Wetenschap - 14 november 2002

Lecture Review: a malicious surprise visit

Lecture Review: a malicious surprise visit

Last week I had the privilege of a surprise visit by a Wb journalist (initials L.M.) in my lecture on Epidemiology. Hidden in the back of the lecture hall between a bunch of giggling uninterested students, she observed my teaching skills. The outcome was a 'review' in the Wb of 7 November, page 4. The colophon tells that L.M. is the editor for teaching and policy. Afterwards I wonder how the author, who lacks knowledge of the subject and is not interested, can seriously consider writing a review.

What is this review about?

Students who can't tell her where they are or why. The soft voiced lecturer (me) whose English is not really bad (what a nice surprise), forgets to switch language for his first two sentences, after having answered some questions of Dutch students. The course book with PowerPoint copies bores her - it was carefully prepared upon request of previous generations of students. Examples are a waste of her time - they are intended to illustrate the rather theoretical concepts. She particularly does not appreciate the few formulas that enable the students to check results by hand. It is all made ridiculous. The author certainly knows how to write: quick and dirty and witty at someone else's expense. In fact this is not a review, but a column of an arrogant, even malicious type.

Nothing positive to tell apparently, about a course at this university that attracts more than 90 students. Nothing about the many interested hard working students who naturally are sitting in the front. Nothing on teachers seriously involved in a course using a variety of training methods, improving every year. The Blackboard site that was made available, the computer assisted exercises that were developed this year. It is only the 'utter boredom' of the giggling girls that impresses the journalist.

Epidemiology, the science of disease occurrence and its causes, is at the basis of health sciences, nowadays important for this university. This challenging research field of health maintenance and disease prevention requires that rather theoretical concepts and fundamentals of research methodology be dealt with. Mastering these is hard, sometimes maybe boring work for students and teacher. It would be a waste, if they were demotivated by giggling girls, but even more if the demotivation were to result from the utterly negative writings of an editor of our own Wageningen UR weekly.

Evert Schouten.