How do we promote health and well-being in the classroom?
This series of blog posts from NDSU Health Promotion will explore how faculty can promote health and well-being from the classroom. Before we begin, we want to give a brief overview of NDSU Health Promotion’s mission and values. NDSU Health Promotion, within Student Health Service, engages the broader campus community to inform, educate and empower students to make healthy decisions that enhance their success and well-being. We understand the reciprocal relationship between health and learning, and we partner with other NDSU services and resources to foster a campus climate that supports health and well-being.
Health Promotion Peer Education Groups
One of the many ways we do this is through our peer education groups. Peer educators are students who serve as leaders and role models to fellow students and encourage others to make responsible and healthy lifestyle choices. There are three peer education groups in Health Promotion, each with their own focus on specific aspects of well-being.
The Healthy Herd Champions work together to provide health and wellness programs and opportunities to NDSU students, including topics such as tobacco cessation and suicide prevention.
The Violence Prevention Educators work with the campus community on awareness and prevention of power-based personal violence with a focus on sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking.
The Body Project provides education and programming on positive body image and feeling empowered and confident.
In creating this series of posts, we asked our peer educators to give their thoughts and ideas on how faculty can effectively promote health and well-being for students in their classrooms, and their feedback is incorporated throughout these posts. What better way to know what will be effective for students than to ask the students themselves?
Students’ health directly affects their ability to be successful in the classroom.
Student Health and Well-Being
Well-being is a holistic concept that encompasses both individual health and the environment in which that individual is situated. A healthy environment is one in which the individual is allowed and encouraged to actively work on their personal health and well-being. We want our students to make choices that will positively impact their health, and we also want to create environments in which these healthy choices are encouraged and supported.
Students’ health directly affects their ability to be successful in the classroom. Past results from the American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA), which will be implemented on the NDSU campus during spring 2021, found that 30% of students (n = 28,237) who took the survey said stress negatively impacted their academic performance, 19% stated that sleep problems and anxiety negatively impacted their academic performance, and 13.9% said that having an illness such as a cold negatively impacted their academic performance (American College Health Association, 2014).
How Faculty Influence Student Health
Research shows that positive interactions with faculty can significantly impact students in multiple areas, such as motivation, engagement, retention, and relevant to this blog series, health and well-being (Komarraju et al., 2010; Stanton et al., 2016).
There are many simple ways faculty can promote their students’ health and well-being.
Promoting Health and Well-Being in the Syllabus
Health and well-being in the classroom starts with the syllabus.
The class attendance policy is an excellent place to remind students of the importance of staying home when they are sick, and it is important to have class policies on make-up work that allow students to do so without penalty. Think of your attendance policy as your classroom health policy. You can also use this as an opportunity to remind students of the importance of mental health by stating all attendance policies apply to both physical and mental health.
You can also provide information in your syllabus on resources on campus for students’ physical and mental health; more detailed information about these resources are included at the end of this post.
Promoting Health and Well-Being with Assignments
After the syllabus sets a foundation for health promotion in the classroom, class assignments offer an effective opportunity to continue to actively promote health and well-being throughout the semester.
Giving students ample time to see written instructions and rubrics before assignments are due is not only sound pedagogical practice, but it also allows students to process and plan for the assignment. We know that students today are often juggling high course loads and sometimes multiple jobs in order to pay for school, and our peer educators told us that they value having details about assignments well in advance so they can plan enough time to work on them around their other commitments.
Having time to plan ahead reduces stress, which can negatively affect health, and it also helps to prevent students from sacrificing sleep to get the assignment done in time. Learn more about how little hints from faculty can help students immensely.
…setting deadlines during business hours, as opposed to the ubiquitous Friday or Sunday at 11:59 p.m. deadlines.
Promoting Health and Well-Being with Due Dates
Another way faculty can use their assignments to promote health is by setting deadlines during business hours, as opposed to the ubiquitous Friday or Sunday at 11:59 p.m. deadlines.
There is occasionally concern voiced that setting deadlines during business hours will confuse students and they will miss the deadlines, since they are so used to assignments being due at 11:59 p.m. However, we spoke to several faculty members who routinely set their deadlines during business hours; they said their students are able to remember the deadlines without difficulty.
In addition, there is a benefit to having daytime deadlines -when students email with last minute questions, the faculty member is available to respond.
From the student perspective, our peer educators, as a whole, told us that they would also prefer deadlines during the day. We know that students can set their own personal deadline during the day if they don’t want to work late at night, but we also know that the reality is that it is easier to meet a deadline set by someone else than one we set ourselves.
Setting daytime deadlines is a relatively small change faculty can enact that can have great benefits for students’ health by encouraging healthy sleep practices. Read about how sleep plays a role in memory storage and more information on how we learn.
Promoting Health and Well-Being with Reminders
There are also informal ways to promote health and well-being in the classroom. Don’t underestimate the influence you can have on students’ health just by giving frequent reminders of the importance of healthy habits.
Encourage physical activity; tell students about places to walk on campus like the babbling brook near Memorial Union or the flower garden on 12th Ave and 18th St. Even a quick walk on a class break or between classes can be beneficial.
Remind students to take a break and spend time with friends or family. Let them know free time is important to rest and clear the mind before returning to schoolwork.
Finally, ensure students know about resources available on campus for when they do have concerns with their physical and mental health.
Student Health Service, in Wallman Wellness Center, provides preventive, acute and chronic care to enrolled and eligible NDSU students. Students may schedule an appointment with Student Health Service online through the secure Student Health Portal or by calling the clinic at 701-231-7331.
The Counseling Center, in Ceres Hall, is available to help students deal with any personal/emotional concerns that might arise during the school year, and their services are free to students. Students can call to schedule an appointment at 701-231-7671.
Both Student Health Service and the Counseling Center also offer additional information and resources for students on their department websites. Learn more about how to recognize students in distress.
American College Health Association. (2014). Spring 2014 Reference Group Executive Summary. https://www.acha.org/documents/ncha/ACHA-NCHA-II_ReferenceGroup_ExecutiveSummary_Spring2014.pdf
Komarraju, M., Musulkin, S., & Bhattacharya, G. (2010). Role of student–faculty interactions in
developing college students’ academic self-concept, motivation, and achievement. Journal of College Student Development, 51(3), 332-342. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.0.0137
Stanton, A., Zandvliet, D., Dhaliwal, R., & Black, T. (2016). Understanding Students’
Experiences of Well-Being in Learning Environments. Higher Education Studies, 6(3), 90-99. http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/hes.v6n3p90
Antonia Curtis, doctoral candidate in the Developmental Science Ph.D. program, is an NDSU Health Promotion graduate assistant with an emphasis in Sexual Assault Prevention and Advocacy. She wrote this blog post in collaboration with the Health Promotion peer educators.