16 February 2017 • By Lotte Hoes
The Foundation Course Didactic Competence is still evolving
Lecturers teaching at universities of applied sciences who do not yet have their didactic competence certification are required to take the Foundation Course Didactic Competence (BDB). Margo Stegeman, Programme Leader for Lecturer Professionalisation, says this training course has been greatly improved since it started being offered at THUAS in 2015.
The various modules included in the three blocks of BDB classes teach the lecturers about aspects of the teaching profession and how to develop their teaching programme, how to teach their subject, and how to test and assess their students. Stegeman holds final responsibility for the BDB at THUAS and is committed to continually improving the quality of this training course. ‘The biggest changes have been the final assignments and the testing methods,’ she said. ‘When the course was first offered, it was still pretty uncertain how the participants had to be evaluated. After having discussed this with the teacher trainers, there is now a much clearer picture of what a lecturer should be able to demonstrate once he or she has completed the training course. Another change is that we now assess many subjects by means of oral tests.’
The decision to do this was motivated by the feedback given by many of the participating lecturers: they were investing a huge amount of time in the BDB. ‘Writing reports and completing written assignments takes a lot of time. Taking a test orally takes less time and cuts down on the participant’s study load,’ said Stegeman. Jikke Oostrum, a lecturer in Social Work and Social Services, took the training course in 2015 and is pleased with the changes. ‘By the end of the training course, I had invested more hours in it than the 200 hours they had estimated in advance,’ she said. Arnold Westgeest, a lecturer in Accountancy and Finance and Control who is currently taking the BDB, added that he, too, has been pressed for time in recent months. ‘In addition to my teaching duties and taking this training course, I’m also a member – like many other lecturers – of a Faculty Committee. I have no objections to hard work, and I’m also used to it, but if the BDB would have lasted any longer than three blocks, it wouldn’t have been worth it to me.’
Stegeman realises that some lecturers find the training course difficult to combine with their other activities in the school. ‘This is another reason why we now make what we expect from these lecturers clearer to them. If an assignment isn’t explained well enough, they could think that they have to spend a lot more hours on it than necessary,’ she said. ‘What’s more, the lecturers’ line managers are now better informed about how much time the BDB requires.’ Stegeman said that these line managers could do a better job of facilitating the BDB for the lecturers by being better informed of its content and the time required for it. ‘Is the lecturer assigned a tutor within the framework of the course? Are additional hours released for taking the BDB? These are conditions that would make it easier for the lecturer to take the training course. This is why we are now holding initial meetings with the lecturer, the lecturer-supervisor and the lecturer’s line manager.
In terms of organisational matters, a number of things needed improvement, but most of the lecturers couldn’t complain about the content of the training course. ‘I noticed, especially during the module on how to teach my subject that my teacher trainer was a real professional,’ said Dokkum. Westgeest agreed with her: ‘One of the goals of the training course is to provide the participants with a better idea of what teaching really is. I think that the only way to develop this vision is to keep broadening your knowledge. And the BDB certainly contributes to this.’ Dokkum added, however, that it was not always possible to apply what she had learned in these classes to her work due to lack of time. ‘I can imagine that not every one of the school’s degree programmes operates according to the standards we are suggesting,’ responded Stegeman. ‘The meetings that Leonard Geluk held with 100 lecturers also showed a big difference between what’s being taught in the BDB and what goes on in the classroom. It’s important that we, as a university of applied sciences, are aware of this. What we have to do now is to explore ways to start closing this gap.’
The first step in this is already being taken: between 2017 and 2020, The Hague Center for Teaching and Learning (HCTL) is offering a training course called the ‘Basic Examination Qualification’ to all lecturers, even those who already have their didactic competence certification, to make them even more competent in testing. Lecturers who could use more guidance in didactics in addition to these training courses can also contact the HCTL for extra coaching and a quick ‘overhaul’.