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About us Medical Sciences Organization SCOPE - Expertise centre for personal development
University Medical Center Groningen


SCOPE - Research


SCOPE’s collaborative research helps to strengthen educational activities aimed at improving students’ personal development. SCOPE is therefore a breeding ground for knowledge and expertise in the field of personal development.

Overview of research

  • Juggle Study
  • In-depth study into factors related to stress among PhD students
  • Research on the Systemic Constellation Method
  • Study of the support needs for supervisors of PhD students
  • Student well-being in times of COVID-19: Predictive factors in the university learning environment

Juggle Study (since 2015)

The Juggle Study is a prospective cohort study into the motives of medical students and their connection to study performance and mental health.

Medical students are often highly motivated and enthusiastic at the start of their degree programme. However, studies have shown that they can become less motivated during the course of their programmes and that some students even develop psychological complaints, such as burn-outs. But why is that? This is the question the Juggle Study aims to answer.

The Juggle Study aims to investigate the motives of medical students and their connection to study performance and mental health during their six years of basic medical training. We also want to investigate which factors cause some students, who are motivated and enthusiastic at the start of their degree programmes, to lose this motivation later on and develop problems studying or develop psychological complaints, while others continue to be motivated. It is important to understand how and why these issues occur, because people who are unmotivated and/or suffer from psychological complaints perform less well, have less job satisfaction and report more medical errors.

Reseachers: Joke Fleer, Moniek Janse

In-depth study into factors related to stress among PhD students (2019)

On behalf of the UMCG, SCOPE has conducted an in-depth study into factors that influence the well-being of PhD students. Quantitative research carried out by the University of Groningen (Van Rooij, Fokkens-Bruinsma, Janse & Van der Meer, 2019) revealed that a high percentage of UG PhD students experience mental health problems to the extent that, according to the literature, they have the risk of developing a psychiatric disorder.

As such, this in-depth study – which combined quantitative and qualitative approaches – was then commissioned in order to identify the causes of these mental health problems.

All PhD students registered at the GSMS (Graduate School of Medical Sciences) were invited to complete a short questionnaire on symptoms of stress they have experienced. Forty-three PhD students were then invited for an interview, including PhD students who experience a lot of stress as well as PhD students who experience little stress.

During the interview, they were asked about factors that have a (positive or negative) influence on their well-being or experienced levels of stress, how they deal with stress (coping strategies), how stress affects them (e.g. sleeping problems, or physical complaints) and whether the stress they experience has any consequences (e.g. avoiding a supervisor). The PhD students were also asked what changes they thought were needed in order to reduce stress levels. This study culminated in an advisory report outlining recommendations for changes to the GSMS.

Researchers: Joke Fleer, Hedwig Boer, Miranda Trippenzee

Research on the Systemic Constellation Method (since 2018)

SCOPE’s educational activities focus on broadening horizons and seeing the bigger picture. One of the methods we use to achieve this in our workshops and courses is the systemic method. This method is based on a systemic perspective in which, among other things, constellations can be made. This method has been used successfully in education in recent years and has proved to be very suitable.

The systemic method is a way of making explicit the implicit, internal mental image that an individual or group has of (an issue in) a social system. By visualizing the implicit, internal image and placing it in a larger social context, structures, mutual relationships and order can be explored. This creates scope for the individual or group to develop new perspectives, insights and ideas about (an issue in) a social system.

This method is already widely used by companies and government organizations in leadership development, change processes and team building, to name a few. Its application in education is relatively new and has not yet been the subject of much research. Therefore, in order to improve its educational activities, SCOPE is conducting research into the efficacy and applicability of the methods used. Courses and workshops which use the systemic method are evaluated and analysed every year. A research project has also been set up to better understand and improve the quality of the method.

Researcher: Salome Scholtens
Konkolÿ Thege, B., Petroll, C., Rivas, C., & Scholtens, S. The Effectiveness of Family Constellation Therapy in Improving Mental Health: A Systematic Review. Family Process.

Study of the support needs for supervisors of PhD students

To gain insight into the support needs for supervisors of PhD students, from November till December 2020, a total of 7 online focus groups were held. This was commissioned by the Graduate School as a follow-up to the PhD stress study. In total, we spoke to 23 supervisors of PhD students, with experience varying between a few months and 7 years. Both supervisors with a clinical job in addition to their supervisory duties and postdocs / assistant professors participated. 

The need for support is ambiguous. There are supervisors who would like support, either in the form of peer-to-peer support / mentoring (1-on-1) or in the form of intervision, but regularly this need seems to go together with a need to spar about other topics, such as funding and the position in the research group. This need was often addressed by (starting) postdocs. In another group, namely more experienced supervisors who are relatively new to the UMCG, there is a greater need for broadening knowledge about the PhD process. They indicate that they lack a kind of ‘spoorboekje’, with information about the PhD process, which departments can be turned to (example: Where can I go for statistical help or for help with contracts for PhD students?). The current courses for supervisors were experienced positively in terms of content, but due to the one-off nature of the course, there is a lack of opportunity to use tools when necessary. It is difficult to paint a picture of the content of the need for support. Intercultural differences, giving feedback, communication skills, how to deal with demotivation of the PhD student, cooperation in a supervision team are mentioned. 

This study forms the basis for the development of a training program for (starting) supervisors / post-docs at the UMCG, on which SCOPE will work. 

Reseachers: Floor Velthuis, Miranda Trippenzee

Student well-being in times of COVID-19: Predictive factors in the university learning environment

During the COVID-19 pandemic, higher education is affected by inevitable changes in the learning environment, such as online education and less physical contact. This research focuses on individual factors and factors in the learning environment that influence the well-being of university students. We look at factors such as tolerance for insecurity, resilience, self-compassion, sense of belonging and the fulfillment of basic psychological needs in the learning environment. In this cross-sectional study, students of the University of Groningen are asked about these factors and their well-being with a questionnaire. This research contributes to insights into the role of student interaction and his or her learning environment for student well-being. The questionnaire is held in May 2021. 

Researchers: Miranda Trippenzee, Lisa Kiltz

Last modified:08 June 2021 11.03 a.m.
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