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Symposium aims to improve education

TU Delft recently hosted a symposium to share research and ideas about improving university teaching and learning. Called Innovation Room, this event was the second of its kind organized by the Centre for Education and Learning, a strategic alliance between Leiden University, Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam (LDE).

This inter-university partnership, which started in 2010, creates a platform for educational innovation that focuses on teaching, research and societal impact.

The symposium’s first presenter was Professor Jeroen van Merriënboer of Maastricht University, who talked about the correlation between instructional design and study success in higher education. He proposed that learning processes should focus on three factors: competence, relatedness and autonomy. Van Merriënboer said students must have a feeling that they are able to handle tasks, so it is important to ensure intrinsic motivation and give adequate guidance while progressively increasing the complexity of learning tasks. He also suggested that students learn better when they feel connected, and said evidence shows higher success rates with small group work and team-based projects. Finally, van Merriënboer said that students should have some control over their own learning program, with supportive information and resources provided by the teachers. “You can’t create curriculum that fits the needs of all students,” he said, “but you can try to improve the chances of success by giving autonomy.”

The second presentation was given by Jonas Forsman, a researcher from Uppsala University in Sweden. His talk presented Complexity Theory as an approach to modeling student retention. Forsman framed student retention as a longitudinal process in a complex system where every variable can influence others. He proposed that researchers can study groups of students at class level, course level, etc. and explored how this approach can help improve a university’s ability to retain its students.

Vice-President for Education and Operations at TU Delft Anka Mulder, who attended the symposium, said, “Every university in the Netherlands is struggling with study success. I think we have a lot to learn from each other and you can be much more efficient if you share your resources.” She went on to say, “Our teachers have done a lot to improve, but we still have a lot to do.”

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