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Two major teaching grants for Leiden lecturers

Studying with an app and exploratory learning in large groups. Two educational innovations that will be possible thanks to the Comenius Programme of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Chemist Ludo Juurlink and Professor of Science Education Fred Janssen from the Leiden Graduate School for Teaching (ICLON) have both received a considerable grant for their project.

Ludo Juurlink
Ludo Juurlink

Studying Mobile – project leader: Ludo Juurlink (assistant professor), Institute of Chemistry

Ludo Juurlink submitted Studying Mobile on behalf of three applicants: the Faculty of Science, ICLON and the Faculty of Medicine/LUMC. He will become a Leadership Fellow - nationally one of four this year - and will receive 250,000 euros to implement his project. 

What does the project consist of?
Foundation courses are generally aimed at lower levels of knowledge processing: remembering, understanding and applying. Juurlink sees that students are not very willing to practise. Many students 'cram' for exams, which is not a good way to retain knowledge and skills in the long term. In this project, Juurlink and his co-applicants will explore a learning and assessment platform on the mobile phone that can improve this situation. Besides using existing content, the applicants will develop their own context to support self-study and self-tests. 

Help from push technology
Students of this course are given access to content and learning tests on their smartphones. This method uses push technology: the lecturer is in control and determines what material is made available to a student and when. The research team will compare the exam results before and after the intervention and will examine whether 'mobile studying' helps students better remember information about subjects that reappear in a subsequent semester. They will also explore whether students who have a fear of exams benefit in tests, and will measure the extra time that students spend on 'mobile study'.  Researchers at TU Delft and Radboud University Nijmegen are also collaborating in the research. The results of the project will be distributed widely and will be summarised in a written report. 

What was Juurlink's reaction to receiving the grant?
‘I was honoured to be asked to submit this application on behalf of the University. Now I'm mainly proud of our team that managed to win the grant - a grant to implement digital study via a mobile app in Leiden, and at the same time to conduct research on this method of studying. I believe a lot of new students will really benefit from it.' 

What did the assessment committee say?
The Studying Mobile application was one of the highest scoring applications. The committee was particularly positive about the innovative nature of the use of distributed learning from the first year of study. The fact that the project is scalable is another strong feature. The committee regards the applicants as pioneers in the field of mobile studying. 

Fred Janssen
Fred Janssen

Great in large-scale University teaching; research-driven learning for large groups – project leader: Fred Janssen (professor), ICLON

In implementing his 'Great in large-scale university education; research-driven learning for large groups' project, Fred Janssen will collaborate with teachers in a variety of disciplines who will test in practice whether the innovation he has designed works well in practice. Janssen becomes a Senior Fellow and receives 100,000 euros to carry out his project. 

What does the project consist of?
Research-driven learning is important for a university where teaching and research are closely interwoven. It is important because students gain a better understanding of the content and the thinking and working methods of the field, and can apply these methods more flexibly. This type of education does not start with offering answers but, like research, with asking questions. However, teachers find it difficult to design research-driven learning for large groups of students. One of the reasons for this is that universities have to contend with rapidly increasing numbers of students and decreasing resources. This project focuses on high-quality education for large groups of students and better use of the research culture at the university.

Design tool
This project centres on the development, implementation and evaluation of a design tool for research-driven learning. The tool contains instructions that instructors can use to get students to learn based on their curiosity about a subject in many different ways by making simple adjustments to their existing teaching. Static content is transformed into dynamic thinking and working methods, and teaching that starts by giving answers (explanations) is transformed into teaching that starts with questions, after which the students develop and test their answers. In this project, the design tool will be developed and tested by five pairs of lecturers from the University's arts, science and humanities fields.  

What was Janssen's reaction to receiving the grant?
'I'm really pleased with this grant. Research-driven learning is key to Leiden University's vision on teaching and learning.  It's no easy matter for lecturers to put this teaching ideology into practice with their large groups of students, the enormous amount of teaching material and very little time. The grant will allow me to develop a practical tool together with lecturers so that they can easily convert their existing, large-scale teaching for learning environments in which students engage in research-driven learning. I'm also looking forward to exchanging ideas with the other Comenius fellows.’

What did the assessment committee say?
The application was assessed as Very good. It is an innovative project that aims to give practical shape to research-driven learning in large-scale teaching. The benefits would be considerable because the methodology can be applied in a wide range of different ways. The Committee also valued the fact that the project is embedded well in the scientific literature.

About the Comenius programme

The Comenius Teaching Fellows programme is an educational innovation programme and one of the initiatives to use the funds released by the abolition of study grants in 2017. The recipients of a Comenius scholarship together form a network in which they exchange knowledge about educational innovation.

For the Leadership Fellow and Senior Fellow categories of grant applications, selection takes place in advance. Only one Leadership project may be submitted per university and one Senior Fellowship project per faculty. Proposals for teaching grants can be submitted without prior selection.

Photo at the top of the page: Part of the statue of Comenius in Potsdam. Comenius (1592-1670) was the Latin name of the Czech education expert Jan Amos Komenskýe. Comenius advocated education for everyone, including for boys and girls, from all levels and classes in society. He wrote textbooks and designed a new school system. Comenius came to the Netherlands, where he died in 1670 in Amsterdam. 

Text: Corine Hendriks
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