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Using Check-Ins to Gauge Students’ Well-being

Instructors spend a considerable amount of time preparing their course materials and assignments, but structuring a simple check-in at the beginning of class can also have a significant impact on increasing the well-being of students. Check-ins are questions to ask students to learn more about how they are feeling. This strategy can help an instructor be more intentional in providing resources for any mental health needs. A simple check-in at the beginning of class can open the door to connection in the classroom, whether in person or virtual. A check-in can help instructors show empathy for students and help identify students in need of additional support for mental health challenges.

While faculty members’ main role is to teach students, there is more research that suggests that they can act as first responders that can identify students who need more support with mental health. For many online students, faculty may be the main, or only, point of connection with the campus. Check-ins can occur before stressful times in the semester, such as midterms and finals week. Or they can occur at the start of each class or before a particularly impactful event has occurred locally or nationally. Research shows that reaching out to students to ask them how they are feeling and to check in on their mental health can increase student satisfaction, it can also help students feel less isolated, especially in a fully online classroom.

Check-Ins in the Classroom

This is an effective way to begin a class meeting and can be spaced at appropriate intervals, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly.  To encourage honest responses from students, check-ins should be completed anonymously in any group settings. It is beneficial to assign individual submissions as well so you can be alerted to any at-risk students. Some strategies to administer check-ins include, but are not limited to:

  • Email
  • Canvas LMS: Ungraded anonymous survey, Graded anonymous survey, Individual assignment submission
  • Zoom: Polling & Quizzing
  • Slido: Polling
  • Microsoft Forms: Present a poll
  • Mentimeter: Polling
  • Discussion: Reflections, small groups, partners.
  • Video chat: Visual response, Raise a hand, draw an emoji, hold up a color.
  • Think-Pair-Share: Partner with a peer and share
  • A rose - thorn - bud activity is a quick three-part check-in you can use to have students tell you about their week.
    • Rose - a small win or accomplishment
    • Thorn - a challenge they faced
    • Bud - something they are looking forward to
    • Download a one page Rose - Thorn Bud worksheet
  • Some questions that you could ask include:
    • Draw me a picture of how you’ve been feeling this week.
    • Look at this (or think of a) box of crayons, and choose a color that’s the best fit for how you feel today. Can you explain why you chose this color so that I can understand?
    • Show me with your face and movements how you’re feeling.
    • In one word, describe how you feel.
    • What, if anything, are you really worried about?
    • Breathe in and out and notice the emotions that are inside of you. How are you feeling, really? How are you feeling in your body? How about your mind?
    • In the past week, how often have you felt: sad, angry, happy, joyful, proud, etc.?
    • How much emotional support do you feel you have at school? What about at home?
    • What's the best thing that happened to you this week? What about the worst?
    • How have you been sleeping lately? How have you been eating?
    • Have you or someone you know ever struggled with depression or anxiety? What was that experience like for them?
    • When you're feeling down or stressed, how do you like to be supported?
    • What makes you feel excited and joyful these days?
    • What are the signs that you're stressed or are needing extra support? What do you notice in yourself - what are your mental health "red flags"?
    • How are your friendships these days? When was the last time you felt lonely, and what was that like?
    • What are you doing in terms of self-care? How do you take care of yourself - both your body and your mind?


Spending valuable class time throughout the term to check in on students can help improve academic success, these might include addressing academic concerns such as poor attendance, failure to complete quality work, and a lack of active engagement. Additionally, it is beneficial to consider other impacts on students’ mental health in a non-judgmental and caring manner. These regular check-ins are not meant to therapize but rather open the door to conversation and understanding. These simple check-ins can help display your care for student success, identify students in need of campus resource referrals, and create a culture of wellness in your classroom and across campus.


Abrams, Z. (2022). Student mental health in crisis. Campuses are rethinking their approach. Monitor on Psychology53(7), 60.

Mindfulness Curriculum Blog. (2023, March 1). 25 mental health check-in questions for your students in 2023. Calm Classroom.

Coleman, M. E. (2022). Mental health in the college classroom: Best practices for instructors. Teaching Sociology50(2), 168-182.

Lorenzetti, J. P. (2015). Supporting the mental health needs of online students. Faculty Focus, November12.


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