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Teachers' Academy fellows making teaching more attractive and more effective

On 29 October, seven innovative lecturers from different faculties will join the existing ten fellows of the Leiden Teachers' Academy. The current fellows have been engaged for the past year in implementing their innovation projects. How are these progressing?

The Hague as a mirror to the world

Dr. Ann Wilson
Dr. Ann Wilson

The projects on which the fellows are working may be very diverse but they are often closely linked. Ann Wilson from Leiden University College The Hague started the Engage the Hague project in which students combine research on multicultural teaching in The Hague with teaching as volunteers at the Johan de Wit school in the Schilderswijk area of The Hague. The project is founded on the idea that multicultural The Hague mirrors multiculturality on a world scale. It will become a fixed element in the Global Citizenship curriculum of the LUC, a programme in which students learn about interacting with people from other cultures.


Digital feedback - twice

Dr. Marjo de Graauw
Dr. Marjo de Graauw

Beerend Hierck (Medicine and Biomedical Sciences - BW) and Marjo de Graauw (Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences - BFW) are working on something completely different. They are both developing processes for digital feedback, but they are approaching it from different perspectives. Within BFW, lecturers in the project can assess reports and presentations on the basis of pre-structured feedback and an analytical assessment scale. This method picks up many of the frequent errors that are made. Using this system saves lecturers time in giving individual feedback.

Upwards learning curve

De Graauw has also developed digital assignments whereby students are encouraged from the start of their studies to give one another feedback. Recipients incorporate the feedback in subsequent assignments, which puts them on an upwards learning curve. All the students are given advice on how to give feedback. De Graauw works with the Turnitin programme, which generates metadata that gives the lecturer insight into the student’s stronger and weaker points. Turnitin has awarded De Graauw a Global Innovation Award for her work.

Students give high quality peer review

Dr. Beerend Hierck
Dr. Beerend Hierck

Beerend Hierck’s project also focuses on feedback. He experimented in the Anatomy course with 350 students of Medicine and 70 BW students on giving feedback on a planning assignment and writing up a report on a practical assignment. Both assignments were a test of academic skills. The assignments and the feedback were done digitally. The feedback on the reports of the practical assignment was of such high quality that there was no further need for feedback from the lecturer, unless a student asked for this specifically. In this project, too, students received tips on how to give feedback. This is not the only project Hierck is working on. He is also teaching students to construct 3D images of cells, tissue. organs and organisms; good 3D skills are a vital element in making a proper diagnosis on the basis of MRI or CT images.

Practicing academic skills

Dr. Helen Westgeest
Dr. Helen Westgeest

Helen Westgeest, lecturer in Art History, is working on teaching materials for developing academic skills in the second year of the bachelor’s programme. These skills are tested, but they are not adequately practised. Most programmes already have general introductions for the first year, and thesis seminars are being developed for the third year to prepare students for writing their bachelor’s thesis. What’s needed now is teaching material for the second year. Westgeest has already produced some of the material she needs with the help of a student assistant. The new material includes an introduction to academic skills, followed by a diagnostic test and hand-outs for different skills, such as how to formulate research questions, how to apply an academic writing style, how to write an introduction and a research proposal, how to create the right structure for an argument and a conclusion, and how to bring creativity to research. The material can easily be adapted for other programmes. Westgeest aims to share her experiences with colleagues from other universities at a conference to be held in January.

Alternative to blackboard and chalk

Prof.dr. Jan Aarts
Prof. Jan Aarts

Jan Aarts (Physics) is working on offering lecturers in the first year of the bachelor’s programme an alternative to blackboard and chalk. Apart from the fact that this is not a very motivational style of teaching, this traditional method has other problems. Any student who misses a lecture also misses out on the explanation of the material from the text book as this is not available anywhere else. Another issue is that a natural science concept (such as pseudo force) is only explained in one way. And it may well be that this one method doesn’t help the student understand the concept, which leaves him or her with a problem. Aarts was planning to bring together the information from internet sources in a searchable, concept-based database. However, it quickly became apparent that this was of no use to the students without a context. Aarts is now working with the Centre for Innovation at Leiden University on an online lecture that incorporates specially selected YouTube films. He will also look at whether this method will work for other natural science concepts that are taught in the first year.

The installation of the six new members will take place on 29 October 2015 from 15.00 hrs., in the restaurant of the Faculty Club, Rapenburg 73.


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