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FOCUS Centre on Educational Expertise at TU Delft opens a Teacher Lounge to share, inspire and exchange news on teaching trends, methodologies, best practices and, and ........

Posted in June 2013

Put the cart before the horse, and shut the stable door when the steed is stolen…

We are realising educational innovation of a number of courses. The lecturers involved have gone through a paradigm shift, are extremely motivated to make a qualitative good course and to engage the students into challenging learning activities. Students are viewed as essentially motived, yet we need to press the right buttons to get the students into motion.  We (educational innovators) are on the right track…

And then the news hits.  Financial cutbacks on education need to be realized within the coming semester.  and the Innovation?

  • Well we would like to, but we have to cut budgets so. ..?
  • So we will only realise the changes that cut costs

Indeed, implementing change will initially take time from the lecturer and it does generate development costs.  Consequently, it is more attractive not to change, do a few cutbacks on staff and activities. Done, innovation realised.

A short-term pragmatic view. One that is fully understandable from the perspective of the lecturer, as we are asking rather a lot from the lecturer.

He/she is expected:

  1. to improve the quality of education
  2. to increase student turn over
  3. to cut back costs
  4. to serve more students in less time
  5. to do research, because that generates money
  6. to be qualified teachers

Will the lecturer, who can realise all 6, rise…….

These signals definitely stagnate any constructive change.

The departure point should be on innovating a course, improving the quality of education, the level of knowledge, and possibly student pass rates, to uphold the good name of the university. Moreover the costs to come to a new proposal should not be thrown down the drain, due to excuses that sound as resistance to change.

So the questions we really should ask:

  • is it at all possible to keep the quality of education
  • are new programmes really more expensive than the old ones
  • Is it possible to think out of the box and come up with creative and new solutions

Maybe we should just go for disruptive innovation and MOOC the university, become a private entrepreneurial institution, earning money on top – level research…..



Harvard SEAS

Harvard engineering department has been established  in 2007.  Prior to establishment discussion about the organisation and the programme took shape. Its’ departure point in establishing an engineering programme for 21st century learning were:

  • Developing leaders of the world
  • Team-based innovation at the core
  • Solving engineering problems from a multidisciplinary perspective
  • And creating added value to solve the worlds’ (societal) problems by means of technological innovation

Harvard took a thorough approach. It was not only the programme which had to have breath, a liberal arts approach, but also a new take on its’ organization. So Harvard SEAS does not have departments or units. It has 1 or 2 weekly staff meetings with 80 staff members present to maximize communication between all faculty. One person or a team of faculty teaches courses for maximally 3 years, after which the course is switched to another faculty member.  Research is left to the interest of the faculty members, as long as it is cutting edge and yielding valuable results for the organization and beyond.

SEAS has around 1x students, of which one third is woman.  A major achievement in engineering. The programme has depth, breadth, fundamental engineering but grounded in liberal arts within a major research oriented university.

In the bachelor there is a strong focus on learning by doing, instructional lab. Each student does at least one research and ¾th of the programme is focused on design. Design is focused on solving world problems, where technology is the key to solutions, technology however is not enough, so thematic courses include societal, legal and governance and health perspectives, to be able to understand a problem more deeply.  Therefore , the faculty works together with other departments.

Concentration 1/3 woman, biggest amount in engineering  schools. Depth, breadth, fundamental engineering, grounding in liberal arts, within a major research oriented university. Learning by doing, instructional lab is interesting. Each of them does ¾ design experience and at least one research.  Focused on solving world problems, technology key to solutions, but it cannot be done with technology alone, societal, legal,, governance, health understanding needed to  realise these solutions.  They work together with all the other departments.  Teaching the highest priority, teaching areas, science of teaching, hands on design in the curriculum, flipping the classroom, peer review etc.

So innovating engineering education is a total package from organisational structure, to classrooms and education.  It is an invitation to have a team, which can create the whole package, not just the specialised sub-parts on the basis of individual approaches to teaching and learning.

