Behind the scenes of the lecture hall
Good education is about more than just good teachers. A whole team works in the background to make sure everything runs smoothly. But what does this Education Support Team do?
High-quality education that continues to improve, that is the goal of Yvonne de Vries. She thinks about every step of education: “It’s not just about how the teachers teach, but also, for example, about how exams can best be organized. In addition, I help our employees to improve themselves. I’ll think about the whole system and help keep it running.”
De Vries is part of the policy and educational development team. Together with the education coordination team, the examination board, and the secretarial department, she forms the Education Support Team (EST) of Tilburg School of Economics and Management (TiSEM)
The team is headed by Patricia Leemans (right). “In many ways I am the connecting factor between TiSEM and the umbrella department of Academic Services,” she explains. “I see it as my task to ensure that the education professionals are able to do their work as well as possible.” “The EST forms a link between the students and the study program,” says Leemans.
“The education coordinators are the face of the program for both the students and the program directors. We give feedback to the directors concerning the things that students are dealing with. Students can contact the Examination Board with requests in the field of, for example, exemption from courses. Complaints from students are also dealt with by the Examination Board. As a support team, we play an important role for students from the moment they come to the information day until the moment of graduation.”
Education on its head
“Program directors organize education, lecturers teach, and students study; we make it all possible,” adds de Vries. The tasks of the EST vary widely: from planning the courses and the curriculum to supervising students. Supervision takes place both in workshops and during office hours, in which students can talk one-on-one with an education coordinator. They help the students on their way or refer them to the right expert.
The magic word is quality, and in particular its improvement.
De Vries (left) is co-responsible for ensuring that this process runs as smoothly as possible. “The magic word is quality, and especially its improvement,” says de Vries. And that quality is tested extensively. “Every five years, we are assessed by Dutch and international bodies,” says de Vries. “They look at whether our education is up to scratch and offer recommendations. We then use those recommendations to make the education that we offer even better.”
In between these assessments, there are plenty of other activities. For example, all the available courses had to be digitized in a short period of time in response to the corona crisis. “That was quite a job,” says de Vries. “It’s more than giving lectures via Zoom. Suddenly, examinations and meetings between students also took place online. In the meantime, of course, the quality must remain high.”
You really need each other. We can’t do without the input of the lecturers and students.
“The whole organization of our teaching activities was on its head,” she continues. “I steer this kind of change in the right direction by providing an overview: What is going on? What is going well and what isn’t? What do we have to change? And who do we have to inform about it? I make sure that all this information is fed back to us so that we can really use it.”
Proud of her team
“We have achieved a great deal with unprecedented speed in these strange times,” says Leemans. “Digital developments were already in their infancy as a form of innovation and a different way of teaching, but this was actually a multi-year plan. And then you suddenly find yourself in this situation... In two months, we’ve achieved so much, I dare say I’m very proud of the whole team.”
“It’s moments like this that you realize how much you need each other,” adds de Vries. “We’re not the only ones who are important in this. We can’t do without the input of the lecturers and the students. We have to do it together: if one of the links breaks, the whole system goes horribly wrong. Of course, I already knew that, but during a crisis like this you realize it even more. We have to keep communicating.”
We have to do it together; if one of the links breaks, the whole system goes horribly wrong.
This article was published in the New Scientist, educational special TiSEM.
Text: Irene Faas | Photographer: Bram Belloni.
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