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Mental Wellbeing

Education for Mental Health Toolkit - Learner Development

Curriculum can support learning and wellbeing by placing a specific focus on the development of students as learners.

Learner Development Introduction

Curriculum can support learning and wellbeing by placing a specific focus on the development of students as learners. Through developing as learners, students can build their academic competence and their own sense of self-efficacy, disciplinary belonging, positive self-concept and confidence in approaching future challenges. Importantly, research has shown that the development of skills and ability must be sited within disciplinary knowledge. Generic skills training is less effective than training based within the discipline and can often seem less relevant and meaningful to students (1).

Education for Mental Health

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Within a well-designed curriculum, there is no tension between skills and knowledge. Both are recognised as being inter-related parts of learning focussed outcomes. Developing core skills allows students to take more control of their learning and heightens their ability to acquire further knowledge. Possessing core knowledge reduces cognitive load, freeing up more capacity to engage in complex learning and problem solving (2).

This can be augmented by taking a broad, holistic view of learning that considers the role of wellbeing. Building students’ understanding of the relationship between wellbeing and learning and developing their ability to self-manage, can enhance their learning and wellbeing (3, 4).

However, an important aspect of this is the student’s ability to recognise their own development and take credit for their own achievements (5). This ability to correctly identify strengths and attribute success is key to ongoing motivation and wellbeing. Without this, students may develop skills and knowledge but continue to doubt their own ability, undermining their self-belief, leading to academic disengagement and poorer wellbeing (6,7).

This section will explore ways in which the curriculum can support students to develop as learners, through meta-learning strategies and effective feedback, with a specific focus on building self-efficacy, self-attribution and self-management.

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  1. Zohar A, David AB. Paving a clear path in a thick forest: A conceptual analysis of a metacognitive component. Metacognition and Learning. 2009 Dec 1;4(3):177-95.
  2. Sweller, J. Cognitive Load During Problem Solving: Effects on Learning. Cognitive Science. 1988 12;257-285. Available from: doi:
  3. Houghton AM, Anderson J. Embedding mental wellbeing in the curriculum: maximising success in higher education. Higher Education Academy. 2017 May 10;68.
  4. Stallman HM, King S. The Learning Thermometer: Closing the Loop between Teaching, Learning, Wellbeing and Support in Universities. Journal of university teaching and learning practice. 2016;13(5):22.
  5. Dweck CS., Leggett EL. A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 1988;95(2), 256–273.
  6. London B, Downey G, Mace S. Psychological theories of educational engagement: A multi-method approach to studying individual engagement and institutional change. Vand. L. Rev.. 2007;60:455.
  7. Pajares F, Schunk DH. Self and self-belief in psychology and education: A historical perspective. In Improving academic achievement 2002 Jan 1 (pp. 3-21). Academic Press.