Trish Hafford-Letchfield, a teaching fellow in social work at Middlesex University, has developed an innovative way to make sure her students develop the right skills, by incorporating elements of art, comedy and even film-making into her classes.
"Methods like art and comedy create a level playing field and bridge the gap between academia and practice," she explains. She recently worked with her BA (Hons) Social Work students on a film-making project, asking them to create films about issues concerning their community. "It was scary for them as there were lots of different techniques involved, but they were able to tackle the challenge in a supportive environment," she says.
Taking people out of their comfort zone and engaging them in creative ways, Trish says, also allows them to connect with their emotions and respond to tricky situations in a positive way. "When you're exposed to trauma, sometimes you need to get back in touch with those feelings of empathy."
Trish completed her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at Middlesex and, after a long career in nursing, social work and management, was inspired to return to the University to channel her experience into education and research. The dedication of her fellow staff members and the University's close-knit community, she says, create a positive environment for both teaching and study.
"We're so committed, and behind the scenes it's really like a club or family," she says. "It's important for students to have that support when they're learning."