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‘Peer review makes students more critical’

In line with tradition, the opening of the academic year will see the presentation of the LUS Teaching Prize to the University's best lecturer. Get to know the nominees. This week: Kim Beerden.

‘The nomination for the LUS Teaching Prize is very special,'says  Kim Beerden, assistant professor of Ancient History, specialising in the history of religion. 'I think it's great that students have taken the trouble to nominate me.'

Why do you think prompted them to nominate you?

‘I make good use of blended learning in my teaching: that's traditional teaching plus ICT applications. It encourages students to work with the material also outside contact hours. Before you start to use blended learning you first need to know what it is about your lectures that you want to improve. For example, do you want students to work together more, come up with better questions or learn to give feedback? Using ICT may well offer new opportunities to achieve these aims.'

Can you give an example?

‘Certainly. One of the tools that I use is Pitch2Peer. It's a programme that lets students comment on one another's essays, film assignments and pitches - that's what peer review is - and it works really well. My students recently had to submit the first chapter of their paper on food culture in Greek and Roman times. Their papers were much better once they had been reviewed critically by fellow students. Just as important, or maybe even more so, is the fact that it gives them the chance to learn to give and receive criticism. It also improves the group dynamics.' 

So, blended learning using ICT tools is a major benefit?

‘Yes, it is, but still we shouldn't overestimate its value. It's all about the interaction between the lecturer and his or her students. It's only that personal interaction during lectures that can make students really enthusiastic, and it's also through the lectures that they learn to think critically about the use of sources and scientific literature, for example.  There's no substitute for contact hours; blended learning can only support that process.' 

Should the University encourage greater use of blended learning?

‘It's already doing that. In recent years a lot of progress has been made, for example in the use of video as a teaching tool. At the Faculty of Humanities we also work with ambassadors for blended learning; I was one of them last year. The ICT and teaching coordinators at Humanities organise regular lunchbytes, or lunch meetings where lecturers exchange ideas about the use of new ICT tools in their teaching. And it works: there are usually around thirty or so enthusiastic teachers at these meetings.'

About the LUS Teaching Prize

The LUS Teaching Prize is an initiative of the Leiden University Student  Platform. Every year they  honour a lecturer who has been 'exemplary' in his or her teaching. All the nominees are put forward by their own students. Members of the LUS attend a number of lectures, and then make a shortlist of three finalists. The key areas they look at are innovation in teaching, interaction with students, and whether the lecturer is able to keep on improving his or her teaching. This year the nominees are Kim Beerden (Humanities),  Jan van Lith (LUMC) and Marion Boers (Humanities).

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