Student - January 25, 2017

Students can put their own course together

Linda van der Nat

The Master’s programme Earth and Environment will be experimenting with a new course this spring. Students who choose this course may decide for themselves what they want to learn.

Photo: Guy Ackermans

The course is called Trending topics in biology and chemistry of soil and water, and deals with themes of social relevance in the field of environment and sustainability. Which exact themes are studied is up to the students. ‘The only criterion is that it relates to the expertise of the four chair groups involved,’ says assistant professor and course coordinator Ingrid van de Leemput of Aquatic ecology & water quality management. ‘Beyond that, we give the students freedom to choose the theme.’ Her colleague Jeroen de Klein says: ‘We think they are up to that, now they are towards the end of their degree programme.’

We do have our own expectations.
Ingrid van de Leemput

The course is taught in the first weeks of period 6 (in May), but students who register for it start talking to each other on an online platform between February and April, in order to choose the themes they want to learn about together. Van de Leemput and De Klein do not want to give examples, so as to give the student maximum freedom to brainstorm for themselves.

The teachers will provide small assignments and focused feedback in order to guide the students in fine-tuning their themes to the right level. The course itself consists of subject-related lectures by WUR and guest lecturers, and literature study of the chosen topics. The students will work in groups, interviewing experts, writing a popular science article, and presenting their findings to their fellow students.

The two teachers hope students will be enthusiastic about the new learning approach. De Klein: ‘In the programme committee people were a bit reluctant to set students to work three months before they start the course. But students spend a lot of time on social media, and in our opinion they can afford to spend half an hour a week discussing their own subject.’

The course is compulsory for students of Earth and Environment taking the Biology and chemistry of soil and water track, but students from other degree programmes are welcome too. So far 11 students have registered for the course. Registration is open until 1 February through