Highlighting the Impact of SSH Research at the University of Vienna

The Impact Award of the University of Vienna encourages early-career scientists to reach new target groups outside the scientific community. The Impact Award, funded by the City of Vienna Cultural Affairs, goes to dissertation projects at the University to recognise impactful and engaging research of high social, economic or cultural value. Therefore, the range of studies and multifaceted research landscape of the University of Vienna is considered. The Impact Award 2021 was awarded to eight doctoral candidates whereby five are SSH scientists. Here, we want to highlight Julia Holzer’s research at the Faculty of Psychology on well-being in the educational context.

Julia’s mindset as a former teacher and now scientist reflects the aims of the Impact Award. Julia has been interested in knowledge transfer from research to educational practice throughout her career. Since she changed from being a teacher to becoming a scientist she encourages building bridges in schools. Her Ph.D. thesis on well-being in the educational context focuses on applied evidence-based education. Well-being is considered an important resource for health, positive development, and successful learning. The University rewarded Julia’s social involvement and community engagement with the Impact Award.

Impact of Julia’s research is generated in schools, by providing direct feedback to schools participating in her studies on the results at each school – e.g., how high well-being and motivation are, in which age groups there is a particular need for intervention, etc. The valorisation of Julia’s research is directly generated in participants of her workshops and the pupils in the classroom. When COVID-19 hit the world, Julia’s research on well-being and motivation under distance schooling conditions was featured in international media and Julia was interviewed on television and on podcasts. The social impact of Julia’s research topic is reflected by the fact that her supervisors at the Faculty of Psychology are involved in advisory boards for politicians at the Ministries of Education and Health during the pandemic. Julia demonstrates that the well-being of pupils can be assured in distance learning meeting basic needs: competence experience, feeling of autonomy and social integration. If implemented accordingly, digitalization of learning may still enable experience of competence, being creative and autonomous and have room for social interaction in groups and discussion of learnings.     

Winning the Impact Award meant that Julia had a professional video shot to approach her target group. Julia is well aware that she has to adapt her communication style to the target audience: teachers, pupils or scientists. Despite – or indeed because of being a teacher herself, Julia feels a communication gap between practitioners and scientists investigating the education system. However, this does not discourage her, but rather motivates her to continue her efforts with respect to research transfer. Winning the award, Julia received attention within the University from professors and colleagues when featured in University media. Julia is convinced that visibility for social engagement outside of the University and scientific community increases valorisation of SSH by adding appreciation to transfer activities. This reflects the University of Vienna’s mission of knowledge transfer helping resolve societal challenges.

Julia continues basic research and applied practice in schools, including the exchange with teachers and principals and sharing of research results publicly. While her research on distance learning hit a nerve during the pandemic, Julia hopes that the interest in well-being in the educational context is long-term amongst society, pupils, teachers, parents and political decision-makers.

Authored by: Raphaela Freidl, University of Vienna
The Impact Award is granted to excellent doctoral candidates at the University of Vienna whose dissertations are of high social relevance and build a bridge between science and practice.

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