16 April 2019

Six Comenius grants awarded to educational innovations at UU


Each year, the Netherlands Initiative for Education Research (NRO) – on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science – awards grants aimed at helping lecturers translate their vision for teaching into real-world practice. These grants for educational innovation are inspired by the well-known Veni, Vidi, Vici grants for research. Six proposals from UU teachers are being honoured with grants this year: three Teaching Fellow grants and three Senior Fellow grants. This is an amazing achievement and will provide a vital impetus to the further development of our academic teaching.

Teaching Fellow grant

This category is for proposals for a term of one year, aimed at innovation within a specific course or unit of study. Teaching Fellows receive €50,000 each for their project. Grants have been awarded to the following three proposals submitted by lecturers at our university:

1. Developing an interdisciplinary biomedical Bachelor's laboratory course in synergy with the healthcare sector. Teaching Fellow: Niels Bovenschen

Students learn more effectively when they are able to apply their knowledge directly in a social or scientific context. Translational Medicine is the branch of (bio)medical science which focuses on translating scientific research to the patient and vice versa. This necessitates mutual cooperation between biomedical researchers, physicians, clinician-scientists and patients. In order to realise this cooperation, the Faculty of Medicine is developing an interdisciplinary biomedical lab elective as part of its Bachelor's curriculum, to be offered within a didactical framework of research-based learning.

2. Synchrony: An embodied approach to developing intercultural competence. Teaching Fellow: Tom Frijns

In lieu of traditional cognitive approaches, UU is developing a training module based on a strategy that helps enhance students’ intercultural competences, thereby creating an inclusive and cooperative climate in the classroom. The module promotes 21st-century skills such as intercultural communication and collaboration, as well as the overall academic achievement of Master's students in the international Social, Health & Organisational Psychology programme.

3. The Da Vinci Project: Towards an active learning-by-doing approach to train a new generation of true connectors in the field of sustainability. Teaching Fellow: Bert Weckhuysen

Sustainable development and the goal of a circular economy require a joint effort from society, science and technology. The task of academic education is to train a new generation of transdisciplinary professionals who are capable of working together with stakeholders to achieve innovative solutions. The Da Vinci project challenges third-year Bachelor's students to transcend the boundaries dividing academic disciplines via ‘learning by doing’.

Senior Fellow grant

This category is for proposals for a term of two years, aimed at innovation within a faculty, large degree programme or substantial portion of the institution. Senior Fellows receive €100,000 each for their project. Grants have been awarded to the following three project proposals submitted by lecturers at our university:

1. Encounters in the Field: A playful approach to the development of intercultural competences. Senior Fellow: Gery Nijenhuis

The purpose of this project is to improve the intercultural competences of students. Among the tools being deployed to this end is an interactive app that offers case studies representing fieldwork situations, along with the development of corresponding assignments. Lecturers are able to supervise students during discussion and reflection in the international classes – before, during and after the fieldwork. The content of the app is based on real-life cases from students who conducted fieldwork in previous years.

2.   Interprofessional Feedback in Health Professions Education. Senior Fellow: Tineke Westerveld

The implementation of interprofessional education, in which ‘students from two or more different professions learn from, with and about one another in order to improve the cooperation and quality of health care’, as yet leaves much to be desired. The development of a training course on interprofessional feedback for medical and nursing students is intended to provide a solution. This feedback training will help students establish an individual interprofessional learning objective for themselves, which they can then work to achieve during their clinical work placements. This ultimately promotes cooperation between (future) healthcare professionals down the road.

3. Developing and implementing an Interdisciplinarity learning track in Bachelor's and Master's programmes: A course on learning to think and work in interdisciplinary fashion for biologists. Senior Fellow: Fred Wiegant

Utrecht University is developing a learning track on learning to think and work in interdisciplinary fashion, consisting of assignments, teaching methods and focused reflection exercises. This innovative learning track is based on good practices, the experiences of researchers in interdisciplinary collaborative partnerships and the experiences of Master's students in interdisciplinary professional practice. Its objective is to ensure students are well-prepared for the dynamic multi and interdisciplinary working environment of the future.

Comenius network

The Fellows also become members of the Comenius network of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). This national network consists of all lecturers who have received a grant from the Comenius programme, as well as the nominees for the ISO Teachers' Award. The network is a meeting place where educational innovators exchange experiences and ideas. The Utrecht members can be found here.

In the coming years, the Comenius programme will grow into a programme that makes a wide range of educational innovations possible every year. By visibly appreciating excellent and passionate teaching, the government explicitly wants to contribute to more varied careers of lecturers and researchers at universities of applied sciences and universities.

More applications

All told, the NRO awarded 38 Teaching Fellow grants and 23 Senior Fellow grants. The NRO also offers grants for Leadership Fellows, each with a value of € 250,000. This year these scholarships went to the universities of Leiden, Maastricht and Twente. Interested in submitting a proposal of your own? Please contact our Centre for Academic Teaching. We will hold an informational lunch meeting on Tuesday 18 June. Initial letters of intent for the 2020 grants will need to be submitted after the summer. The Centre has access to an extensive network of experts and would be happy to offer you assistance in optimising your research proposal.