From the Dean: Talk to your students

For some years now, newly gratuated bachelors have received a questionnaire from the Ministry and Education and Culture (MEC).

The purpose of the questionnaire is to obtain feedback from fresh graduates concerning their study experience. The volume and results of the obtained feedback influence the basic MEC funding of universities. The questions deal with teaching content, methods and arrangements as well as the interaction between students and teachers.

When compared to other universities in the country, Aalto and its School of Science do not perform particularly well.  Without going to the many details of the survey, one can make some general observations. Students generally appreciate the education they receive and value the topics and the substance. However, there is a perceived lack of interaction between the students and the teaching faculty. The students seem to hold professors distant and hard to reach, and feel that the faculty is not really that interested in them and their progress. The lack of interaction and communication can be quite problematic, as it reduces commitment and motivation and thus leads weakens study results.

One may look for excuses for the situation in the large class sizes of the basic courses, the strong commitment of professors in research rather than education, or the packed schedules of the bachelor programmes.  However, these are just excuses.  We should act much more proactively to welcome and engage students into the university community.  There are simple things that we can do without too much effort: learning the names of the students in the class, talking to them face-to-face and showing interest in their issues, being available for questions etc.   We should make students feel appreciated and challenged.  Discussion sessions, oral examinations and group work are also valuable tools.

University education is a privilege paid by the taxpayer. For every incoming undergraduate, there are several disappointed young people who did not get in.  It is a joint responsibility for students and teachers to make use of that privilege  as well as possible.  Let’s interact and talk: silence is not golden.

Risto Nieminen
Dean, School of Science

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