Embedding wellbeing approaches in EDS programmes

Haringey Adult Learning Service

This project underpinned principles around Trauma Informed Practice. We explored the real impact misinformation is having on women who are disproportionately affected in COVID-19 times. A co-design element was at the heart of the project where learners created video diaries and community messages outlining the positive influence on their wellbeing.

You can download a PDF of this report on the Excellence Gateway.

Summary

Haringey Adult Learning Services (HALS) provide basic skills and vocational courses that target migrant residents with low levels of English, people with no qualifications or those not qualified to Level 2. Learners are unemployed or in low paid employment. High levels of health inequality in the east of the borough mean most learners have low to moderate mental health needs. The service works to the borough regeneration and economic development strategy via a Good Employment Recovery Plan. The service has a strong ethos of multi-agency working, partnership, inclusion and learner involvement, underpinned by a strengths-based approach.

Our work investigated the effect on learner wellbeing of embedding wellbeing activities into EDS sessions with a focus on online misinformation. We focused this project on women (particularly single parents) due to the disproportionate effects data has shown that COVID-19 has had on this group (Institute for Social and Economic Research, 2020)

The project team was made up from Essential Digital Skills (EDS) Tutors and a Creative Skills tutor to facilitate the co-design aspect of developing and embedding the misinformation/disinformation workshops.

Small group sessions aimed to give a safe space for learners to explore individual concerns around fake news. Through a co-design approach the focus was on empowerment to take control of these issues and, using new digital skills, create their own positive messaging around misinformation.

Intended outcomes included:

  • providing an understanding of what misinformation is
  • learning about who creates and shares misinformation
  • exploring what motivations people have for doing this
  • considering how misinformation can affect our wellbeing
  • investigating how we keep up-to-date with information online.

We wanted learners to build confidence in these key areas through the workshops and co-creation activity, and a sense of connection with a wider online community through their sharing of the resources.

Rationale

The focus on women for this project (particularly single parents) was in line with the Trauma Informed Approach (Weston College, 2018; Shevrin Venet, 2020) with which HALS has been underpinning its delivery since March 2020.

Our video diary activity was designed so that learners were able to use the device which is most accessible to them. The co-created message activity focussed on short slogans, which were digitally produced so that learners’ language and literacy skills will not be a barrier.

ESOL Learners were also encouraged to produce their messages in languages other than English so that they could be used in future in their communities. Tutors needed digital upskilling, particularly in the areas of digital wellbeing, to improve confidence to facilitate these topics.

To disseminate progress and learning, project updates were shared on service and team chat threads and access to workshop resources were shared with all staff through a range of accessible formats. Staff were invited to trial any of the project activities and to reflect on their experience and learning in a shared online project space in MS Teams. Project updates were also recorded so that staff will be able to access them in a range of formats.

Approach

Stage 1:

  • Learners are introduced to the project and complete a quiz on fake news.
  • Learners create short video clips where they record how they feel misinformation is having an impact on their wellbeing.

Stage 2:
Learners take part in 2 workshops around misinformation following principles of co- design:

Workshop 1: Presentation delivered outlining:

  • What is misinformation?
  • Why do people create it and spread it?
  • Why is it so overwhelming?
  • How can I spot it?

Learners completed a survey answering questions through ‘Panda’ Emojis. The reason for choosing panda emojis was because we felt they represented the different emotions more visually than just the smiley faces. The panda was simply a design choice made from the various emoji icons available in PowerPoint.

The decision to use emojis in particular was based on it being recommended by our mentor as a really useful strategy for accessibility and understanding for questionnaires and getting feedback.

Questions included:

  • Do you think fake news is harmful or misleading?
  • How would you feel if you shared a message to friends and found out it was fake news?
  • How much do you trust social media to keep you up to date about issues you
    care about?
  • If a news story made you feel strong emotions (fear, anger), how confident do you feel that you would suspect it to be false or misleading?

Learners took part in ‘The Bad News Game’ to be in the shoes of someone who is spreading misinformation.

A series of community messages based on their new knowledge and skills were produced by the learners in MS Word.

Stage 3:

Learners shared wellbeing journeys by creating a second video diary recording:

  • What their experience was of playing ‘The Bad News Game’.
  • How confident they now felt that they can look after their own wellbeing (and
    their family and friends’) online in relation to what is fake or what is misleading.
  • Wellbeing community messages which were shared across the service.

