Students' well-being and obstacles to learning

What can we as teachers and degree programmes do to improve student well-being and remove hindrances of studies? Based on an initiative by the Science Students’ Association Matlu, the Faculty of Science implemented in spring 2020 a questionnaire designed to produce actionable information.

Questions about student well-being and obstacles to learning were added to the first-year students’ HowULearn survey. (HowULearn is a survey regularly carried out at various phases of studies at the University of Helsinki.) The aim was to examine topics not covered by the regular HowULearn questionnaire and to offer practical information to study programmes for enhancing students’ well-being.

As a summary, the following general conclusions can be drawn from the results:

  • Sense of community and working together were emphasised in many analyses as being important for well-being
  • Flexibility and independent work were seen as important, but enabling these should not undermine group work and contact teaching opportunities
  • Sense of workload does not correlate well with actual working hours: exhaustion may come from other factors (such as overlapping courses, high requirements, surface learning techniques or distressing course atmosphere)
  • Feeling of inadequacy is prevalent in the faculty: it is strongly connected with high requirements, tense atmosphere and experience of trust
  • Well-being was promoted by teachers’ positive attitudes towards students and positive atmosphere in general: extra concern during covid outbreak was noted positively

More specific results are available for each BSc programme. Based on the results, the programmes are asked to plan possible actions in cooperation with teachers and students. (MSc programmes are welcome to use the results as well!) Pedagogical university lecturers (Liisa Myyry and Jokke Häsä) and study psychologists (Anu Lehtinen and Jasmin Kurkaa-Kivelä) are available for support. The plans of BSc programmes will be discussed together in early autumn 2020 and implemented during the academic year 2020-21.

Presentation slides of the results: Wellbeing_HUL1_Spring2020_Report.pdf