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Students receive certificate Learning Assistant from Rector Thom Palstra

Friday 10 July, three students received their certificate as a 'Certified Learning Assistant' from Vice-Chancellor Thom Palstra. The three students took part in a pilot project to be trained as Learning Assistants. Ineke ten Dam: "With the training of learning assistants, we want to contribute to the quality of education".

As a student assistant (SA), students are responsible for various tasks in the field of education, research and organisation. Learning Assistants (LA's) are those student assistants who assist in the learning process of other students; the most common tasks as an assistant involve supervising working groups and practicals and supervising project groups as a tutor.

'Most of the student assistants have sufficient knowledge of the subject, but in the field of didactics many assistants can still acquire expertise,’ students say. Student members of the Faculty Council have therefore asked for more extensive didactic preparation of student assistants. CELT already offers various didactic preparation courses for SA's: usually half a day’s courses, with a follow-up meeting. The new LA trajectory provides an expansion of these courses; it spans two quarters during which LA's will actually supervise other students. Ineke ten Dam (Centre for Engineering Education) and Marieke van Geel (ELAN) have set up the pilot.

The new trajectory requires 28 hours of time investment and provides LA's not only with a certificate, but also 1 EC. In the first quartile, one half-day start meeting and six intervision lunch meetings will be held. During the intervision meetings, a new topic will be discussed each time.

By focusing on didactic principles and didactic reasoning, students will be prepared for all the tasks performed by a Learning Assistant. In the second quartile, three lunch meetings will be organised during which students are expected to demonstrate how they apply what they have learned in the first quartile in practice. After completing all modules, students are basically able to manage any LA task without further didactic training.

Preparation, application and evaluation & advice

Ineke: "During the first quartile, we see students grow as they learn to prepare their work well and to apply the skills they have learned in their work as tutors or assistants.  During the second quartile, no longer do they not only focus on their own way of working, but they will also give advice and feedback to their tutors. They will learn to look at things from a teacher's perspective". Intervision meetings were held throughout the pilot. Marieke: "We organised several intervision meetings: a brief moment to catch up with each other and to look back on the previous week. These meetings were intended to tackle problems if necessary, but also to show that not everything will work out at once and that this is not a problem. By frequently organising these intervisions, we gained good insight in how students were growing into their new role".

Target

"Now that the pilot has been successfully completed, CELT will take over the responsibility and a UT-wide course will be offered in September. This will be offered to all students, regardless of their study programme, age or year of study. Everyone is welcome! After all, it is all about learning didactic skills, contributing together to quality education and boosting students’ enthusiasmfor an educational profession".

Quality Agreements

The idea to start the pilot came from Nieck Benes, vice dean (Portfolio Education) at the Faculty of Science & Technology. He heard how students in Colorado were trained in didactic skills and thereby were able to contribute to the quality of education. Nieck: "We hope that, as in Colorado, students and teachers will talk to each other about education. In this way, we will contribute to the quality of education together."

The Learning Assistant pilot is one of the components of the Faculty's Quality Agreements Plan. With the abolishment of the tuition grant and the introduction of the loan system (leenstelsel), money has become available to invest in the quality of education. In so-called 'quality agreements', agreements have been made with students and lecturers about improving the quality of education. The request to invest in the training of student assistants came from students themselves.