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‘The really hard part is thinking up a wrong answer.’

The topics of discussion included multiple choices questions, research on teaching, workload and many other things. On 29 October four new enthusiastic fellows were installed in the Leiden Teachers’ Academy and presented their research innovation projects.

Teaching fest

Beerend Hierck, chairman of the Leiden Teachers’ Academy (LTA), was clearly happy: the LTA is expanding to include even more inspiring and inspired teaching colleagues. The Academy was founded in 2014 at the instigation of the Leiden University Vice-President, Simone Buitendijk. Actually, seven new fellows were supposed to be installed on the 29th, but two of them (Harmen Jousma and Jop Groeneweg) had teaching duties (‘And that takes priority over everything, as we know,’ said Hierck), while the third new fellow (Christien de Kruif) not present was on pregnancy leave. But it was still a teaching fest.

Time or money?

The four new fellows in attendance presented their projects, preceded by an introductory talk by Hierck. He said he was always surprised at and proud of the dedication of LTA fellows, and of most other instructors. They can easily put in sixty hours of work per week. When the LTA – an idea copied from Helsinki University, as Buitendijk explained later – was founded, there was also the question: should we give the fellows money or time? It was decided to give them money. ‘Because you know how that goes,’ said Hierck. ‘You get time that turns out to be non-existent, whereas you have the option of using money to buy some time.’ A few people have done just that by hiring a student assistant.

De vier geïnstalleerde felllows met in hun midden (met geel colbert), vicerector Simone Buitendijk. Vlnr: Rebekah Tromble, Dirk Visser, Anita van Dissel en Mirjam Houtlosser.
The four new fellows, together with Vice-Rector Simone Buitendijk (centre, with yellow jacket) From left: Rebekah Tromble, Dirk Visser, Anita van Dissel and Mirjam Houtlosser.

Research on your own project

Hierck also referred to a special feature that the LTA fellowship brings with it: doing research on your own teaching innovation project. ‘You don’t know anything about that type of research. You don’t really have a good idea about how it should be done.’ Luckily there’s ICLON, and CROHO helps, too.’ In Leiden, CROHO is the Dutch acronym for the internal Collegiate Board for Research on Higher Education. Buitendijk put the emphasis on science-based teaching: innovation must be proven to work. CROHO sets the Leiden agenda for research on teaching.

The projects

The four new fellows presented their projects, which turned out to be quite varied:

  • Dr Anita van Dissel (Faculty of the Humanities, History): From Annotation to Search Feature: The Term Paper in a Digital Learning Environment. A project to ensure that the basic skills students use in writing a history term paper are retained.

  • Dr Mirjam Houtlosser (Faculty of Medicine, Medical Ethics and Health Law, vice-chairperson of programme committee): On the Road to Teaching Innovation. Teaching innovation according to a methodology described by Michiel Dam in his dissertation.

  • Dr Rebekah Tromble (Faculty of Social Sciences, Political Sciences): Citizen Journalism in the Classroom. The students themselves produce two different versions of a journalism product.

  • Prof. Dirk Visser (Faculty of Law, Intellectual Property and Civil Code): IP Knowledge Clips & Leidse BW (practice) App. Visser made ten YouTube films in Dutch about intellectual property and would now like to do the same in English for alumni. He is also busy with a practice app to assist people studying the Civil Code. 

Have the students help out

Visser’s practice app also includes multiple choice questions. During Visser’s presentation it became clear that the instructors in the room were no fans of this question format, except for pure checking of students’ knowledge. ‘And the really hard part is thinking up a good wrong answer,’ remarked sitting fellow Ethan Mark. It just wouldn’t have been a TLA meeting had someone not immediately offered a suggestion: ‘Ask students to help you out with formulating the questions. Within no time you’ll have a whole database of them!’

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