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Executive Board column: how can we help our lecturers develop their talents?

Good lecturers are extremely important to our university. I therefore think it is crucial that we provide them with enough professional development opportunities. The Lecturer Development Taskforce has issued concrete recommendations on how to improve this. As the Board we welcome this advice.

In this column Annetje Ottow, Hester Bijl and Martijn Ridderbos give a peek behind the scenes at the Executive Board of Leiden University. What does their work involve? What makes them enthusiastic? What challenges do they face? Building a healthy, engaged and learning community begins with sharing what you are up to. This time it is Hester Bijl’s turn.

As a university lecturer you are sometimes thrown in at the deep end. My first lecture was in a hall packed with 300 aerospace students from Delft. As long as they listen, I thought. The students must have sensed this uncertainty because I barely managed to keep their attention. They were talking and even whistling. Luckily things improved week by week as I gained more experience and learnt to relax. Once I even got a round of applause at the end of a lecture series: that was wonderful because you feel people’s appreciation straight away. I benefitted a lot at the time from the feedback of a group of colleagues. We attended each other’s lectures and discussed what we thought afterwards: what had gone well and what we thought could be improved. I also enjoyed taking extra modules on teaching and – as soon as that was possible – assembling my University Teaching Qualification (BKO) portfolio.

Fill in the gaps

Providing a wide variety of appropriate development opportunities is one of the six proposals from the Lecturer Development Taskforce report. This team of lecturers, educationalists and HRM experts was asked by the Executive Board to investigate how we can further support our lecturers in their professional development.

Many great ways to support our lecturers have already been devised and realised in recent years, from courses and training programmes to a mini BKO for PhD candidates. We have teaching days, lecturer lunches, teacher support desks at many faculties and a very active Leiden Teachers’ Academy. You name it and there will be at least one place at the University where it is already being done. We have a fantastic BKO and alongside that a Senior Teaching Qualification (SKO), but at the moment there is not much in between.

The challenge now is to bring everything together and ensure people can find it, and to fill in the gaps in the offerings for more experienced lecturers, for example. Take our skills and blended learning offerings, which tie in with our Vision on Teaching and Learning and our Blended University Vision. Or our offering to prepare lecturers for their SKO, which focuses on articulating your personal vision of teaching.

We also want to encourage community development and focus (even more) on educational innovation projects. Our new Leiden Learning and Innovation Centre (LLInC) can play an important role in this, together with the faculties and existing initiatives and platforms.

Passionate lecturers

In its advice, the taskforce also calls for more recognition and rewards for excellence in teaching. We are going to work on this with the new Academia in Motion steering group. Various pilots are already running at the faculties. We are looking, for example, at whether it is possible to give lecturers more time for their professional development. In addition, steps have been taken to give more lecturers a permanent contract. If you don’t have job security, you won’t have as much energy to think about your development.

We have many passionate lecturers at our university, each inspiring in their own way. Let’s continue to discuss and share our ideas about lecturer development – also by making sure excellence in teaching is included in annual appraisals. During one of my first performance reviews as a PhD candidate, my professor mentioned in passing: ‘Teaching going well, isn’t it?’ Try bringing up your development needs then... I’m pleased that nowadays more attention is paid to the importance of good teaching.

Share your thoughts or experiences by sending an email to nieuws@leidenuniv.nl.

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