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The teaching reforms started already in 2007-2008 were running in full and the beneficial results are seen, most notably in the introductory level teaching. It is now safe to say that efforts in developing the physics teaching and learning in first year courses has definitely produced the desired results. Of course, there is always a lot more to do. One new project started to develop teaching and learning is the initiative, where more attention is paid on learning in small groups. In the introductory level this means more emphasis on guidance in exercises and on personal guidance. The first feedback from the teaching and learning in small groups is promising. Following the experiences gathered the efforts in near future are most probably guided to intermediate level studies and laboratory studies.

The Department has been successful in actively engaging the top level researchers in teaching, which ensures that the best expertise and the most up-to-date insights in physics are available to students. The need of professionalism in teaching is also noted, and many of the teachers have attended on courses of university pedagogy in order to improve their teaching skills. The impacts of this further education are without doubt seen in future.

Management of Educational Activity

The Department’s General Division provides supporting and educational services. Leading and developing the educational activity is managed by the chairman of the Department, the departmental board and the working group for development of education. From the beginning of the year 2010 the working group is formed by professors responsible for the disciplines, student member and a chairman. In each discipline there is a working and planning group steered by the responsible professor. This new structure has enabled very effective teaching development, and it ensures that the planning and development of education is extended over the borders of research areas and disciplines, which then support each other. A major undertaking for the working group for development of education in 2010 was to define a roadmap for the development of teaching and learning for 2010-2011. The central development items identified in the roadmap were teaching in small groups, study skills, and learning plan spanning the whole study time. In physics it was proposed to start implementing the roadmap already during the study year 2010-2011.

The aims of the education of the Department and the aims of learning are defined in the syllabus. The aims and contents of education are prepared under the leadership of professors responsible for each discipline in the working group for development of education. The education planning work and the development of the education are guided by long-term strategic planning (over more than three years). It leans strongly on the research of the divisions of the Department, on the developmental views of research and on the long-term requirements of teaching. Targeted projects of developing teaching function also as a tool for developing the pedagogical expertise of the teaching personnel.

Education and Teaching

At the Department of Physics, education is given in physics, theoretical physics, geophysics and meteorology. The basic education in physics is also given in Swedish. In addition, the education of physics teachers is also one of the main tasks of the Department. This includes both education for the Master’s degree and further education programs for physics teachers and general teachers specializing in physics. The educational program of the Department covers a broad variety of areas of physics, not surpassed by any other physics department in Finnish universities.


In physics, the degree requirements were thoroughly revised and streamlined in spring 2010. The most important change was going into a two-year-cycle in the course structure, in order to guarantee in particular continuity for the advanced-level courses, which are not necessarily given annually due to small number of students on each course at this level. The current degree requirements are valid for 2010-2012. At the advanced level there are seven specialization lines in physics: aerosol- and environmental physics, bio- and medical physics, electronics and industrial applications, particle- and nuclear physics, computational physics, and material- and nanophysics. These specialization lines are the same as before, but the composition of courses and course responsibilities were streamlined, and synergy between the courses at different lines was improved.

Theoretical Physics

In theoretical physics the requirements for the Bachelor and Master degrees were reviewed and streamlined in 2010.  The Bachelor program gives a solid overview of theoretical physics, without specialising into any subfield of physics.  On the Master level the student can choose from a selection of courses, depending on his or her chosen field of study. Special attention was paid to the synchronization of the content of theoretical physics courses with the courses offered in the regular physics teaching program, where applicable. At the advanced level the main specialization lines are cosmology, particle physics, space physics, computational and materials science.


Astronomy has established its place as a valuable discipline at the Department of Physics. The working group for development of astronomy teaching (TTOK) has worked in the challenging environment of the merger of the Department of Astronomy with the Department of Physics from the beginning of 2010. It has strived toward combining the best assets of astronomy teaching from the past and the present to develop the study requirements and teaching plan in astronomy for the two-year period from fall 2010 to spring 2012. At the end of 2010, the number of students attending Astronomy courses is generally rising, providing prospects for further positive future development. The new astronomy teaching

plan follows, from the basic studies to the advanced and postgraduate studies, a two-year lecturing plan where all the courses are regularly lectured. TTOK has developed the advanced courses in astronomy so that students can specialize in various fields of astronomy, taking into account their potential future as postgraduate students.


