A couple of months ago, we had a meeting with the Dutch Sirius-partners. All participants of the project to stimulate honours in higher education in The Netherlands. As a result of it, some of the universities decided to meet up and discuss Honours Didactics: how do we challenge our students to develop themselves to the max? And what do we need to teach our lecturers in order to do so? So we arranged a meeting and presented our way of professionalising our honours faculty. Very inspiring! What struck me were the similarities in our approaches. We all realise that honours students need something different from their lecturers and that means the lecturers have to be educated in order to be the honours teacher this students need.
We addressed some of the characteristics and it’s not just that the lecturer needs know more of the field of work, but he also has to teach in a different way: more space for the students, high expectations, a coaching approach, a way of working with the students which represents equality and offering complex and multidisciplinary problems. That means a lot for the lecturer himself: often a shift in focus and teaching style. Somethimes even a personal transformation. And also being a student himself: daring to take risks, to not know the answers, to let the students struggle and to have faith in their own flexibility and problem solving competencies. The main difference may be that the student himself is in charge of his own learning, motivated by curiosity and professional drive. And the lecturer is a facilitator and encourager.
We noticed that this is not a natural way to teach for a lot of lecturers. So at HU University of Applied Sciences we developed the introduction training in honours didactics. Our starting point was (and is): practice what you preach. We saw it as a work in progress and decided that the training is also a learning process for us.
In the past year we educated four groups of lecturers in honours education. Our main struggle is the balance between space and direction. What do the lecturers need to experience to be able to change the way they teach? How can we get them out of their comfort zones without undermining the learning outcomes? How can we challenge them to the max?
We evaluated and changed the framework, so I’m very curious about our next group after the summer.
In the meantime, HU, Saxion and Hogeschool Rotterdam work together in developing the Dutch Didactics in honours education. We wrote a proposal for a workshop at the annual NCHC conference in the US and it was accepted. We were asked to also present our Dutch Didactics at the Summit Excellentie 2014 in Amsterdam and next Friday we will lead a session on honours didactics at the Dag van de Excellentie in The Hague.
It’s very inspiring to work together with two other universities and to learn and grow together. I’m looking forward to our contributing to honours education in The Netherlands and abroad!