UTTOMExperiences in TOMMY TOMA bottleneck also is a learning experience

A bottleneck also is a learning experience


Katja Haijkens is Educational Manager for the Biomedical Engineering (BMT) educational programme, which is where the TOM pilot took place during the past few years. ‘I was involved in revising the BMT curriculum almost from the start; the groundwork had been done, but I stepped in as soon as design got under way’. Katja came to the University of Twente as a freelance Educationalist; she temporarily replaced the head of the Language Centre (TCP) and then started working for the Educational Services department. When BMT started with the pilot, she was initially seconded to BMT, but she has now been working there full-time for one-and-a-half years.


Completely new design for the educational programme

The programme seized the opportunity provided by the pilot to reform the curriculum completely. ‘Not just the design, but also the content’. Katja says that the programme has been put together well now. That same uncertainty that is now surrounding the UT-wide implementation of TOM, Katja also saw when the new BMT curriculum was introduced. One of the bottlenecks, for instance, was that not everyone agreed with the system. Katja was there during the design stage of all the modules. ‘This is where I tried to work towards a single idea’. Responsibility and loosening the reins on students were recurring topics during many discussions.

Progress in a liberal environment

In the BMT, there is a clear progress in the degree of freedom students are given within projects. The further they are in the curriculum, the more freedom they have. ‘In their third year, students are expected to work with increasing independence’. Sometimes a module may be more limited due to a number of fixed components. ‘In those cases, students generally complain in evaluations that they want to be given more freedom'. Katja finds it difficult to say whether this attitude is different from the ‘pre-TOM’ days. She does think that students currently in their third year are more pro-active. ‘The students are quite capable of planning their work and are good at seeing possible applications of the theory they are currently learning’.

Confidence in the students, the lecturers and the educational programmes

The ability to ‘let go’ and ‘promote confidence’ is something that keeps coming up, both within the BMT and throughout the entire UT. An example of failing to let go is the many tests that were held at several programmes during the first TOM modules. ‘This is at odds with the idea of giving students a growing amount of responsibility’. According to Katja, the trepidation with regard to letting go applies not only to lecturers, but also to the whole university. ‘As an educational programme, we also notice the relative lack of confidence; there are many checks, which is comparable with the large number of tests students have to take’.

Still under development

Providing education within the TOM scheme is not only new for lecturers; introducing TOM is also an entirely new project for the institution. This means there are many learning opportunities for the entire university throughout the process. In other words, the whole university is currently under development. This even rings true for the BMT, where the B1 TOM modules will be used for the third time this year. Katja emphasizes: ‘We are clearly involved in a process of development and I think that, for people who are just starting, it is good to know that this is a learning process and that you will nott have a perfect new curriculum within one year’. Katja says that errors are only to be expected during development. ‘This does not mean a step backwards; it is simply a learning opportunity’. The BMT is still involved in a learning process as well. Although adjustments are still being made to the module, much progress has already been made. ‘So just have confidence that things are progressing and that we are taking steps forward.