In teaching of geophysics three major changes to the Geophysics degree requirements were made during 2010: 1) students will choose their field of specialization during their M.Sc. studies; 2) specialization options in Geophysics are Hydrosphere, Solid Earth and Planetary Geophysics, which was newly established now with close interaction with Planetary Astronomy; and 3) these changes made possible to consolidate the teaching course list and to organize it better. The teaching methods in the department of Physics were improved during fall 2010 by enhancing the profile of course assistants, and by extending "small group" teaching. these renovations  were tested in the geophysics "Turbulence theory"-course. Teaching in small groups is suitable to the Geophysics teaching curriculum and students have responded well to it. Field courses in Geophysics have also been organized, and are mainly given to "small groups" of students. Accommodation during these field courses has been arranged at the university's field stations. This gives a great opportunity for students to interact with teachers and researchers. Resourcing to field courses in the future could benefit geophysics by increasing the amount of students. The amount of students choosing geophysics as their major subject has increased moderately during the past 10 years. This trend seems to continue as we create awareness at high schools by promoting university studies in geophysics. Environmental studies are generally popular among younger generations and geophysics offers interesting career opportunities in research as well as private sector companies. In March 2010 a snow and ice geophysics course for high school teachers in physics, geography and biology was arranged in Lammi research station. This course was a success and we are now planning a "introduction to geophysics" course for high school teachers to promote geophysics. Teachers are also offered teaching material, which they can use in high school teaching.


Teaching of Meteorology in the year 2010 largely followed practices crafted during previous years. The curriculum is broad, which is important since we have the only degree program in Meteorology in Finland. To keep the broad curriculum and to avoid courses with too few participants, most of the alternative BSc and MSc courses are only lectured every second year. To further improve the use of resources, selected courses in physics and geophysics can be included in the subject studies of meteorology, and vice versa, and one of the two lines of specialization in MSc studies of Meteorology is arranged in close co-operation with Aerosol and Environmental Physics, which is a specialization line in Physics. Of specific note, the course of tropical meteorology was lectured for the first time since several decades. Meteorology forms also an important part in the syllabus of the International Master’s Degree Program in Atmosphere-Biosphere Studies (ABS). As a multidisciplinary program, ABS offers versatile studies in atmospheric sciences, covering physical phenomena, atmospheric chemistry, meteorology, physical geography, and ecology. Part of the syllabus is related to the interactions between ecosystems and the atmosphere. Meteorology offers courses also to the international graduate school CBACCI and a national graduate school with the same themes as ABS. The student organization in meteorology, Synop ry., celebrated its 40th anniversary in April and continues to form an important link between meteorologists in different generations.

Physics teacher education

The physics teacher education of pre-service teachers for lower and upper secondary schools is an important part of Department’s teaching responsibilities. For teacher education, special courses are given in the Master’s degree studies. In recent years, the number of the physics students taking a physics teachers studies and teachers’ licence has settled to about 15-12 students per year, but the number of students taking the teachers studies as minor studies is steadily increasing and was about 35-40. Clearly, this trend needs to be taken into account in future planning of the structure of the studies.  In addition, in teacher education first steps have been taken to take better advance of the multidisciplinary character of the current physical science – including e.g. environmental physics, biophysics, geophysics, space physics and astronomy and physical meteorology. All these branches of physics have much potential to enrich the current teacher education

Teaching of physics in Swedish

The teaching of basic physics in Swedish serves the Swedish-speaking minority of the country, in accordance with the bilingual status of the University of Helsinki. It helps attract students from Swedish-speaking schools from the whole country to the department, and makes their transition to also take Finnish and English courses easier. The number of students is fairly small, with around 10 new major and 10 minor students coming in each year. This allows for tailoring the teaching programme annually to the needs of the students. In a joint forum between the students and teachers, the “Studiekollegiet”, the higher-level courses to be taught and their timing the following year are selected to match the student's needs as well as possible considering the teaching resources. The same forum is also used for evaluation of the teaching. All of the Swedish-speaking teachers are also involved in outreach activities, such as arranging teacher's continued education in Swedish, handling the matriculation exams in physics, and information of physics studies to high schools. In 2010 the Swedish-speaking discipline faced a major challenge, as 2 long-serving teachers retired, leaving only 2 regular teachers. The discipline has, however, barely managed to retain a satisfactory teaching level by interim solutions such as teaching by graduate students and collaboration with the Swedish-speaking laboratory at the chemistry department.

Evaluation of Teaching

Student feedback of teaching and in particular lecture courses is now a regular and important part of development and improvement of teaching. The advantage of the current system of feedback is its transparent and effective use, so that the changes and modifications made on teaching are also visible to students and motivate students to give continuous feedback and suggestions to improve teaching.

Our efforts to strive for high standards in education and excellence in teaching and learning were again recognized in 2010 in a European wide survey, conducted by the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHE), in “Ranking of Excellent European Graduate Programmes”. In that survey, our Department scored again the excellence status as in the previous round in 2007. This status was received first and foremost on the basis of excellence in research as it is reflected in teaching.

Kuvio 2.

Management of teaching in the Department