Organisation - August 13, 2015

More teaching by DLO staff?

Yvonne de Hilster

There is a shortage of teachers at the university, while DLO has staff to spare and these researchers have specialized knowledge to contribute. So why not get more DLO staff into the classroom? This idea has been kicked around in several places in the past few months. More collaboration would be good for One Wageningen too. But is it possible to involve researchers in teaching? And is it a good idea?

Frans van Alebeek DLO, works at Applied Plant Research

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‘I have been a process coach for an ACT group and I sometimes give guest lectures at CAH Vilentum in Dronten and Almere. The contact with students is enjoyable and inspiring. They are eager for knowledge and they ask questions I wouldn’t ask anymore, which keeps you on your toes. But you can’t just transfer from a DLO job into teaching just like that. You need teaching skills and knowledge about formulating learning objectives and making lesson plans. I am qualified to teach Biology at High School level, but I am always a partner as well as a teacher. Besides training, you need an affinity with education. It is not just a solution for DLOers who don’t have enough hours and projects.

Tiny van Boekel Director of the Education Institute

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‘Making use of DLOers in education is valuable if their expertise contributes to the learning objectives and can help cater for rising student numbers. But in practice it’s still a bit tricky. Firstly you need to find a way of getting DLOers to get the basic teaching qualification (BKO), just as university lecturers do. Secondly, the teaching budget is not geared to DLO’s higher hourly rates. Thirdly, university lecturers are on tenure track and they do a combination of teaching and research. If a DLOer’s research is recognized by a graduate school, then he or she could focus on teaching for a chair group and do research at DLO as well. A lot depends on the kind of research: confidential DLO research is sensitive and the research is also required to expand the boundaries of science. Given the One Wageningen credo, I would expect the Executive Board to tackle this problem.’

Maria Forlenza WU, works at Cell Biology and Immunology, nominated for Teacher of the Year Award 2015

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‘Teaching is not the same as giving a presentation. With a presentation you aim to impress and you can afford to ‘lose’ some of your audience. In teaching you need to draw in as many students as possible, build up slowly from one level to the next, and check whether students can still follow your story. I also try, each year, to motivate students who aren’t very keen. Whether DLOers can teach depends on the person. I know DLOers who are great teachers. But not everyone has it in them. Secondly, it depends on a person’s expertise: For some subjects it can be a good idea to ask a DLO expert in. And thirdly, a course with EDUsupport can often help, with learning the Wageningen teaching style too. And lastly, there are different forms of learning of course. Perhaps a DLOer has most to contribute to problem- centred learning and more applied activities.’

Coen Ritsema WU, professor of Soil Physics and Land Management, at DLO until 2012

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‘I understand that there are DLOers who would like to be seconded to the university because their institutes are not doing too well and the market is shrinking. I can see the case for arguing that dual appointments strengthen the relationship between DLO and the university and the passing on of both fundamental and applied knowledge. Alterra has been working in mixed teams for years. They have just been separated out again, but you can reinforce each other through collaboration. And I gather many chair groups could use an extra teacher. Because the government funding from the ministry is not enough, you can only do that if you have enough external funding. Someone who can bring in indirect and contract funding is one step ahead. Whether that is a DLOer or someone from outside doesn’t really matter. What matters in the end is the quality of the individual. And of course you need a teaching qualification to go into teaching.’

Ine van der Fels DLO, works at RIKILT

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‘I think it’s a good development that DLO colleagues at the university lecture and contribute to developing course material. You can bring in examples from the field and I notice that students value the link with professional practice. I myself have been working a few hours a week at Business Economics for a year and a half now. They hire me for teaching and research. I am now giving three two-hour lectures on Food Safety Economics. I also give guest lectures on topics such as the safety of insects. I enjoy teaching because it makes a change from the rest of my work. When I prepare lectures I also see more coherence between the projects I work on for clients. Because I didn’t have any teaching experience, I took an internal course early this year, and learned more about ways of bringing more variety into lectures.’

Illustration: Henk van Ruitenbeek