See Summary of the TOM Seminar 2016

Summary of the TOM Seminar 31 may 2016

On a sunny day, educational advisors and teachers from several European countries were welcomed at the University of Twente to be informed about the Twente Educational Model (TOM) or, in Dutch Twents Onderwijsmodel (TOM).

Opening by dr. J.I.A. (Irene) Visscher and Drs. T.L.C. (Tom) Mulder

In this presentation Irene Visscher and Tom Mulder explained what TOM is and why the University of Twente implemented it. There were several reasons why the university implemented the new educational model:

  • Students should be ready for the 21st century, asking for T-shaped professionals
  • The University of Twente wanted to go from teaching to learning. Less ‘sage on the stage’ and passive listening student; more active learning. Learning together, spreading the workload en regular feedback.
  • Decreasing the (late) drop outs;
  • Enhancing the study yields

What is TOM?

With Student Driven Learning we want to create the entrepreneurial attitude among students. Students should sit in the driving seat. Learning is not only about understanding, but also about asking new questions. The structure of TOM is as following:

  • Full-time thematic modules of 15 ECTS;
  • Project-led education: applying and developing skills in projects’;
  • Uniform curriculum structure and modules that are shared by different programmes;
  • with respect to the content of the programs we planned: common mathematic lines for science and technology and joint methods line for the social sciences, and reflection in each programme

First results

Students learn together; active learning and teaching methods, higher workload among students and staff (frequent feedback, but also , teachers work together in module teams).
Integration of modules, T-shaped professional, reducement of (late) drop-out : students drop-out earlier (also because of binding study advice).

What is changed?

  • Higher workload for students and staff
  • Teachers work together in teams
  • A (too) high number of tests
  • Integration of modules
  • T-shaped professional
  • Increased level of deep learning


  • separate courses instead of integration
  • teacher-driven instead of student-driven
  • increased test pressure
  • work load for teaching
  • (very) full schedules for students
  • difficult to accommodate non-regular students

Some questions were discussed:

Why did the university not choose an existing model, like PBL?
Although you can learn a lot from existing models, we chose to design our own Twente Education Model because we need something to distinguish as a university. And we were pretty much design-oriented. Design orientation is less suited for PBL.

Team work is very important in TEM. Does the university teach students to collaborate?
We proposed (based on Aalborg) to start with 6 weeks practicing, but the programme directors didn’t want to do that immediately. Now the programmes are slightly moving towards curricula in which students learn these skills.

How are all the skills assessed coherently?
How the (assessment) of skills is integrated in each programme, depends. The board did not regulate it; the programme director is in charge of this. As our university is small and our programmes are small, the staff does not consist of many people, so that makes it easier. 

Project-led education by C. (Charlotte) Oude Alink, MSc (Centre of Expertise in Learning and Teaching)

Charlotte Oude Alink shows three different modules of the University of Twente. It can be seen that there are many differences among the modules. The further integration of modules is a challenge. The use of the taxonomy of Bloom might by helpful in this, to define learning objectives for the module as a whole. Some characteristics of the modules / projects that can differ:

  • Several modules are shared by two or more programmes. In most cases, this also results in mixed student project teams. With a different set of learning goals
  • A real client;
  • Competition element;
  • A real or fake budget;
  • The way of assessment: individual or team grading, dividing a the total points of the group among the group members, the use of red, yellow and green cards
  • Students can completely formulating their own direction, based on set learning objectives
  • Search for their own client
  • Closed with a market to learn from each other, share experiences

In most cases, students are supported by a tutor. This can be a teacher in a specific discipline, a PhD-student or someone of the Centre of Expertise in Learning and Teaching (CELT). CELT offers a tutor training.

Design and implementation process by drs. T.L.C (Tom) Mulder and dr. J.I.A. (Irene) Visscher

The initial phase started with a vision of the new vice chancellor. After a year of discussions with the deans, he formed an independent working group to develop an educational model. A small group of about 10 persons, including two students, some education directors and the winner of the education price.
The university implemented an abstract vision and the structure (10 weeks, 15 ECTS, full time, working in module teams) top-down. The idea was to provide freedom to design the modules. In the charcoal sketch sessions it wasn’t that hard to come up with the rough sketches.
When looking back we can conclude that the perception of the programme staff was that it was very top down: too many rules and regulations. The perception of the support staff, however, was that there was too much freedom.

Activities undertaken:

  • Design sessions with program directors and in departments
  • Study days for program directors, with different kind of themes. Primary for programme directors, as they are responsible for the quality of the programmes
  • Education Day for all staff, with a major theme. Main goal: sharing examples.
  • TOM Carrousels: short lunch sessions about a theme. A short presentation of a teacher. The carrousels are held at each faculty (the same presentation)
  • Educational advice form CELT
  • Tutor training
  • Mini seminars

Support organization:

  • A small team of ‘external’ advisors, started in a building between the scientist. To boost TOM.
  • Steering: the vice chancellor was involved (ideological push) and a core team of program directors.
  • Critical expert team from within the university. Scientists, professors in field related to education or educational innovation.
  • Audits form sister universities: This helped in the political discussion, with discussion in university councils. And to mirror your ideas.
  • Regrettably only a few students were involved. Most design teams designed at informal moments, without students. That’s not the best way; lacking ownership.

Last year we asked students to design their ideal module and what they came up to closely looks like our ideal TOM vision.


The pilot at Biomedical Technology was politically crucial. The pilot was not the success we hoped for. Therefore, instead of starting TOM, a new pilot at Electrical Engineering the next year. Their drop-out rate majorly decreased. So a year later than planned, we started with TOM. The pilots gave insight success factors and pitfalls (open doors). But: it was difficult to transpose.

PhD positions

When TOM started, the University of Twente also created 2 PhD positions to research the effects on TOM:

  • Professional development of teachers in module teams (individual perspective)
  • Influence of team learning on the module design.

 Challenges for the future:

  • Assessment: The University of Twente want to use more peer feedback, formative feedback, etc. and seeks for a balance between individual and group assessment.
  • SDL: continue this innovation. Students should be more in the driving seat.
  • Support systems: our systems can’t cope well with the differences in results, structures etc. They are based on classical education. So it is expensive, because not automated at the moment.
  • Use of ICT, to make curricula more flexible

Campus tour

After having a lunch, a short tour around the campus was made. The project of module 8 of Industrial Engineering was visited. In a short introduction Roy Damgrave and Eric Lutters explained that in this module eleven different tools were offered. Student only visited a part of these tools. The project team as a whole should visit all tools. In this way, peer learning occurs. It is also a way to cope with freeriding. After this introduction, the visitors of the seminar could ask the student for their experiences.

Introduction of module 8 Industrial Engineering

The tour continued by visiting the Classroom of the Future and the DesignLab. Chairs and pillow chairs are at the front of the Classroom of the Future, for the students to follow the teacher's presentation, possibly with the support of the video wall. Flexible walls are set up in the middle and at the rear of the classroom that form a demarcation of the project spaces. Each project space is equipped with a touchscreen to support the explication of project assignments.

The DesignLab is a creative and cross-disciplinary ecosystem at the University of Twente, connecting science and society through design. Faculty and students from all fields work together with companies and governments on societal design challenges of our times, inspired by novel scientific insights.

Q&A session

After the tour, it was time to ask questions to students and experts of different aspects of TOM. Questions about quality assurance, Student-Driven Learning, Assessment, Technology Enhanced Learning and Teaching (the use of ICT). It resulted in vividly discussions until the time was up. While most visitors started their journey back home, some continued their discussions during the drinks. Plans were made to organize a seminar again, next year.