Fostering Social Connectedness in Large Lecture Courses

Grant programExploring Well-being in Learning Environments: An Integrated Seminar Series and Grants Program

Grant recipientSanjay Jeram, Department of Political Science

Project team: Marcus Macauley, Fergus Linley-Mota, & Nicholas Chayeski, research assistants

Timeframe: November 2019 to July 2020

Funding: $4,960

Courses addressed: POL 100 – Introduction to Politics and Government

Description: Establishing new connections and friendships is an expectation most students have when entering university and is important to their well-being. However, social isolation is a growing problem among university students that can result in loneliness, have negative impacts on the student learning experience, and ultimately student retention. This project seeks to examine whether, and if so, to what extent, faculty-led interventions that encourage students to connect socially decrease feelings of isolation, increase experiences of social connection, and thus improve overall student well-being. To investigate this, we will add activities into POL 100 that foster social connectedness and explore their effects on student well-being. We hope that the opportunities for meaningful social connection created by the activities help students to extend their social networks and contribute to well-being throughout their time at SFU.

Questions addressed:

  • Do the interventions contribute to student connectedness? If so, how? 
  • Do students perceive the interventions to be useful means of fostering social connection?
  • Do the interventions foster a context that enhances student learning and improves the student experience?
  • Do students experience meaningful social connection as a result of the activities?
  • Do students show improvements in their well-being over the course?

Knowledge sharing: This is a small initiative, but hopefully, its success will inspire other instructors and departments to frame student well-being as part of their role in the classroom. I will be happy to disseminate findings to departmental and other colleagues through an ISTLD newsletter, workshop or conference. If the FASS ‘Student Retention and Experience Working Group’ would benefit from hearing about my project, I would be happy to speak to them.