfare advice and support to international students studying in the UK.

Dr Sarah Turner (SFHEA) has worked in a variety of posts at Loughborough University from lecturing to teacher educator roles. She is currently an Academic Development Adviser and leads the Academic Professional Apprenticeship for new academic staff at Loughborough University. Her research primarily focuses on wellbeing and considering ‘safe’ spaces.

This presentation will seek to identify where opportunities may exist to provide support to new lecturers when they transition into their role in academia and to contribute to the debate on how to create a ‘safe space’ and maintain the wellness of staff working in Higher Education. It will explore how the concept of ‘wellness’ may change in line with a new lecturer’s perception of their professional identity and their transition into the role of an academic. It will also explore how the work of Tennant, McMullen and Kaczynski (2009), denoting reconceptualised perspectives on the development of teaching expertise, and the stages of transition highlighted by Gale and Parker (2014), can be modelled to map Grand Rapids Community College’s (2018) seven dimensions of wellness across transition into an academic role.

Presentation 3: Supporting staff wellbeing through mentally healthy conversations Dr Rachel Scudamore and Jonathan Phelan.

Jonathan Phelan is an author, a mental wellbeing speaker, a resilience trainer and a wellbeing coach. Inspired by his own mental health experiences following a child bereavement, Jonathan created Evenhood, a not-for-profit company designed help people manage their mental wellbeing, strengthen their resilience and have mentally healthy conversations which result in support, rather than stigma.

Dr Rachel Scudamore, PFHEA, is a Higher Education consultant and a Visiting Professor at Birmingham City University. She has extensive experience in educational development in Russell Group and post-92 contexts, and has also managed student services provision, including student wellbeing. Rachel has been working with Jonathan to bring his approach to academics looking to support students with their learning.

In this session, participants will explore the practical benefits of approaching mental health conversations in a non-medicalised way; as described in the paper, ‘Mentally Healthy Conversations: equipping academics to better support students” (Scudamore, Phelan 2020). The premise of the approach that will be explored is that our wellbeing is not just impacted by the way our mind works, it is also impacted by our environment. Mental health conversations that are focused on the way the mind works are difficult, medically complex and often emotional – presenting challenges for both the listener and the person talking about their mental health. By shifting the conversation from the way the mind works to our environment, both listener and speaker find it easier to reach solutions and to give or get support for mental wellbeing. The presentation will explore the concept behind this approach as well as some tools and techniques to help participants discover the situations in their environment that have the biggest impact on their wellbeing. Educational developers will be able to use these insights to steer their academic colleagues to more constructive and practical conversations with students that remain focussed on learning.

Staff can use these insights to keep conversations with students focussed on practical measures that support their learning.