Universiteit Leiden

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‘Spying’ on talented lecturers

Good teaching isn’t as easy as it might seem. In November, the Month of Open Teaching, staff at Leiden University therefore have the opportunity to ‘spy’ on talented colleagues. ‘We are making it as easy as possible to see what the neighbours are up to.’

Teaching is much more than transmitting information from A to B. It is more of a subtle game between sender and recipient, in which intonation, for instance, can be at least as important as the choice of subject. No wonder that good teaching is a challenge for many university lecturers (and professors too!). After all, teaching is an art in itself.

In an attempt to further professionalise the teaching at Leiden University, the Leiden Teachers’ Academy (LTA) has now come up with an unusual initiative: the Month of Open Teaching. Throughout the month of November, lecturers – and other staff too – will be able to attend regular lectures by talented colleagues from all of the faculties. They will get to eavesdrop on inspiring lecturers such as Kim Beerden, David Fontijn and Felienne Hermans.

Creative process

‘We thus hope to stimulate our lecturers’ creative process,’ says Nadira Saab, who is coordinating the programme, which she developed with other LTA fellows. ‘We make it as easy as possible for lecturers to see what the neighbours are up to, thus providing inspiration for their own teaching.’ The participants will also be given a ‘guide’ to the lectures, which will help them note down what makes a particular lecture interesting from an educational perspective. This guide is based on the University’s Vision on Teaching and Learning. There will also be a discussion with the lecturer straight after the lecture.

The seven lecturers – one from each faculty – were selected by the LTA fellows for their skills as a lecturer. Some are members of the LTA themselves, whereas others are known at their faculty or institute for their interesting lecturers or activating teaching methods. Others again have won the University’s LUS Teaching Prize or a faculty equivalent. The participants are thus served the crème de la crème of Leiden University. Saab: ‘And the lecturers themselves have to want to participate because it can be somewhat nerve-wracking to have your colleagues in the audience.’

Culture of peer review

Saab believes that this and other initiatives should help promote a culture change in how we at the University perceive teaching. ‘The University lacks a proper culture of peer review, something that is much more of a given at primary and secondary schools. University lecturers therefore often end up as loners in their teaching. That’s a pity because there’s still room for even the most proficient lecturers to continue to develop and professionalise. And gaining inspiration from others is the best way to do this.

Text: Merijn van Nuland
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Attend a lecture

The Month of Open Teaching starts on 4 November. Members of the Leiden University staff are welcome to attend an inspiring lecture, even if they themselves don’t teach. For further details and registration, see the LTA website (in Dutch but a few of the lectures will be given in English).

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