Monday, March 12, 2007

8 days a week, ironing is a chore

Last Thursday was the annual symposium organised by IVLOS at Utrecht University. The theme was 8 days a week, how students and staff can manage to do learning and teaching in the amount of time that seems available for this task. I am pleased to see that the IVLOS has picked up on this (see article by Robert Jan Simons on Edusite). As far as students are concerned the picture is pretty obvious: Students in the Netherlands are trying to combine studying (approximately a meagre 20 hours a week) with all sorts of jobs to add to their grant and support their lifestyle.

Inez Groen gave a presentation (again) on the Einstein Generation. The story did not contain much new information, but it was interesting to hear it again and to add it unto experiences I had gained lately. One interesting aspect was the attitude the new generation of students has regarding university. University is now commonly called school. Spoilt as they are with all the wealth they have been surrounded with they are used to having many choices available. They will choose the easy choice, they expect to be involved and engrossed in the study they have chosen for. (Please note: this does not necessarily mean they are lazy!) They expect good teaching. The teacher should certainly be a subject matter expert, otherwise they might as well spend their time on the internet where you can find almost anything.

And IT is extremely boring, it is a tool not unlike an iron. You plug it in and it works. This does not mean you should not use IT, it means you should only use it if it makes sense, IT for IT's sake is only fascinating for digital immigrants, duh!

Staff on the other hand are suffering from the demand for a more involved style of teaching. In many cases this has been translated into giving the students many more assignments. Sadly this means teachers have an awful lot more checking of papers to get through. There was a session specially directed at this problem which I certainly enjoyed. What about letting students doing the teaching in turn. They are the ones that are setting up the presentation, organising excersises and getting the students involved. It seemed to work really well. It brought back happy memories from a class I attended using the same formula. It was definitely the most interesting and involving module I followed during my masters'.


Welmoed said...

Interesting idea, to let the students 'teach' and come up with exercises. I just think that students will perceive it as the teachers not having time to do it themselves, and therefor letting the students do it...
Yet, it will increase student's involvement with the subject under study, which in the end will improve their knowledge and skills.

Keith Russell said...

I had a teacher that did the same and we all new that this meant it would cost him less time, but we accepted it and really enjoyed it and learnt a lot from it.

I do feel it is very important for the students that they feel the teacher does have the knowledge to teach the lessons, but intentionally chooses to coach rather than lecture.

Welmoed said...

That's really important indeed, but it's hard in these times when you hear lecturers complain all the time about all the work they need to do, to really believe them. Here in the UK, you feel the teachers love to teach and to support the students in their work, that works a lot nicer than with the stressy techers in the Netherlands :-)