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A Tutor Perspective

A Tutor Perspective -  By Dawn Cunliffe

At Liverpool Learning Matters we are trying to imbed Reflective Practice into our everyday in order to learn from our mishaps, celebrate our successes and develop our service as best we can. This is a new experience for many of our staff, so please be kind! Below is the second of our Reflections from one of our tutors. Let us know what you think! 

From the course Reduce Anxiety through Painting

This six-week painting course started in November 2016, it focused on how painting could reduce anxiety using a collection of gentle and broad ranging techniques in acrylic painting, relaxation breathing activities and ‘doodling’ drawing to restful music. 

An Art course for Anxiety was requested by the wave’s new beginnings project who support clients into meaningful activity, learning, volunteering and employment. The service is flexible, recognising that clients often want to be occupied at evenings and weekends, when traditionally other services are not available. Clients accessing this organisation will have suffered from some or all of the following: Homelessness, Re-offending, Mental Health issues and Substance misuse. The course was delivered at Newsham ALC on a Wednesday afternoon, 12.30pm – 3.00pm.

The wave’s new beginnings staff were helpful and supportive with one member of staff attending the class each week, the enrollment process took a little longer than usual to gather the required number of learners due to learners being unable to attend initial interview appointments due to their health or benefit appointments. All learners agreed to take part in the project, had an interest in art agreeing to attend sessions regularly. Unfortunately, due to poor attendance, no full sets of data were gathered for the mental health project.

At the beginning of sessions when attendance was low I felt a little disappointed that the group buzz and sharing of ideas would be limited. I strived to boost enthusiasm and motivate learners during sessions and it was clear to see that there was a good level of enjoyment and participation with the learners who did attend. It was also on my mind that the chance of being able to collect full sets of data from the group was diminishing which was also a disappointment.

Learners who attended sessions were always keen to participate in the lesson and showed enjoyment in following tasks and producing art work. The relaxed atmosphere of a small group enabled learners to chat freely and share experiences around their art work and their anxiety and depression. Learners were asked to rate their anxiety level at the very beginning and end of each class, all learners rated themselves as having the same or a lower level of anxiety and stress at the end of the session which shows the class was beneficial to learner’s mental health.

Attendance was helped by the waves new beginnings staff because they would telephone their clients the day before the course to remind them, they would also use a mobile phone in the classroom before the class started to see if learners were on their way, they also have a taxi transport service for learners which is free of charge, enabling learners to get to and from the class without financial worry.

This course was well planned and managed and learners were encouraged to attend in a number of ways. To avoid this problem happening again in the future with a similar group it may be useful to look into attendance records the organisation has for classes learners have attended previously, this may give an insight into whether running a course would be worthwhile. As the tutor of this art class, if low attendance was beginning to be a problem, I could stress the importance of the research and how valuable it is to collect full sets of data. Informing them again that this data could prove the importance of these mental health based classes both for each learner on the course and others suffering from mental health issues, with a positive outcome of the research project hopefully resulting in more funding being dedicated to this area and other courses becoming available.