Brainmatters | Growing pains


We have four children, and each one is growing fast. Pants are too short in no time, and jackets fit too snugly before you know it. It always comes as a surprise, but we can’t but accept: I never try to convince them short is the new black, nor do I urge them to wear their jackets on their left arm and right arm alternately. I just buy them new clothes.

TU/e is growing as well: student numbers are ever-increasing, which calls for more staff. And although TU/e has been under construction for a while now, its goal is a more compact campus. Despite all projections, construction plans include hardly any new lecture theaters. Instead, we’re asked to record MOOCs, flip classrooms, and give lectures either during the day or in the evening.

Education is extremely important to me, and I always do my utmost to ensure quality. I plan Play-Doh sessions with my students to have them understand our brain structure. Recently, we played The Werewolves of Miller's Hollow for the purpose of observing behavior. My colleagues, too, are all carefully considering their way of teaching, looking for ways to improve. We are aware of each and every educational innovation, although I’ve noticed that preferably, innovations are about quality improvement primarily.

A university is a home away from home

I understand budgets may be tight (like I said, we have four children) and that efficiency and funds will influence what happens to our facilities in part. But we shouldn’t forget that the costs of these facilities are peanuts compared to what goes into the people who teach and are taught. And it is exactly these buildings that enable high-quality education and good work.

Some colleagues believe in exciting TED Talks and online feedback. I trust that whatever they choose to do fits their teaching methods. Others choose to teach looking their students in the eyes, involving them in discussions, and working together. A university should be a home away from home for everyone, staff or student. It’s a safe haven that harbors dreams, fantasies, inspiration, innovation. Its foundations should be sturdy and it should feel like my favorite jacket, be it in or out of fashion.

Yvonne de Kort is Professor of Environmental Psychology at Human-Technology Interaction

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