Swedish approach creates more time for lecturers

Those things that a lecturer teaches routinely for years tend to be the most boring and add nothing to the students' learning process, say Kristina Edström and Jacob Kuttenkeuler of KTH in Stockholm. This inspired them to conceive of a new way of working, one that saves time and actually increases the interaction with students. On Wednesday they talked about their approach at the TU/e Innovation Day.

Edström is herself a lecturer and is working towards her PhD. What do lecturers find most difficult, she asked the more than 60-strong audience. Adding something new or giving up something old? Everyone had to admit that the latter almost never happens. It is easier to add things and is readily done. But doing so eats increasingly into the lecturer's valuable time.

One thing that lecturers should learn to stop doing right away is giving extensive feedback on their students' essays and reports, explained Edström. “This is really time-consuming for you as a lecturer, and the student usually does little or nothing with the input.” The two Swedish scientists place the responsibility for this feedback with the students themselves. “Have them assess each other's reports. That way they learn another skill and realize that any topic can be viewed in many different ways.”

Professor Jacob Kuttenkeuler now swears by the oral examination method. “The student gets seven minutes and a whiteboard to give a presentation on the taught material. After those seven minutes I have a pretty good idea of the student's knowledge and I start asking supplementary questions. In all, this takes me about 25 minutes. And I keep the assessment simple.”

The audience was also offered a great tip for preventing so-called free-riders in work groups. “Don't designate someone in advance to give the group's presentation," says Edström. “Decide that at the last moment by drawing straws. This means every member of the group has to be prepared to speak and no one can hide anymore.”

Share this article