One year of blogging about teaching and learning in PBL

IMG_3418By Patrick Bijsmans & Afke Groen

It has been a year since we started our Teaching & Learning Blog! And what better way to celebrate than with a blog of our own about the importance of sharing teaching experiences and best practices.

Over the past year, through our blog, we for example learned that a good supervisor offers reassurance, a good tutor realises that she is not omnipotent, and a good mentor does not wait for students to come to himbut acts when he signals something. Two contributions also stressed the relation between Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and academic writing: both in terms of the latter as a tool to support the former, and the former as a tool to support the latter. And while some argued that PBL is more relevant than everin times of complex problems, others noted that some of PBL’s core ideas are under pressure. A big thank you to all of those making these contributions!

And a big thank you also to those reading these blog contributions. Because indeed it is not just sharingexperiences that we want to stimulate, but also listeningto them and reading about them. This is rooted in our belief that becoming better teachers at university requires us to talk to each other about our teaching; about our experiences with teaching and our different approaches to it.

Afke, for instance, has started to use the whiteboard to take note of students’ doubts and unanswered questions after Sven Schaepkens and Patrick’s blog about whiteboarding. And after Michael Shackleton’s blog about the expert lecture, she has become even more aware that a good lecturer does not explain concepts to students, but illustrates them with the dilemmas and experiences of researchers and practitioners. Patrick has become more sensitive towards the diversity of students and staff and the challenges they encounter. He has made changes to the courses that he coordinates, for instance through updating assignment texts to generate more discussion (keep an eye on the upcoming contribution by Sven Schaepkens about problem design in the humanities and social sciences). He has also invited some of our contributors to share more of their invaluable experience with colleagues in the University Teaching Qualification (UTQ) trajectory.

Of course, we hope that more people will contribute to and read our blog over the next year. Not just to further the debate about teaching and learning and learn from each other, but also because there are some policy changes on the agenda that we need to discuss – and in light of which we need to discuss our teaching practices. At the national level, there are discussions on how to value good teaching in academia more prominently than is the case now. Such debates about the desirability of teaching careers in higher education are also increasingly relevant outside of the Netherlands. In addition, as of September 2019 Maastricht University will launch the Continuous Professional Development programme, which will require all UTQ-certified teaching staff to continue their development as teachers. Finally, a university-level steering group currently discusses the university’s third main research theme, Learning & Innovation, in which research into teaching will play an important role. A conference dedicated to this theme will take place on 12 June this year.

As such, there are many developments that will impact on teaching and learning at this faculty. Yet, while there are all sorts of workshops, books, articles and blogs about improving your research, academics seem much less accustomed to learning about teaching. All the more reason to continue with the FASoS Teaching & Learning Blog. And we have a couple of blogs in the pipeline already, on topics such as:

  • The role of gender norms and biases in active learning environments, by Maastricht University’s Diversity Officer Constance Sommerey and Afke.
  • The design of effective problems and assignments in the humanities and social sciences, by Sven Schaepkens.
  • The differences between PBL and other forms of active learning, by Darian Meacham.
  • Student perspectives on PBL, by second-year BA ES students Sarah Goosens and Kirstin Herbs.

If you want join the debate, please do not hesitate to contact us with your idea for a blog. You can find the requirements on our website. You can also simply react to existing blogs by leaving a comment below the blog. We look forward to hearing from you!