Academic Culture

The academic culture at the University of Twente is quite distinct when compared to other countries. There is little hierarchy and professors tend to be easily approachable. Students usually only receive feedback when the work they deliver is unsatisfactory. Not getting feedback on work done is usually a good sign. Compliments are uncommon. Professors expect students to work independently, also during project work. Your best teachers are often your fellow students.

Educational process

If a professor asks a question, you are expected to come up with a reasonable solution, not ‘the right and perfect one’. The process of finding a solution, dealing with new information and creativity are paramount. The quality of the actual solution is often less important.

Interaction in class

Dutch people in general and academics in particular tend to be very opinionated; they enjoy a good discussion, attacking each other's ideas relentlessly and with great passion. Teachers appreciate these critical and passionate discussions in class, as they are usually seen as marks of highly involved and interested students. Asking questions is seen as being interested in the topic, not as being disrespectful towards the lecturer. Students are expected to think about the presented knowledge, develop and express their own opinion and look for possible weaknesses in what was presented. For the Dutch it is nothing personal and does not lead to loosing face; it is all about the content and optimal learning. Students are expected to be self-reliant. If something is troubling you, you are expected to take the initiative in finding a solution. You must take the first step and contact a study adviser or someone else to help you. Waiting to be 'saved' will get you nowhere.

Active learning

The Dutch believe that learning actively is the best way to learn. The essence of active learning is asking yourself questions that you try to answer by studying. What am I going to learn? What do I know already about this question? Does what I read answer my question? Do I agree? What do I miss? Are alternative solutions possible? What are the consequences? Memorizing and understanding are considered valuable but only as first steps in learning. There is more emphasis on the development of academic and/or professional skills.

Discuss issues openly

At every university, things go wrong. Sometimes a lecture is disappointing, there might be strange twists in the curriculum or unreasonable exams. If you encounter such a problem you are expected to first confront the professor (as scary as that may seem) to see if you can find a solution. If that doesn't work, you can always contact the course committee (OLC), the people dealing with education at your study association (Dutch: studievereniging), study adviser, course director or faculty internationalization coordinator.

Source: Nuffic (2011). ''Preparing students for differences in Educational Style''. Den Haag; Ten Dam, G.T.M.

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