The Honors Conference from an international perspective

By Eva Hijmans

eva renskeThe Faculty of Society and Law is developing an honours program “Social Innovation”. Because of the development of our own honours program and specifically the international perspective in that program, I went to the conference and focused on the international experience for honours students.  Many times throughout this conference it was mentioned that we expect (or hope) that excellent students feel relatively more responsible to solve the problems that we are facing in the world of today and tomorrow. That these students might achieve powerful positions and should therefore be prepared for the ethical aspects of decision-making in a global context, feel  social responsibility and have an understanding of cultural diversity.  There was a score of workshops on this subject and I will report on those which I attended.

The first workshop was by ‘Frontlijn‘, an organization that works with students for poor multi-problem families in Rotterdam. Families of course, with diverse cultural backgrounds.  Students got paired up.  Diversity, the  international background and language skills of students are used productively when matching them to a family in need for help. They learn to help in a supportive and structured manner. In our faculty’s vision the definition of international perspective and intercultural sensitivity overlap for the better part, and international perspective can very well be developed at home, as was shown in this workshop.

The second workshop added perfectly to the above: designing an honours course for global citizenship. In a Dutch-American experiment  ‘The Global Village‘ students were taught with the object of enhancing their social responsibility and ethical sensitivity.  To be capable of being a global citizen,  these students will need (1) knowledge: exploring issues, linking their own and other societies, (2) skills and attitude: contact and interaction with people from different backgrounds, (3) reflection on values and (4) to take action. The chosen context should be one central theme (the advice is to focus) so the students can investigate one issue –also historically- and compare societies. Doing a social project –each in their own country- and then comparing the outcomes did develop the students’ awareness.

The next workshop was about an honours bachelor called ‘Connect2Uganda‘. The bachelor is a cooperation between different partners in education –a UAS, an MBO and an agricultural school-  and the city government. Also in this case the accent is on supportive help, equality and a buddy system. Design principles for this course are: bounded freedom (working experimentally in a free assignment), enhancing academic competence and creating community. A real life assignment in Africa and interdisciplinary collaboration are part of the learning experience. An interesting brainstorm about the dilemma of on the one hand the demand for evidence based research in our western UAS system, and on the other hand the needs of the local community or the NGO,  led to some good thoughts on action research and community practice.

Designing an international semester, was the last workshop I attended. Research among students and lecturers pointed the way to flexible and student driven curricula. Refreshing thought: develop  and design education with your students instead of for them. We practiced all of our developed insights in a design brainstorm , it was satisfying to combine all of the ingredients that we had gathered.

Talking to my HU colleagues in between and developing ideas to put into practice when at home was also very inspiring. It was good to be there with the lot of us.


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