CDIO: Erik Mazur changing assessment for 21st cent. learning

r. Grunninger an American psychologist once said: “What you remember 5 years after graduation, can be taught in 5 minutes”.  In other words what do we actually learn in University and how can we realize better learning in University.

Students’  learning is driven by the assessment. Assessment  in modern society is;

  • Outmoded and still focused on memorization .
  • Geared to ranking and classifying. (e.g. CITO).
  • Provides students with inauthentic problems

We teach our students problem solving skills, but if you do not get an appropriate problem to practice these skills, what to do.  But first lets’  look a moment at inauthentic problems:

A problem is an obstacle for which you want a solution and you already know the outcome. e.g.:

  • A shopkeeper doesn’t have enough clientele – to make more money
  • A patient comes into the hospital on a stretcher –  to make the patient healthy again
  • A family needs more living space –  to rebuilt the house/ or buy a new one

The problems which are offered in engineering education are of a different kind. You know the problem, you know what you have to do, but you don’t know the outcome.  e.g.

  • You have to check with FBD if the table presented is stable enough
  • What is the velocitiy of the car, when you hit the fence.

These are not authentic problems, according to Mazur.  Our ways of testing are completely contrary to creativity and failure, and completely incompatible with real problem solving.

To realize relevant assessment we have to create relevant context, real life situations with real problems, in which using different strategies to come to a solution is the key to learning.

It means we have to look how we work on problems in the real world.  What do we do at work. We have a problem, find all the information we can, create a team and discuss in a team what the possible ways to a solution is. Successively we decide which of them is going to be implemented.

How do you do this in a educatonial setting where people have to be assessed on the knowledge achievement.  Mazur nicely showed in a workshop that team-based assessment may be a way to learning.  He uses  mc tests on concepts within a team. What you do  is: you present a question that has to be answered individually by the student (50% of the mark), than you sit in a team. The team does the same set of questions, but know they have time to discuss the right outcome.  One person in the team should give the answer for the whole team. You can answer 3 times, but each time you are wrong your team get substraction points. (this is another 50% of the mark). You don’t want  to let your team down, you don’t want to be stupid either. Social pressure really makes you work on the problem and it is representative of real world problem solving. The results is that self efficacy,  self directed learning, team skills, problem solving skills and ownership of the learning do significantly go up.

Would you like to learn more visit Mazur.harvard.edu.








Why change should be the status quo in curricular change

One should not return to the status quo after having changed the curriculum. Curriculum change should be an ongoing process in which continuous  (peer) learning and informal leadership are core elements to success.

In a workshop by Pernilla Anderson DTU from Denmark at the CDIO conference at MIT/Harvard,  we as a group were challenged to think about; Why so many change implementations fail at the level of student learning.   A number of obstacles obviously interfered in achieving the curriculum change goals.  To name a few, which are most likely familiar to you all.

The physical learning environment doesn’t allow for true engagement with peer learners. Think of lecture halls. Putting constraints on what can be achieved in active learning.

The students’  attitude being resistant to change and new ways of learning. They have been drilled to study in a certain way in secondary school and have to unlearn the way they learned to have a new experience.  They are not really motivated as long as they pass the test, so why make such an effort.

The working conditions of the teachers are unfavourable to implementation of change. They do not get enough time/money and/reward to actually realize a change.

The culture of accountability is an obstacle for any trial and error experiments and/or failure rates of students. The result is that both teachers and students stay on the safe side. Teacher not to be held accountable for the students failure. Students’  for their own failure to adapt to a new learning environment and achieve the best results they can.

These are just some of the key obstacles mentioned. Did you notice anything in particular?

Yes, the teacher is not mentioned as being an obstacle to change.  So in a teacher training workshop looking at the problem will bring about solving one problem and waiting for the next problem to arise a day, a week, or year later.

