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Understanding the mental health attainment gap in Design modules

An analysis of E&I’s attainment gap data (Oct 2019) revealed the priority to address the pass rate gaps for learners with mental health (17.7%) issues, physical disabilities (18.6%) and other disabilities (18.9%). Looking at specific modules in E&I, we noticed that Design students with a Mental Health disability have the worst outcomes across all levels in Design compared to other modules in E&I.

This project intends to look at the intersecting factors that impact on mental health students’ retention in the Design modules: U101, T217 and T317. The overall methodological approach is experiential, longitudinal and qualitative. Students will be recruited for mixed method study, including repeat-interviews and experience samples. Students will be interviewed twice during their modules’ study to ascertain pinch points and best practice in retaining them. Particular focus will be on the intersecting factors of discipline (knowledge and skills, coursework, assessment), personal circumstances (work and family, caring commitments, life events) and support received during their studies from OU and elsewhere. In preparation to each interview a DASS- 21 will be issued to the students, which is a standardised self-reported assessment of symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. In addition to these interviews, an experience sampling ‘diary’ method will be used to understand the participants thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and environmental factors influencing their study experience in between interviews. An inexpensive smart phone will be given to participants to receive prompts from the interviewer to share their experiences at that moment, and the phone is theirs to keep as reward token.

The study requires the support of 3 ALs, that is 1 AL working with 2 students per presentation and module. While a lead AL will project manage the study (a new P/T PhD student whose research focus aligns with this project), all AL’s will be involved in the data collection and provide feedback on the analysis. The lead AL/PhD student will manage ethics approval for the project, coordinate the selection and interviewing of participants, and will be involved in the analysis and write up the findings. The ALs will be trained in in how to respond to different scenarios that may arise in students with mental health disabilities, which can be achieved by closely aligning this project to the Design Disability Champions project submitted in parallel to eSTEeM.

The aim of this project is to gain a deeper understanding of the specific issues experienced by Design student with mental health disabilities throughout their study to derive at recommendations that could inform the learning design of modules in production and the development of positive interventions during presentation of modules to reduce the attainment gap and facilitate progression.

Related Resources: 
File Nicole Lotz and Muriel Sippel poster.pptx111.06 KB

Project poster.