Create Conditions for Well-being in Learning Environments

Health and well-being directly impact student success. In partnership with the Teaching and Learning Centre, we work with instructional staff to create conditions for well-being within learning environments.

An extensive review of the literature and an involved consultation with SFU faculty, revealed 10 conditions for well-being in learning environments. Below you will find strategies, real-world examples and helpful tools to bring these conditions to life in your classrooms. For more ideas, download the Creating Conditions for Well-being in Learning Environments booklet.

Watch the video >

Social Connection

Facilitating interaction helps students build social networks which foster resilience and are an asset to well-being. Interaction in the class can help create a sense of community and positive classroom culture.

SUGGESTIONS

  • Have students introduce themselves during the first class or use a social connectedness start up activity in tutorials
  • Design lecture assignments that require students to collectively work on study questions and participate in small group discussions
  • Suggest opportunities for students to interact outside of class time (if you have time to join them that is even better)
  • Work with your teaching assistants to create opportunities for social connection and teamwork in tutorials or labs
  • Offer mini breaks in class and encourage students to take this time to get to know one another
 

FACULTY EXAMPLE

  • Peter Ruben uses team based learning to create social connections among students, and build a resilient and supportive learning community within his class

    Sample tool: Team style grading rubric (shared by Lara Aknin, Psychology)  

Optimal Challenge

Students perform and feel their best when they are challenged, but have adequate resources to meet the challenge.

SUGGESTIONS

  • Consider the timing of exams and assignments to alleviate undue stress
  • Avoid very heavily weighted components, such as an exam worth 50% of the final grade
  • Set clear course goals, and ensure assignments and expectations are clear from the start
  • Acknowledge that students have lives outside their academic pursuits and support them to find balance
  • Provide feedback on each stage of assignments and help students progress to the next stage of larger projects

    Need more ideas?

FACULTY EXAMPLE

  • Mark Lechner creates optimal challenge by inviting students to share feedback with him throughout his courses using an anonymous comment card.

    Sample tool: Comment card (shared by Mark Lechner, Health Sciences)

Positive Classroom Culture

Creating an enjoyable and welcoming classroom culture can enhance positive well-being for students and instructors. This can be accomplished through humor, inspiration, open-mindedness, connecting with students or deeply engaging them in their learning.

SUGGESTIONS

  • Share your teaching philosophy with students
  • When possible, ensure a pleasant and inviting space through use of colour, art, music and well maintained facilities
  • Use active learning techniques to create an engaging and dynamic learning environment
  • Seek feedback from students throughout the semester (this could be done through web-survey or an anonymous in class comment card)
  • Share a bit about yourself, your career path or setbacks you’ve overcome

    Need more ideas?

FACULTY EXAMPLE

  • Rachel Fouladi creates a positive classroom culture, but letting students know about opportunities to get involved on campus. She impacts student well-being by making herself available to students and letting them know she cares.

    Sample tool: Teaching philosophy (shared by Stephen Brown, Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology).

Civing Engagement

Providing students with opportunities to make a valued contribution through their coursework can give them a boost to their emotional well-being.

SUGGESTIONS

  • Create assignments in which the results can be utilized by a community group or campus initiative
  • Where possible incorporate community service or service learning components into your course
  • Recognize that universities play a role in developing the leaders of tomorrow and encourage students to explore their own values and goals
  • Encourage students to get involved in extracurricular volunteer work
  • Lead discussions or activities that help students develop a sense of civic responsibility

Need more ideas?  

FACULTY EXAMPLE

  • Paola Ardiles supports civic engagement by having students work in collaboration with partner organizations in the community through service learning.

    Sample tool: Slide on student engagement opportunities at SFU (shared by SFU Student Engagement) 

Instructor Support

As an instructor you play an important role in setting a positive and supportive tone that can go a long way in helping students to feel welcome and at ease.

SUGGESTIONS

  • Whenever possible, let students know you care about them and their success
  • Seek feedback from students throughout the semester. This could be done through web-survey or an anonymous in class comment card Be learner centered: “be interested in learners instead of trying to be an interesting teacher”
  • Consider the “whole student” and the pressures and challenges the students may face outside your class
  • Consider alternative forms of office hours (for example skype, web-conferencing, group office hours or canvas chat), and let students know what to expect from office hours

    Need more examples?

FACULTY EXAMPLE

  • Petra Menz emphasizes instructor support by inviting students to meet with her individually for office hours where she provides mentorship both personally and professionally.

