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Margot van der Doef first Leiden psychologist to hold Senior Teaching Qualification

'Continuing to work on my professional development is inspiring and stimulating, and it’s rewarding to have an influence on how psychology is taught.’ This is how Margot van der Doef describes the track that brought her the Senior Teaching Qualification (SKO). ‘And you can easily do it in parallel with research.’

On 7 July, twelve highly motivated lecturers were awarded their Senior Teaching Qualification (STQ). This article is the first in a series of interviews with lecturers who completed their Senior Teaching

Online presentation of SKO certificates by Vice-Rector Hester Bijl (top left) to successful candidates, incl. Margot van der Doef (bottom row, centre)

‘We currently have online teaching, with on-campus lectures where possible as an addition, but not a “must”.  That’s difficult because international students are probably less inclined to come to Leiden and Dutch students may decide to stay at home,’ is how Margot van der Doef explains the situation with university teaching in times of corona. She is committed to offering an inspiring learning environment where new master’s students are willing to meet the challenge of entering the learning process and where they receive the support they need. The revised system for mentoring master’s students of psychology is part of this approach. As well as lecturer mentors, there are now also student mentors who offer online support to students and help them to feel more socially involved. ‘For me, creating a stimulating teaching environment is fundamental.’

Blended learning

It makes things a lot easier if you can look students in the eye, in Van der Doef’s experience, particularly in tutorials and mentor discussions with individual students. Giving lectures online is fine, but she does miss the contacts with students in the coffee break, hearing their questions and finding out what’s going on in their lives. Looking ahead to the evaluation that will be made of teaching during corona, she is in favour of keeping the positive aspects of online teaching, without taking it too far. Her view is that blended learning combines the benefits of online teaching with face-to-face contact. ‘You need that to be able to respond to the different levels in the group. For top-quality teaching, the learning process has to be in the right context.’


How to handle the changes in teaching that corona has brought about was not part of the inspiration sessions given by ICLON, the university’s Graduate School of Teaching, in the SKO track. Nonetheless, the track is clearly different from the teaching programme in the University Teaching Qualification (BKO). Van der Doef learned a lot from the track: one of the main benefits was the inspiration she gained from colleagues from all parts of the university whose extensive teaching portfolios gave them access to the programme. ‘It’s an opportunity to look at one another’s field of work; to ask one another: how do you deal with that in the Law faculty, at the LUMC or in Humanities? And to share knowledge and experiences: this is a good way to keep your students actively involved during lectures.’ These are just some of the things that Van der Doef appreciated about the SKO. Interdisciplinary collaboration isn’t only for research; it also works for teaching.

Influential and coordinating role

In her teaching in the master’s specialisation in Occupational Health Psychology, Van der Doef was already used to working with colleagues from Social, Economic and Organisational Psychology, as well as Cognitive Psychology. This experience has shown her that there are far more opportunities in the master’s internship and thesis Task Force for sharing a common basis, and she is shaping the master’s phase along the same lines. The ethical aspect is also now firmly anchored in both the master’s thesis and the master’s internship. This is the work of an SKO lecturer who has a good overview of the playing field and who uses her influence and her collaboration with fellow lecturers to bring about improvements in teaching. The Institute of Psychology has given her the space to achieve this in an influential and coordinating role. ‘I was already working at a supra-master’s level, and this new role is a perfect match for my job spec.’

Best Psychology teacher 2017 (photo: Bastiaan Vuyk)
Best Psychology teacher 2017 (photo: Bastiaan Vuyk)

Inspired to inspire

One of her missions is to professionalise teaching. Van der Doef was psychology lecturer of the year in 2017, and she is now the first Leiden psychologist to hold the SKO qualification. She would advise every researcher who is interested to make use not only of their research talents, but also their teaching abilities. ‘It would be great if more lecturers were to follow the SKO track, particularly if they enjoy teaching and are already working at SKO level, particularly in a multidisciplinary context.’ Her own motivation was to further her development after the BKO. The SKO track has helped her to crystallise her vision further. ‘I want to show what I think is really important, to colleagues outside my section of the faculty. Admittedly, there is an element of “jumping through the hoops”, as some of my colleagues have put it, but for me I saw it more as a challenge to work on my own self-development.’

Combining teaching and research

Van der Doef is building her career at a time when NWO applies different criteria for recognising and valuing teaching and research. Nonetheless, for her it is mainly about the professional challenge and what she can contribute. Now she also receives appreciation for those areas where her interests lie, and the level of her teaching is well recognised. ‘My research is very important to me, and my teaching is better because I am an active researcher. It gives me something at two different levels. I will always choose to combine teaching and research.’

Are you a senior lecturer and do you play an active role in the university’s educational development and innovation? If so, you are eligible for the Senior Teaching Qualification (SKO). This qualification shows that you possess strong didactic and educational skills and that you contribute to the development of education beyond your own course or discipline. To obtain the SKO, you must put together a portfolio of your final learning objectives. These relate to four themes:

  1. Conduct within the academic teaching environment
  2. Creating and elaborating a didactic programme with a view to the context of a curriculum
  3. Preparing and providing teaching
  4. Impact on education within one or more degree programmes that extends beyond one’s own teaching programme

Read more on the Senior Teaching Qualification (SKO)

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