"We must also teach students how to do something" (2024)

Jorg Huijding is co-responsible for the introduction of the ‘pedagogical practicum’ as director of the undergraduate Pedagogical Sciences programme. During the first year of the programme, students work in groups on real-life issues from practice. This practicum is a great example of how Community Engaged Learning (CEL) can be part of a programme's regular curriculum.

"Already six years ago, we decided to renew the Bachelor of Pedagogical Sciences. One of the reasons was that students felt too little connected to the work field. Whereas, as scientific practitioners, they should be able to translate scientific knowledge into practice. That is why we introduced the pedagogical practicum, in which students work in groups on an issue posed by a partner from practice. They are supported in this by a year supervisor from the university."

Embedding in the curriculum

"CEL education consists of a number of phases embedded in the blocks in the first year. In the first phase, students engage in problem exploration where they are introduced to system thinking. The second phase consists of an individual writing assignment where students look for influencing factors based on literature research. Which buttons can an organization push to achieve a problem solution? Afterwards, the group collectively works on an advisory report to present to the partner in the fourth block."

Dry run

"When we started the pedagogical practicum, we first went for a ‘dry run’ using a fictitious problem brought in by the year supervisors. Only one group started working with an external partner as a pilot. I can really recommend this method to colleagues who are considering working with multiple partners in their teaching. After all, with this preparation you will be well prepared when working with issues from different partners. We now collaborate annually with around ten organisations including the Royal Auris Group, the Child Protection Council and Handje Helpen."

What I hear back from students is that they find it instructive to approach a question from different perspectives.

Added value

"A good example is Handje Helpen, an organisation that matches people who need help with the right volunteer. I think it is very useful for our students to be introduced to these types of informal care during their studies. In many cases, they will later end up in organisations where they have to focus immediately on solving problems. While it is also very useful to stand next to a client for once, as is the case with Handje Helpen. And what was an important eye-opener for ourselves: we should not only teach students that they have to cooperate and reflect, but also how to do so. There is also added value for teachers because they work together with the practice partner to formulate a relevant question for the students. This sometimes requires some rethinking, especially if the question is outside their own direct expertise. Finally, the partner organisation gains interesting ideas thanks to the project, also gains access to relevant literature and thus sees what science has to offer."

Smart collaboration

"To make Community Engaged Learning interesting for an external organisation, it is important that the project does not cost them too much time and money. Within the pedagogical practicum, for example, there are only three contact moments between the students and the partner. I do notice that students experience this as little. That is why we are working on a pilot in which our students work together with students from the HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht. Because the latter group is doing an internship with an external partner for a longer period of time, they can help ourstudents connect with practice. Conversely, our students can support the students of the HU in literature research. A real win-win situation!"

Getting started with Community Engaged Learning yourself?

  • Do you want to make Community Engaged Learning part of your teaching too? Check out theCEL intranet pagefor support options.Including a grant or didactic support from Educational Development & Training.
  • Do you have ideas how CEL can become a permanent part of the curriculum in your faculty or college? Contact theCEL ambassadorof your faculty or college.UU's ambition is to give CEL a permanent place in the curriculum (Strategic Plan 2025). Each faculty has a CEL ambassador whodraws up a plan on how CEL education will be embedded in their faculty.
  • Are you curious about how students and scientists can contribute to social issues in Utrecht? Or do you already have ideas for collaboration and are looking for tools to get started? Come to the CEL event on 14 November.Register now for the event.
"We must also teach students how to do something" (2024)
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