    Sample tool: Syllabus language regarding stress and support services for mental well-being (shared by SFU Health & Counselling) 

Services and Supports

The in class experience provides an important opportunity to connect students with resources that can support their personal well-being, resilience and readiness to learn.

SUGGESTIONS

  • Use mindfulness or relaxation videos through SFU Health and Counselling for a break
  • Link students to resources that support their resilience and well-being (for example the Bouncing Back resilience course on canvas and the Wellness Wheel)
  • Familiarize yourself with the various student support services and co-curricular learning supports across campus
  • Familiarize yourself with SFU’s Response Guide for Faculty and Staff on supporting students in distress
  • Provide health tips or health resources in class or during breaks

    Need more ideas?

FACULTY EXAMPLE

  • Kevin Lam emphasizes services and supports by taking 10 minutes at the start of his lectures to share well-being related resources and activities with students.

    Sample tool: 10 min well-being activities (shared by Kevin Lam, Biological Sciences). 

Real Life Learning

By connecting learning to life you offer students opportunities to build their personal skills and confidence in their future.

SUGGESTIONS

  • Utilize examples from the real world in class (for example news clips, career advice, guest speakers from the workforce students hope to enter)
  • Consider what skills students will need to succeed in life and in their careers and try to foster these in class (for example teamwork, problem solving, empathy, initiative)
  • Bring in guest speakers or program alumni who can help relate the course material to real life issues and work skills
  • Where possible, incorporate experiential or service learning components into your course
  • Create assignments in which the results can be utilized by a community group or campus initiative
  • Encourage students to get involved in extracurricular volunteer work

    Need more ideas?

FACULTY EXAMPLE

  • David Zandvliet creates real life learning experiences by taking learning beyond the walls of the classroom and helping them to connect their learning to their career aspirations.

    Sample tool: In the news activity (shared by Sarah Walshaw, History Department). 

Inclusivity 

An inclusive learning environment demonstrates an intentional consideration for all students and in doing so, can enhance positive well-being.

SUGGESTIONS

  • Create class guidelines as a group to respect difference and create a safe place for discussion (ie. “appreciate perspectives and differences” or” remember that people are talking from personal experiences — be empathetic”)
  • Familiarize yourself with the intercultural awareness resources available through SFU’s online learning community and share these with students
  • Incorporate principles of Universal Design for Learning to help accommodate diverse learners
  • Use inclusive language and gender neutral pronouns
  • Encourage students to speak to you about any accessibility concerns they may have

    Need more ideas?

FACULTY EXAMPLE

  • Sheri Fabian recognizes inclusivity in creating class guidelines with her students to respect difference and create a safe place for discussion.

    Sample tool:
    Class guideline activity (shared by Sheri Fabian, Criminology Department)

Personal Development

Opportunities for personal and professional growth increase students’ skills, resiliency and preparedness for the future.

SUGGESTIONS

  • Bring in guest speakers or alumni to help students connect in class learning to their career development
  • Link students to resources that support their personal resilience and well-being
  • Consider what skills students will need to succeed in life and in their careers and try to find ways to foster these in class (for example teamwork, communication, problem solving, empathy, initiative)
  • Encourage students to seek co-curricular and volunteer opportunities (for example Passport to Leadership, Mentorship Programs, or Peer Education)
  • Use activities and practices in class to help build you and your students’ intercultural competence

    Need more ideas?

FACULTY EXAMPLE

  • Anne-Kristina Arnold supports personal development, by encouraging students to take SFU’s Bouncing Back Resilience and Well-being Course online, and supporting them to reflect on their personal goals for the semester.

    Sample tool: Reality check reflection tool (shared by John Bogardus, Sociology and Anthropology) 

Flexibility

Providing students with some flexibility and control over their learning experiences helps them to feel empowered and supported, contributing to their well-being.    

SUGGESTIONS

  • Offer students choice in assignments and opportunities to set their own deadlines or percentage of final grade for assignments
  • Offer students the option to choose their “best two out of three” for assignments or quizzes
  • Seek feedback from students throughout the semester. This could be done through web-survey or an anonymous in class comment card
  • Consider providing students with lecture notes or power point slides ahead of class, and providing lecture recordings (particularly helpful for EAL students whereby they have more opportunities to work through the rate of speech during lectures
  • Incorporate principles of Universal Design for Learning to help accommodate diverse learners

    Need more ideas?

FACULTY EXAMPLE

  • Nicky Didicher enhances flexibility for students through “learner centered teaching” and use of contractual evaluations in which students choose their assignments, the weighting of their assignments and due dates.

    Sample tool: Contractual agreement (shared by Nicky Didicher, English Department)