Face-to-face interaction and the chance to influence create an inclusive learning environment

University Lecturer Sebastian Godenhjelm strives in his teaching for balance between theory and practice. His aim is to help students understand the relevance of what they are learning. Godenhjelm is one of the new fellows of the University of Helsinki Teachers’ Academy.

Sebastian Godenhjelm, University Lecturer of Political Science and Public Management at the University of Helsinki’s Swedish School of Social Science, has over 10 years of teaching experience. His teaching is underpinned by the idea of listening to students.

Godenhjelm feels lucky to have the chance to teach topics that interest him and to see first-hand the link between research and teaching in his work at the University. He has developed courses directly connected to his research topics, such as public renewal, collaboration and innovation in the public sector. 

“Despite the challenges involved, the University is keen to engage students increasingly in research. I take every opportunity to talk about my ongoing research with my students because it gives me new ideas and allows me to test hypotheses.”

Godenhjelm says he has evolved a great deal as a teacher during his career largely thanks to the first course in university teaching and learning he took in 2012. The course boosted his self-confidence and gave him the occasion to try out different teaching methods.

“I’ve had the chance to explore various teaching methods in depth, which I find valuable as we teachers actually teach quite a lot.”

Since then, he has worked determinedly and systematically to develop his skills in university teaching and learning. Today, he uses methods such as problem-based learning and various engaging activities.

“I like teaching this way and I think students like it too, even if it can be laborious at times. In addition, I strive to achieve a balance between theoretical and practical knowledge to help students understand the relevance of what they’re learning.”  

Attention on student wellbeing and time pressure

The pandemic and the resulting switch to remote and hybrid teaching tested the wellbeing of both students and teachers. 

Godenhjelm has noticed that students are under increasing time pressure, an issue he believes should be given serious attention.

“As teachers, we can’t fix all the issues causing time pressure, but we can at least ensure that our teaching is appropriate and delivered at a suitable pace. We can also try to make realistic plans for coursework without putting enormous pressure on students during certain teaching periods.”

To support wellbeing through his teaching, Godenhjelm tries to nurture self-regulation and factors contributing to inclusivity, such as engaging activities and groupwork.

“In the future, no one will be able to do everything on their own; being able to collaborate with others is a must, even if it can, of course, be difficult at times.”

Moreover, he aims to make it as easy as possible for his students to contact him.

“Much of it is about listening to students, taking their feedback seriously and developing courses accordingly.”

Process-oriented learning for the future

Godenhjelm believes the University will continue to play an important role in shaping society.

“I believe it’s central for students to focus on process-oriented rather than product-oriented learning. Those of us working at the University must ensure that students can build on the knowledge they have acquired.”

The technologies developed can be good or bad – much depends on how the University chooses to use them.

“The digital opportunities at our disposal have developed in leaps and bounds within a short period of time, but I’m not sure we’re capable of providing student-centred teaching remotely at present. I continue to believe in the importance of face-to-face teaching and small groups.”


The Teachers' Academy

The Teachers' Academy is a network of teachers who have invested their time in the development of teaching, teaching skills and students' learning processes. The establishment of the Academy is an indication of the value the university community places on the quality of teaching.  By investing in teachers, the University also invests in students and the quality of learning.  An appointment as a fellow to the Teachers’ Academy is a sign of recognition for teaching merits and expertise in the field of teaching. 

The members of the Teachers' Academy form a multidisciplinary network that shares its expertise and is active in the development of learning and teaching at the university. The members of the Teachers' Academy meet regularly during the academic year to share their pedagogical innovations, learn about ideas for improving teaching and learning in different departments, and work together to promote issues they consider important.