Student - May 17, 2016

‘University education could be better but numbers of substandard teachers should be taken with a pinch of salt’

Rob Ramaker

One third of the teachers at universities provide substandard education, the NOS headlined this morning. A conclusion to take with a pinch of salt, the person responsible of the Wageningen University thinks.

Photo: Guy Ackermans

The report [pdf] – which interviewed fourteen Teachers of the Year – was published by the research company Goudsteen & Company. The NOS and the Algemeen Dagblad payed attention to it today. Remarkably it is not about new research; the report was published last July and was offered to several media.

Emiel van Puffelen, department head at Corporate Education, Research & Innovation sees a different image of Wageningen University. Many motivated teachers who in their evaluations, National Student Surveys and Keuzegids are, on average, highly appreciated. Nationally the image is less favorable; but this research is too limited to use numbers. ‘Of course it is nice to ask Teachers of the Year for their opinion’, says Van Puffelen, ‘but it is a really small sample, and not from the average teacher.’ He advices to take these figures with a pinch of salt.

Of course it is nice to ask Teachers of the Year for their opinion, but it is a really small sample
Emiel van Puffelen department head at Corporate Education, Research & Innovation

In the report Goudsteen finds that the culture at universities would tolerate bad education. Research would be much more important. Some of the researchers would not be motivated to provide proper education because of this. Furthermore, many willing teachers would not receive enough support to give it their best. Also some universities would be too easy with giving a Basic Teaching Qualification (BKO).

Despite the small sample size Van Puffelen does recognize a few issues. ‘There are indeed more incentives for research than education. In the Keuzegids you also see a lot of scores just below 6 or above 7. Wageningen shows that this can be improved’. Also not each university has the same standards for awarding a BKO. In the past they were sometimes given too easily. However, universities do consider a clear lower limit. Van Puffelen however does not expect that all programs will ever become the same. ‘It is actually already really special that we succeeded in setting up such a programme together.’

In Wageningen, where a teacher in theory spends about 220 hours in three years on their BKO, almost half of the teachers has a BKO.