The workshop template for the workshop events was also introduced to other classes across HALS.

Professional Learning: Evidence of changes in teaching, learning and assessment practices

We are now seeing digital literacy programmes appearing in schools, colleges and universities, with lots of innovative lesson plans and tools, but roll-out is still very much a

Screenshot of Jamboard

Figure 1 – Jamboard

process of trial and error. The co-design element of this project allowed us to work with learners to get an understanding of how misinformation affects them based on their lived experience and design resources to meet their needs.

Our approach for this project was to create a series of co-designed workshops with a group of learners to create resources to raise awareness of and promote discussion about misinformation.

The practitioners involved were professionally developed as action researchers: we encouraged critical thinking about education, values and practice. A process model in the design and delivery of the workshops was put into practice. A praxis curriculum model with learners empowered to co-design content (motioning of learners as experts in their own learning and development) subsequently improved their wellbeing. We drew on relevant research as part of this evidence-based practice (Wardle and Derakhshan, 2017).

Screenshot of Edmodo Group page

Figure 2- Edmodo Group

In advance of the first workshop, we created a series of questions about misinformation for the learners to respond to in their video diaries. This allowed us to have a better understanding of what type of information and resources might help to address the knowledge gap and what kind of concerns and attitudes the group had about misinformation at the beginning of the project. This demonstrated our commitment to maintaining high standards of ethics and professional behaviour in support of learners and their expectations.

The activities encouraged the group to consider how they keep up-to-date online, how being online might impact their wellbeing and explored trusting our instincts and judgement in the online space. This was supported by the group creating statements and messages in response to a series of questions, such as “What would you say to someone who is feeling overwhelmed by false and misleading stories online?” and “What advice would you give to someone about looking after their wellbeing online?”, which were then shared within the group.

Throughout the project we were active. After each workshop we made changes for the following workshop based on identified learner needs, for example, introducing ‘The Bad News Game’ using role play, placing learners in the ‘shoes’ of someone: spreading fake news (see response in Video diary 2). We dedicated an additional workshop to develop the personal messages which allowed learners the time to reflect on what they had learned and freedom to create their own personalised community messages, enabling them to feel connected:

Practitioners are subject and/or vocational specialists as well as experts in teaching and learning and showed commitment in maintaining and developing their expertise in both aspects of their role to ensure the best outcomes for their learners. Continual refreshing of knowledge and skill sharing occurred across the project by sharing resources via the MS Teams platform and CPD sessions.

Evidence of improved collaboration and changes in organisation practices

Project updates were shared on the service and team chat threads and access to the workshop resources shared with all staff through a range of accessible formats. Staff were

Image of messages from/ to learners in different languages

Figure 3 – Messages in first languages

invited to trial any of the project activities and to reflect on experience and learning in a shared online project space in MS Teams. Any project updates were also recorded so that staff will be able to access them in a range of formats.

The video diary activity was designed so that learners would be able to use the device which is most accessible to them. As not all learners had a smartphone, it was decided as a group to use MS Teams to record the videos, enabling all to participate.

The co-created message activity focused on learners’ devising short slogans, brief messages and digitally produced content so that learners’ language and literacy skills did not become a barrier. Although the messages were produced in English, ESOL Learners were encouraged to produce their messages in languages other than English. The benefits of this enabled learners to respond in their first language and therefore reduced cognitive load (Bell Foundation, 2021).

The workshops were designed and scheduled based on learner needs through practitioner collaboration. Practitioners in different roles worked constructively in new relationships both within HALS and in their own setting. The class tutor and the associate tutor collaborated on the resources to ensure they were relevant for the learner group.

Evidence of improvement in learners’ achievements, retention and progression

The learners, as a group, reported that they often struggled to tell the difference between news that is real and that is ‘fake’. They were unanimous in believing that false and misleading news stories are harmful, but less clear about the motivations of why people create and spread misinformation online.

When asked if they were concerned about what is real and what is fake or misleading online, they provided some valuable insight into the impact of misinformation on their wellbeing.

One learner expressed concerns around violent and aggressive news stories, another how misinformation might impact and affect her children. A young mother said that she finds it “very scary” not knowing if what she is reading or listening to is real or not and shared her worry that the intention of misinformation might be an attempt to control you or make you believe something that isn’t true. A male learner spoke about how he is starting to struggle with misinformation, especially the news on social media, where people post messages or share links and it’s hard to know if it’s a joke or if the statistics are real.

