A call with: Jan Jansen from the board of examiners
A knowledge-sharing session was held on Thursday 25 March for members of boards of examiners. Good reason to give one of them a call. We spoke to Jan Jansen, Chair of the Board of Examiners for Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology (Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences) and an external member of the Board of Examiners for the two-year Master’s in Governance of Sustainability (Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs).
Hello Jan, perhaps you could begin by telling us a bit about your history as a member of a board of examiners
‘Early in my career, I hoped I’d become chair of a board of examiners one day. As a study adviser, but in other roles too, I have seen the importance of boards of examiners and how you have to convince chairs that students are entitled to an exemption, for example. I finally became chair of our board of examiners in 2011. Then I became programme director, but since last year I’ve been back as Chair of the Board of Examiners for Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology (Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences) and since autumn 2021 as an external member of the Board of Examiners for the two-year Master’s in Governance of Sustainability (Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs) too.’
What do you like about the role?
‘I find it interesting that you can go about it in different ways. To ensure quality, good communication among us is incredibly important. It’s not just about rules and procedures.’
And you’ve just attended the session for boards of examiners. Was it interesting?
‘I’m always curious about what is new and what’s going to change. The main thing is not to think you know it all already. These meetings are really helpful. There were several useful presentations, for example with concrete tips on what you definitely mustn’t forget as a board of examiners. But also a list of compliments for the board’s work during an audit. It was inspiring to see that we do some things quite well, but aren’t aware of it.’
Could you give an example?
‘The list of compliments showed that a proactive approach is appreciated. We already do this by trying to anticipate as much as possible what’s going to happen rather than just being reactive in our work. So the meeting makes you more aware of the quality of what you’re already doing. The list of compliments also gives you energy in your role as a member of a board of examiners.’
What else did you take away from the meeting?
‘I feel justified in thinking that you shouldn’t try to improve how things are organised by adding all sorts of procedures. On the contrary, it is important that lecturers talk to one another as much as possible and that the boards of examiners talk to them too. That is crucial, for example, to the harmonious assessment of final papers and the role of the second reader here. Covid and working from home put paid to that water cooler chat. And it’s in informal chats like these that you regularly discuss how you assess students’ work. The session also helps create awareness of your own curriculum within the framework that the board of examiners works at Leiden University. That is important to assure the quality of your teaching.’
A call about
There is a lot going on at Leiden University. The websites are full of news every day. In ‘A quick call about’ we ask one of our staff members to tell us more about a relevant and topical subject at the university. The answers tell us more about the facts, but above all give us the more personal, background information. What was fun or frustrating? What was surprising? What went well and what didn’t? Read all about it in ‘A call about'.