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Hossam Ahmed: ‘Listen to your students’

Three Humanities lecturers received the Senior Teaching Qualification (SKO) this year. Lecturer Hossam Ahmed is one of them. What does he think makes for good education?

‘For me, good teaching is enabling students to learn by themselves,’ Ahmed says. ‘To me, the lecturer is a coach who teaches students how to learn. Then they have to do it themselves.’

Ahmed believes it is important that education is in line with students’ own knowledge, skills, and interests. ‘In an International Studies course I had a student who worked on the K-pop Twitter interactions, and in the same class another student was more interested in who and how people in the Netherlands interact with the Twitter feed from the Prime Minister,’ he explains enthusiastically. ‘These two subjects may look different, but they require more or less the same underlying skills and theoretical understanding.’

‘Responding to diversity’

Not coincidentally, part of the portfolio Ahmed had to submit to obtain his senior qualification was about differentiation in teaching. ‘People learn in different ways and have different backgrounds and skills. We should embrace this diversity by listening to them and taking what they say seriously.’

For Ahmed, this means that education doesn’t only take place in lectures and tutorials but that students are also given the opportunity to learn by doing projects. ‘Hopefully they feel passionate about their project, while at the same time they can implement the skills they have built.’

Differentiated language teaching

Ahmed is currently working with his colleagues to differentiate the language teaching in Middle Eastern Studies. ‘We’re discussing how we can integrate the learning of languages into other courses, not necessarily language courses. We do our best to make them attractive to students interested in languages, but also make them non-threatening to students who may not have taken a lot of language courses.’

Reflective experience

The SKO track has helped Ahmed identify those kinds of processes even better. ‘It’s a reflective experience. It allows people to reflect on who they are as educators and where they see their field. At the same time, it’s a recognition of one’s expertise in teaching.’

Senior Teaching Qualification

The SKO is a qualification for lecturers who play a leading role in the development and innovation of education at the curriculum level (i.e. beyond their own discipline). To achieve this qualification, lecturers must put together a portfolio that shows that they meet four final learning objectives:

  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.

In addition, an SKO candidate must be a lecturer who already has a Basic Teaching Qualification (BKO), has taught at the university level for at least five years in various subjects and years, and has applied a variety of educational methods in doing so. In addition, the lecturer must show that they have developed initiatives and made contributions that have an educational impact within one or more degree programmes transcending their own course or discipline. You can read more about obtaining an SKO here.

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