This can be illustrated best with learner case studies. The first case study focuses on two female learners, K and M.

What were the learners’ challenges at the beginning?

K has two daughters, 19 and 16, and it is their age group she was most concerned about. She worried about the ease of access to information making them:

“…feel that they are in control because they know stuff, but it’s not really that they know, it’s that they know how to get or how to access stuff about, they don’t talk about, they see it, and there tends to be especially a tendency to accept it because (their) friends have been hearing it…”.

It therefore becomes more commonplace more acceptable. K also felt that people access information differently, and this can be confusing.

M was very concerned and said she was:

“…trying to avoid the news which are full of violence and aggression and I just tried to sort out everything, so I choose what I want to hear.”

She commented that it is a:

“…very difficult situation because you know it’s getting more and more and then we just stuck. Now if you watch TV, it just full of the headlines and other headlines already hitting basically two words to tell us everything!”

M was trying to be aware but found it quite intimidating as to how to find trustworthy news amongst the amount “headline” news intent for an emotive response.

What did they learn in the end?

K commented:

“I definitely feel more equipped. It’s good also to know that it’s so serious that there is a need to educate people. It’s not just all in my mind!”

She also remarked that she does not “have worry but thinks about it.” This demonstrated her new, calmer way of approaching the topic now that she is more equipped. At the same time,

“I guess I’m always expecting that something will come along and catch me out. But it’ll be fewer things because I know a bit more about it.”

M reflected:

“I think I got so much information that I never thought about that before. Not to take everything from social media, so it’s a truth. Here I got some so much more and it will help. So yeah, we will be much more aware of everything and I will double check everything!”

She also felt confident to pass on what she has learned to friends and family as:

“Everyone needs to be aware, but of course not to be paranoid about it. But obviously…we have to have our eyes open, you know, just to decide what is good, what is bad. So that’s why it has been really helpful.”

This learner feedback tells us that the experience was extremely valuable, and the learners enjoyed all stages of the project. They were fully engaged as it was meaningful to all participants in their own unique ways. They enjoyed being filmed and learning these digital skills. I looked forward to teaching them how to record and edit their own video diaries and this element will be covered in a Level 1 qualification.

The next steps for the team are that most learners are progressing to EDSQ Level 1, where they will explore recording and editing videos themselves at Level 1, developing further their digital literacy.

Learning from this project

Over the course of our investigation, we learned that:

  • Learners had some degree of knowledge about misinformation but not a clear understanding of what it is.
  • Learners reported feeling overwhelmed by the scale of misinformation online and worried about its effects on them and those close to them.
  • Learners had some idea of the motivations behind misinformation, and it was a cause for concern for many of them, particularly relating to health information.

We also valued feedback from EDS research peers at the dissemination event, in which practitioner research peers told us:

“What a critically important part of education – considering misinformation. This should be at the core of so many courses today”.
“I like the idea of video diaries”.
“[This curriculum is] potentially so empowering”.
“Misinformation is having a real impact on community health and wellbeing”.

What went well:

The project approach of breaking down the key aspects of misinformation, e.g. defining it, tools to spot it, was successful in helping the group to feel more confident about dealing and interacting with misinformation online.

Creating the personal messages and statements facilitated discussion around the issue and allowed learners to hear about lived experience from different perspectives. Although the group were unanimous that misinformation is harmful, what that harm looks like and how it impacts differs from person to person. So, beginning from a place of understanding the needs and concerns of the group supported the creation of resources that played a meaningful role in addressing the issue of misinformation and, more broadly, looking after their wellbeing online.

Even better if….

In the future we would like to extend the curriculum to allow exploration of learners’ own unconscious /confirmation bias. Are there outlets that they think ‘oh that must be false’ because they share views that don’t sit with their own e.g. “I’m right dot com” (Joe Rogan Experience, 2015).

These could be further tools to promote critical thinking in real contexts.
ESOL Learners could produce more of their messages in languages other than English, widening the reach in a diverse community.

Learners could be encouraged to record and edit their own videos improving their digital skills even further. This will be explored by the team in future with progressing learners at Level 1.

There is so much rich evidence and information on this project through learners’ testimonies. The best way to experience it is to visit our Padlet (Appendix 7) where you will find learner journey evidence, case studies, evaluation reports and information about our teaching and training resources.

Examples of resources involved in the project may also be found in Appendices 1-4.

References

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