It is also we as teachers who need to look at ourselves, what inhibits us to see the optimal learning environment as one we can grow on, create and realize new things that will inspire us and our students. And yes we will need support from the management to learn by trial and error, get the benefit of the doubt after bad evaluations. Preferably we share our endeavours by team or co teaching such that we can reflect and learn in the process and get a culture of quality learning and continuous change as a normal status quo.




The new “good” student is an Innovator

Today I was at the CDIO conference and the most inspirational talk by far was the keynote from Tony Wagner, who conveniently sold a few books after the session, also to me 😉

So what did he talk about which was so inspirational most people bought the book. He spoke about what the 21st century student should learn. As he pointed out times are changing. 20% of the students who got an MBA do not have a job, and another 52% works below the capacity level expected of an MBA, with an average debt of 47.000 us dollars. In these circumstances it is a serious issue to find out what is needed to actually find a job.

It also implies our institutions fail to prepare the students for the challenges they have to face in life. We are no longer educating for a career or a number of smaller careers, but we should be preparing our students to be able to create opportunities.

Tony interviewed a number of different stakeholders and came up with a list of skills that each and every student in the 21st century should acquire to be able to survive.

These 7 survival skills are:

  1. Critical thinking skills : being able to ask and formulate the right questions
  2. Collaboration skills: teamwork, deeply understand differences, empathy. Team is Led by peers (not by leaders).
  3. Agility and adaptability skills
  4. Initiative and entrepreneurial skills
  5. Effective oral written communication skills (knowing how to think coherently/write with voice being true or authentic, argue persuasively, with passion and perspective)
  6. Access and information analysis skills
  7. Curiosity and imagination skills

But even these survival skills are not enough. A company wants more;  they want people who are able to create added value to their organisations. More specifically, the market seeks creative problem solvers, implemental innovators, who bring new possibilities to life. Now how would you achieve these objectives in an institution of learning.

Tony asked the successful students who was their most inspirational teacher, who left the biggest stamp on their life. Who created added value for these successful students. And guess what non of these teachers had tenure. They tended to be outliers in their institution and they were able to surprise and disturb the learner. But they were very common in their profiles as outliers, across institutions.

So what did they focus on when teaching students? They focused on:

  • Doing innovation in teamwork/accountable teamwork
  • Exploring the margins of a discipline, where the innovations are likely to be found
  • Interdisciplinary in their approach to learning and innovating teaching
  • Creation as the essence,  not consuming
  •  Trial and error and encouraging students to make/allow for mistakes.
  •  And finally  stimulating intrinsic motivation of students of wanting to make a difference in the world.

But it’s not just the teacher whom prepares students for the 21st century it is also the parents whom allow their children to explore and play, without stuffing them with all kinds of ready to play toys. By allowing their children to find out about their passions and encouraging them to pursue what they are passionate about.

In the end it is these key parameters that should help us to rebuilt education to prepare our students for the 21st century and become the innovators who can make a difference.

Institutions should thus incorporate collaborative learning, freedom to play and explore, have students built up showcase of digital portfolios to demonstrate what they are really proud of having achieved in terms of the 7 survival skills and beyond and integrate these activities in capstone courses.

To learn more about the philosophy read Tony Wagner “The Global Achievement Gap” and “Creating Innovators”.





Examencommissietraining; De invloed van de examencommissie op het studierendement door Henk van Berkel

Henk van Berkel, toetsdeskundige , examencommissie vz en UHD aan Geneeksunde fac. aan de Universiteit Maastricht was 29 mei 2013 te gast bij de examencommissietraining.

Henk van Berkel bleek vooral sterk in het aanreiken van prikkelende stellingen. In het dit blog een weergave van de meest prikkelende stellingen tijdens de bijeenkomst:
Zoals 50% van de bevolking in het hoger onderwijs in nl. Is een onzin doelstelling omdat deze redelijkerwijs nooit gerealiseerd gaat worden als je niet ook het mbo meetelt.


