Lorna Hollowood (Nursing) discusses The Feast – a communication skills workshop to promote integration for students

The Feast workshops were co-created with staff in the School of Nursing and local charity, The Feast after it was recognised that within our large and diverse cohort of nursing students, there was clear segregation of students in lecture theatres, by ethnicity. The team wished to create opportunities for students to integrate and work together and as part of a range of strategies, the Feast workshops were developed.

The aim of the workshop is to encourage students to talk to each other, and talk to different people in their cohort without fear. We create a range of interventions that promote fun, relaxed and focussed conversations and as students gain in confidence the activities steer them towards more in depth conversations, which have the potential to unlock some of the barriers that we have between groups.

The first part of the session is spent reviewing the ‘Guidelines for Dialogue’ – a Feast charity resource which sets parameters to communicate in multicultural groups. They advocate a broad sense of respectful listening, promote honesty and give permission to stop conversations should they become uncomfortable. Previous workshops have shown that students are really open to the principles and find them helpful.

The final activity is called What is important to you? This gives students a set of random questions to facilitate a greater depth of knowledge about each other, as well as promote healthy discussion about sometimes challenging topics. The questions range from current and political affairs to topics that may stimulate debate and those that invite the sharing of opinion.

All questions and activities can easily be adapted to meet needs of different student groups and we have just run some very successful workshops with the Biomedical Science students, adapting the materials slightly to address their programme.

The workshops are now in their third year and the feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive. Feedback from the most recent students include

  • It gave me an opportunity to make new friends from my course. I think that it is easier for me to make friends this way, which made it good for me, as it is much more daunting having to start conversations with other people of my own accord.
  • I got the opportunity to talk to different people from my course and hear their views on different topics and aspects of life
  • The best thing about the feast workshop was being able to talk to different people and find out about our similarities and differences.
  • When I can openly talk about my religion to people and learning different culture and religions
  • The challenge that I had to overcome during the workshop was to get out my comfort zone and talk to new people that I haven’t seen before, however as the session went on I felt more comfortable talking and connecting with different students.

The new undergraduate students arriving at University this year have had significant disruption to their education and their social lives due to the pandemic. The Feast workshops provides an opportunity to re-engage with their peers and hopefully overcome some of the challenges that may have arisen during some of the restricted times, such as confidence to speak to others, social anxiety and loneliness.

As an intervention it is fun to run, not resource intensive (although within the ethos of the charity, the students always appreciate if sweets are provided) and fits really well with induction activities or as preparation for group work. There are clear step by step facilitator guides, and support available from within the School of Nursing if this is an intervention you would like to explore.

https://thefeast.org.uk/resources - Click on Resources to access the Guidelines for Dialogue