Being a sparring partner and a mirror: a year of coaching and group intervision
Myra Arends and Marion Boers have now been teaching coaches at the Faculty of Humanities for a year. Time to look back ...
What do you as educational coaches do at our faculty?
Myra: 'We bring starting lecturers together. That is the core of what we do. Usually we work with lecturers who are at the start of their career or at the start of working here at Leiden University. Some of them already have teaching experience, but want to be familiarized with how the educational culture at our faculty.'
Marion: 'We bring lecturers together by organizing group intervision meetings, were peer reviewing and peer consultation takes place. These meetings have enormous added value, because you bring people from different backgrounds, disciplines and institutes together. They don't run into each other very quickly at the workplace, but the different perspectives turned out to be productive in the conversations we had.'
'In addition to group intervision, we also supervise processes for the University Teaching Qualitfication (BKO). We do this, for example, by attending lectures. But that is not the most important: the real yield is in the debriefing. Then we talk about how the teachers’ experiences, and we discuss the observation and maybe some improvement tips. We also offer guidance in composing the BKO portfolio. The portfolio is quite extensive. We have noticed that BKO candidates are reluctant to get started with it. The BKO standards are - rightly - set high.'
Myra: 'BKO candidates feel supported if we review their portfolio and give examples of what can be included. Afterwards, they can submit their portfolio to the BKO committee with more confidence.'
Could you give some examples of the issues that are being discussed during coaching and intervision?
Marion: 'Many teachers encounter similar situations. For example, students who come to lectures unprepared; How do you deal with that? How do I ensure that students actively participate? But also: how do you treat controversial topics during lectures in such a way that they are discussed in a good and respectful way, while social safety is guaranteed for everyone. And how do you ensure that in large groups of students everyone gets enough attention?'
'The nice thing is that everyone brings something to the peer group, which often leads to surprising new insights and concrete tips. Because the peer groups consist of lecturers with different backgrounds, who provide education at different study programs, there is also a lot of variation in the themes that are discussed.'
Myra: 'We notice that lecturers put a lot of energy and time into education. That is why it is sometimes necessary to discuss how teachers can realistically organize their time. The time spent preparing for a lecture must be in balance with the time required for other matters.'
Would experienced lecturers also benefit from your offer?
Certainly, if they enjoy exchanging ideas with someone else about how they do things. Teaching is a lonely affair. Of course everybody performs as well as possible, but a peer can help you reflect on things you don’t see or on things you take for granted. In a way, we help you look in the mirror. Last year, also experienced lecturers contacted us. The question they had was: 'I want to add new learning activities to my courses, can you take a look?'. If you have been lecturing for a long time, sometimes a routine emerges, and you get a bit stuck. Reflecting on it is easier with somebody else; a peer. The tone of our coaching conversations is light, we really see ourselves as sparring partners.'
Marion: 'In some programs it is normal for lecturers to review each other’s courses , but in many places this is not yet the case. And sometimes it is also nice to meet somebody who is not a direct colleague or manager, but a neutral party. Teaching coaches are neutral, they only come into the picture at the request of the teacher'
'The nice thing is that we learn a lot ourselves as well. We meet so many different teachers and get acquainted with other courses and disciplines. That is very interesting. We encounter different didactic approaches which have been developed within certain disciplines. I think there is a lot to be gained by "looking over the fence", as we say in Dutch.'
Online coaching and group intervision: is that possible?
Myra: 'Coaching and intervision will continue as usual, but online. Lecturers who need coaching can contact us directly. We will make appointments via MS Teams. Intervision groups will also continue online from the end of August. There is already some experience with this, and it appears to work well. The aim is to work with a permanent peer group. It is therefore nice if you can attend multiple sessions, but a single session is also possible. Of course we hope that after the first semester we can also organize meetings on campus.'
The intervision meetings are scheduled at:
• Intervision group 1 on Tuesday 25 August, Tuesday 29 September, Tuesday 17 November from 3.30 pm - 5.30 pm
• Intervision group 2 on Thursday, August 27, Thursday, October 1, Thursday, November 19 from 3.30 - 5.30 pm.
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