Het grootste effect op het studierendement wordt gerealiseerd door maatregelen van de overheid. Maatregelen van de overheid verklaren zelfs voor 80% de effecten op het rendement. Rendement kan uitgelegd worden als nominale studieduur en het aantal geslaagden. Het aantal geslaagden is in het hoger onderwijs helemaal niet slecht, 80% haalt na verloop van tijd een diploma. Wat wel beter kan is de doorlooptijd.

De andere 20% van beïnvloedingsmaatregelen om het studierendement te verhogen is eigenlijk gefröbel in de marge binnen de instelling.

Als je dan toch wat wilt doen binnen de 20% besteed dan niet te veel tijd aan preselectie en voorlichting. Dat kost veel tijd en geld en levert relatief weinig op. Bovendien wil je geen kudde studenten die precies in het pulletje valt, of door een hoepel springt, maar eigenwijze initiatief nemende studenten die kritisch nadenken en er wat van maken.

Je kunt beter in het 1e studiejaar vakken plannen die representatief zijn voor de gehele bachelor,  zodat de student een realistisch beeld krijgt van de inhoud en zwaarte van de opleiding. Daarmee selecteert de gemotiveerde student zichzelf uit. De 30% die ongeveer afvloeit, begeleid je op een gedegen manier naar een andere studie of werk.

Als docent hebben wij ook een taak, namelijk om niet de excellentie cultuur te ondersteunen, want de excellente komen er toch wel in deze maatschappij ondanks of dankzij het hoger onderwijs. Juist de grotere groep middenmoters zijn onze opdracht. De middenmoters kunnen we opleiden voor een betere toekomst voor henzelf en de maatschappij.

Wat is daar dan voor nodig ?

• Weet dat Toetsing het leren stuurt en houdt daar bij het ontwerpen van onderwijs rekening mee.
• Zorg er voor dat Grotere toetsen versterkt worden met deeltoetsen
• Geef regelmatige feedback en formatieve toetsing tijdens de onderwijsperiode (differentieren op deel onderdelen zodat de student goed zicht heeft op waar hij/zij goed/slecht in is.)
• Vermijd concurrentie met andere vakken
• Hanteer kwaliteitsprocedures met betrekking tot de toetsing
• Niet meer dan 1 herkansing die je ook moet verdienen, liefst in de vakantie zodat je de harde werkers beloond.
• Compenseer binnen de vakken of over kernvakken van gelijkwaardig gewicht/niveau.

Eigenlijk is het allemaal al min of meer beschreven in het document “Koersen op studiesucces” en de handreiking voor examencommissies “ Examencommissies in the Spotlight”.

De examencommissie zal voor een stukje borging moeten zorgen van bovengenoemde punten (liefst met in haar gelederen, een toetsdeskundige, een juridisch adviseur en een opleidingsdeskundige). Dit kan zij het doen door te zorgen dat er per vak een toetsplan beschikbaar is, dat tijdig op kwaliteit kan worden beoordeelt en bijgestuurd. En een psychometrische analyse achteraf voor de nodige bijstellingen.

De examencommissie dient daar overigens wel tijd te krijgen om haar uitgebreide taken te kunnen realiseren. Daarmee geeft de instelling ook aan wat het belang is van kwaliteitsborging van de toetsing. In Maastricht krijgt een examencommissie voorzitter 850 uur per academisch jaar en de leden elk 60-80 uur per academisch jaar voor de taak uitoefening in de examencommissie

Meer weten ….
Binnenkort zijn de slides/film van deze bijeenkomst beschikbaar via www.ocfocus.tudelft.nl . In het komende najaar wordt er aandacht besteed aan de relevantie van jaarverslagen, de opzet van een toetscommissie en wat te doen als de examinator niet voldoet aan de verwachtingen van de examencommissie (gesprekstechnieken voor de examencommissie)

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