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Teaching innovation: Training students to give LU talks

Lights out, spotlight on, the LU talks begin. In the small Imperium Theatre, next to the Leidse Schouwburg, students take turns walking up to the round blue carpet. There they have five minutes to present their first LU talk to lecturers, fellow students, and the camera. ‘Extremely useful and instructive’ was the verdict.

Shaking up the audience

Simone Scholte, a first-year student of Film and Literature Studies, says, ‘I thought the LU talk training was extremely instructive! It covered not only your presentation style and your particular skills, but also the content and your argumentation structure. The feedback was quite useful, and we were all able to adopt our own style. Various tricks were explained that make a big difference in the image you project, such as opening with a provocative remark to “shake up” your audience. These are little things that you wouldn't normally think about but that can make a big difference. That makes you a lot more self-confident and helps you to get your idea across to the audience.’

Preparation for the job market

The workshop is part of a broader science communication track within the teaching innovation programme. For the degree programme in Film and Literature Studies, it was set up by Yasco Horsman and Astrid Van Wegenberg. Yasco: ‘Actually, there are two key things in this project. First of all, we want students to be able to present their research in a way that is appropriate for a wider audience: how do you talk enthusiastically about your research with people outside the university? Then, in addition to the traditional academic skills of giving presentations and writing papers, we also want to give students the chance to practise non-traditional skills that are more attuned to today’s world and that will better prepare them for the job market.’

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Room for creativity

Astrid: ‘This LU talk workshop is part of the first-year course in Comparative Studies, in which we look at things like the value of studying literature in relation to other media, such as films, graphic novels, and visual art. We set up the project in such a way that students are offered three workshops over the course of their degree programme, linked to three core courses. The main issue is the relation between word and image, and the LU talk is a very good way to approach that. Students get two additional workshops in their second year: “Writing for the web” and “Making a video essay”. This lets them learn new skills over the course of their degree programme, skills that also give them more room for creativity.’

Since 2018, the Faculty of Humanities has been busy presenting the university’s vision on teaching and learning to the public at large: Learning@LeidenUniversity. Within the teaching innovation programme, both faculty projects and projects at degree programme level have been set up to implement the vision on teaching and learning. Sanne Arens (teaching innovation programme manager): ‘It’s quite nice to achieve the first results of the teaching innovation projects. The workshop for the degree programme in Film and Literature Studies is one example of this, but Art History is another degree programme that has made major achievements. The programme has developed curricular themes and is attempting to better integrate training on students’ digital skills into the programme. In the coming years, we will try to learn from the results and to disseminate them further within the faculty. In additional to this, we will continue to support the degree programmes so as to strengthen job market preparation, skills, and the interconnectedness of research and teaching.’

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