Academic Literacy Practices and Student Mental Health

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Lancaster Literacy Research centre are delighted to welcome Emily and Uta to discuss Academic Literacy Practices and Student Mental Health

About this Event

This Lancaster Literacy Research Centre event will be a talk from Emily Peach and Uta Papen, titled ‘crying so hard that I’ll be physically ill over a piece of work’: Academic Literacy Practices and Student Mental Health.


With increasing numbers of students experiencing and reporting mental health conditions, student mental health has become a significant concern in UK universities and internationally. This presentation will discuss the findings of a wider paper and project looking into student mental health and academic literacy practices, specifically writing for assessment. We will explore students’ perspectives on academic writing, gathered through repeated in-depth Skype interviews, conducted over the course of an academic year. Our approach to these perspectives is based on an understanding of student writing as socially and institutionally situated literacy practices (Lillis and Scott, 2007). This view will be extended by exploring the role of emotion and affect in relation to student writing for assessment and mental health. Our students shared with us the ‘emotional labour’ (Donovan and Erskine-Shaw 2020) of writing and the strong negative emotions they experienced, which affected their mental health and at times made them ‘physically ill’. These emotions need to be understood in relation to the specific power relations that characterise student writing in HE, and we will argue that the ‘problem’ of student mental health in terms of writing for assessment does not lie exclusively with the students themselves. We will finish the presentation by exploring some of the implications of our findings, including some suggestions for how current assessment practices could be scrutinised and changed.

Event Schedule:

12:00pm - Welcomes & introductions (please enter the meeting with your 'real' name as your display name, and your camera switched on, to allow us to all put faces to each others' names)

12:05 - Presentation from Emily Peach and Uta Papen (please turn your camera off and mute your microphone during the presentation)

12:40 - Discussion (please use the raise hand feature on Teams to indicate you would like to have a turn speaking and once asked to speak by an event facilitator, please un-mute your microphone and turn your camera on)

Presenter bio:

Emily Peach is a PhD student and Research Assistant in the Department of Linguistics and English Language at Lancaster University and an active member of Lancaster’s Literacy Research Centre, working on a thesis exploring mental health and literacy practices of students with mental health conditions.

Uta Papen is Professor of Literacy Studies in the Department of Linguistics and English Language at Lancaster University and an active member of Lancaster’s Literacy Research Centre. Recent publications cover topics such as teaching English literacy to deaf young adults in India, children discussing picture books, participant observation, and literacy policy for children in England and beyond.

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