Universiteit Leiden

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Markus Davidsen: 'We need to implement ideas that improve an entire programme'

Three Humanities lecturers received the Senior Teaching Qualification (SKO) this year. University lecturer Markus Davidsen is one of them. What does he think makes for good teaching?

Markus Davidsen
Markus Davidsen

Davidsen sees his new qualification as a ‘quality mark’. 'It shows that the university values excellence and innovation in education,' he says.   

Society and students

Two aspects are central to Davidsen's educational vision. 'First of all, it’s important to take the needs of society into account. That’s also why I am so committed to strengthening religion education in secondary schools,' he says. For instance, he has taken the lead in setting up a two-year educational master's for the school subject of life philosophy. 'Dutch society is very diverse philosophically. Our course better prepares future teachers for this by treating different religions and worldviews from a neutral point of view, instead of focusing on only one religion, namely one's own.'

The second aspect of his vision relates to students. 'It may be cliché, but the aim of good education is to enable students to do something they could not do before. Of course, that requires knowledge, but students also have to learn to apply that knowledge actively and creatively,' Davidsen explains. From the first year, Davidsen therefore has students conduct research and also invites them to critically examine his theories. 'I’m happy when my students overturn hypotheses or parts of my theory.'  

More coherence

Davidsen would like to see more focus on coherence within the educational programmes offered by the university. 'We do a lot to keep the quality of individual courses high. We spend a huge amount of time on making evaluations, and there are courses and lunch bytes enough about inclusive education and varied forms of work. But many teachers have only a limited understanding of how their subjects contribute to the overall fabric of our education,' he says. Davidsen draws inspiration for an alternative model from his home country. 'I come from Denmark where there is a stronger culture of together thinking through curricula and the overarching goals of each course. In Denmark, the OER are set for a longer period. You then have a thorough discussion with the entire staff and also with students, in which you set the structure, goals and methods of examination of the programme for about five years. We could do it that way in Leiden too.' 

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