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Interview with Merlijn van Hulst: ‘I want to close the gap between educational vision and educational practice’

Merlijn van Hulst, Associate Professor at Tilburg Law School, is keenly interested in the developments within education at Tilburg University following the Tilburg Educational Profile and educational innovation. He has read the essay ‘Exploring an Educational Vision for Tilburg University’ by Alkeline van Lenning and Herman de Regt with interest and enthusiasm and ‘feels the need to close the gap between vision and educational practice.

‘Teachers  will be crucial in practically applying the fundamentals of the educational vision, as elaborated in the Tilburg Educational Profile, in our education. But how do you do that? It is not entirely clear to teachers how you can increasingly professionalize and improve. For the research that we do, a much clearer roadmap has been designed, for instance, by increasingly publishing in more renowned journals. As to education, we have the University Teaching Qualification, that brings teachers to a certain competence level, but it is much less clear how this competency development program is structured.

‘Being a teacher myself, I decided last year to critically analyse my own classes. I looked at the things I had changed in my teaching material and why. In doing so, I realized that, over the years, I had developed and improved a great deal, but that I had also got stuck in a rut in certain areas, such as the activation of students in lectures. I have now introduced moments of interaction and small assignments in my lectures, among other things. To my mind, this reflection on my teaching and the improvements which I have introduced as a result have led to better education.’

‘Sometimes a lecture goes differently from what I had planned. I do not succeed in getting the in-depth stuff across when students do not turn up, to not prepare for lectures, or adopt a passive attitude. I am critical about this but I do not want to condemn this behavior too strongly either. I do remember my own student days. Students today are under a lot more pressure. They have less time. However, if we are able to introduce elements from the Educational Profile – for instance, smaller scale, mentoring, character development, self-reflection –, that will stimulate students to successfully complete their studies and it can help them to assemble the best skills set for their future careers.’

‘My guess is that a lot of teachers struggle at times, just like me, to lift their teaching to a higher level. Many of us love to teach, and many of us want to become excellent teachers. The challenge to spend time working on this could be more explicitly encouraged and teachers themselves should also feel this challenge. Subsequently, tools should be available to achieve better education. I think it would be a good idea for students and teachers to discuss this with each other. How can you make progress in your professional development as a teacher? What do you need in the process? What role can you as a student adopt to contribute to education as a whole and its improvement in particular? In what way can teachers and students apply the educational vision in practice? If we share our experiences, if we exchange information on what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how things can be done differently, then education as a whole will benefit.’

Do you want to react?

Send an e-mail to Merlijn van Hulst.