Dr Silvia Wehmeier,  School of Natural & Computing Sciences - Chemistry

Higher education has seen a growing interest in Mindfulness, though as a relatively new concept in universities it is mostly found in medical schools. My engagement as a Mindfulness teacher in the 3rd Year MBChB Medical Humanities Mindfulness and Medicine course led me to the initiative to make a Mindfulness course available to Chemistry students.

Context

Higher education has seen a growing interest in Mindfulness, though as a relatively new concept in universities it is mostly found in medical schools. My engagement as a Mindfulness teacher in the 3rd Year MBChB Medical Humanities Mindfulness and Medicine course led me to the initiative to make a Mindfulness course available to Chemistry students. I am enthusiastic to promote and support student mental well-being by embedding Mindfulness into the learning environment. Embedding mental well-being in the curriculum in higher education was recently recognised by the Higher Education Academy and the Higher Institution Policy Institute.

Activity

The project explored the influence of Mindfulness on the well-being of Chemistry students. A 6 week experiential Mindfulness course was made available alongside the chemistry curriculum in the spring term 2018. The course consisted of six classes (1 hour per week for six weeks), and the course content was related to the MSBR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course by Jon Kabat Zin. The emphasis was to introduce mindfulness practices to support student's learning experience through a healthy cognitive-affective balance. The Mindfulness course was led by myself and evaluated by a Honours BSc Chemistry research student.

Evaluation

The project aimed to explore if Mindfulness practice influences the well-being of Chemistry students. The project used pre- and post- course questionnaires for participants (n = 8), and control group (n = 9), and semi - structured interviews with course participants. The data showed a significant difference in stress level ratings, and qualitative data revealed the positive influence of the course on personal and study life of Chemistry students. The evaluation of the project data was used to support the Aberdeen Universities evidence for student learning experience enhancement engagement, and progressed into embedding Mindfulness practices into Chemistry lectures.

Impact

The purpose of this project was to make a Mindfulness course available to support Chemistry student's wellbeing. One student's voice said: "I learnt how to ground myself, which was helpful, outside of studying. This had a knock-on effect allowing me to have more time for uni work." The initiative aligns with the University's strategy on health and well-being, and the concept of Mindfulness as a form of contemplative pedagogy points to a path towards a learning culture by supporting a healthy cognitive-affective balance.

Dissemination

The project outcome has been communicated to several chemistry student cohorts at the University of Aberdeen. A poster was presented at the Universities annual 10th Academic Development Symposium in April 2018, and at the conference of the International Society of SoTL in Norway 2018. The project will be presented as an invited talk at the Emerging Analytical Professionals conference in Leeds in May 2019. Further, the initiative's results are in preparation to be submitted to the peer-reviewed Teaching & Learning Inquiry journal.