Pathways for concepts, skills, integration, reflection and study career

Short Description & Objective

This project focusses on integrating student activating teaching formats in the first year courses and implement – stepwise - the five learning pathways listed below. Especially the skills, integral and reflective pathways receive special attention in the innovation plans and also aim at activating students:

  1. The conceptual pathway focuses on understanding, applying, and critically reflecting on how concepts are defined and operationalised, and how they shape theories and theoretical approaches derived from them, in the different stages from problem finding and analysis to design engineering, implementation, and evaluation. In this education modification round, this will be part and parcel of the general updating of courses. What we will explicitly add in this respect is more attention to Dutch land and water management issues and climate adaptation issues in the Netherlands (see below).
  2. The skills pathway deals with the various skills that form part and parcel of the programme. It focuses on generic academic skills needed to carry out research and design projects (methodology, writing, presentation, visualization, argumentation, ICT-skills, teamwork etc.) to more specific skills such as management and entrepreneurial skills. In this innovation round we want to start by strengthening the intercultural cooperation skills, the meeting/group work skills and the writing skills. Foremost in year one with a long term eye on the two following bachelor years.
  3. The integral pathway focuses on the creation of designs and engineering of land and water management interventions (socio-technical-spatial); it is where all the other pathways come together, especially the conceptual and skills pathways. The learning curve in this pathway moves from theory to practice, from field to campus, from understanding to creation, from imitation to mastery, and from awareness to the internalisation of the personal value system where attitude is concerned. Core in the innovation round is the strengthening of this pathway in the WRM 1XXX06, CPT 11806, CPT 1XXX3 and the SLM 10806 courses.
  4. The reflective pathway enables students to continuously improve their professional attitude and performance. This pathway is especially relevant in the practical field- and case work in the bachelor design 1 and 2 courses (SLM 10806 and WRM 21312) and during the students’ international internship and thesis fieldwork.
  5. The study career development pathway evolves around shaping and giving meaning to the students’ own study planning, their choice for minor and specialisation, their choice for thesis and graduation projects, and finally in the professional profiling of their choice, where they focus on their career preparation and development. This gets attention in the WRM 1XXX3 orientation course (applying for a job, how to use the free choice space in the programme (minor), applying for an internship placement and so on. Most activities are currently organised outside the curriculum. In due course we plan to adopt the BSc self-assessment module in year 3 of the bachelor.
  • Putting a practice oriented land and water management fieldwork case central in the first and last course of bachelor year 1, will stimulate students in acquiring and applying (conceptual, theoretical) knowledge.
  • By linking the various courses according to the various pathways and making this explicit to students, we aim to show the coherence of the programme to students and in the same time make the students more responsible for their own learning by introducing more and clear assignments and shifting time input of staff from instruction (lecturing will be replaced by knowledge clips and reading) to providing feedback on students’ work. Introducing peer-review and feedback and offering Q&A sessions, where generic feedback can be offered to large groups of students will partly also accommodate growing student numbers. Nonetheless, regular moments of individual feedback remain crucial in the learning of students and need therefore carefully planned.
  • Group work - not for the sake of timesaving - but well organised and its objectives and assignments explicitly explained to the students, with a proper balance in individual and group assessment can accommodate growing student numbers too. In a programme that has management in its title, group work is an important learning outcome but it has to be made much more explicit to students and learned as a competence in itself and not as teaching format alone.
  • Internationalisation.

Strong Points

For 2017 – 2018 and beyond

  • A set of handouts and knowledge clips for bachelor writing skills and group work/meeting skills
    • In the two starter courses in period 1, year 1, a start is made with skills in the field of writing and group work.
  •  Writing skills (this can be a structure for clips and handouts):
    • Objectives and target audience of texts – preparation
    • Different written products (poster, academic report writing, essay, proposal, terms of reference, letters)
    • Structuring your texts and argumentation
    • Attractive writing and visualisation
    • Referencing, plagiarism, information literacy
  • Group work and team building skills:
    • Chairing, minute taking, basic meeting skills
    • Decision making, types of meetings and objectives
    • Communication, feedback and levels in communication
    • Intercultural cooperation, dealing with diversity
    • Team roles and styles and inter-disciplinarity

We propose a series of hand-outs and knowledge clips that can be used in other courses throughout the bachelor (also for other programmes) as source of instruction or reference.  

There is ample information available for making hand-outs, only selection and editing is required. The production of the knowledge clips needs most work. We propose to include existing clips and materials as much as possible (eg the knowledge clips on information literacy from the library).

Energy and time can thus shift from instruction (original lecturing) to student centred activities receiving individual feedback from staff or during Q&A sessions.

YEI 1XXX3 Introduction environmental sciences (September – October 2017)

The first case study remains the same in this new format of YEI 1XXX3, where groups of 6 students (group-work and intercultural cooperation skills) work on a specific case and produce a scientific paper and poster (writing skills). These groups will have the same composition in the next course WRM 1XXX6 (for reasons of continuity and group formation).

WRM 1XXX6 (enlarged) Orientation on Land and Water Management (September – October 2017)

The selection and development of a land and water management field case/ location in the Netherlands that will serve as fieldwork location in the period 6 course SLM 10806 will serve here as a representative illustration of the study programme and domain. Students will visit the case and make interviews/observations and develop an initial case description, stakeholder- and problem analysis in groups. They do this largely based on their secondary school knowledge. This same location will be revisited in period 6 in the Design ILW 1 course SLM 10806 for actual fieldwork and revisit their findings of period 1 and reflect on their own learning progress in year 1.

For the writing skills part students need to write a job application letter (to become acquainted with the jobs and the domain of international land and water management and also write a letter acquiring for an internship placement (which they will need in year three of the bachelor). These are at the same time also student activating assignments.

CPT 11806 Technology, Development and Natural Resources. (March – April 2018) This course that will have a new coordinating team from 2017 onwards will be re-designed but still focus on the various uses of technology for managing natural resources land and water and the different theoretical views on this. With clear assignments students play and apply these views on practical cases, again practicing skills such as roleplaying, writing a mind-map and an essay on one of the topics of the course.

The writing skills and group work skills part of this course can make use of the knowledge clips that will be developed for this purpose. Here the writing skills can deal with new kinds of written texts (essay, synthesis, argumentation) and also the group work skills can focus on new topics such as communication skills and providing feedback.

SLM 10806 Design in Land and Water Management 1 ( May – June 2018) This course will be completely renewed and transformed content-wise. Originally a land management and a separate water management part were offered to students. We propose now to integrate these two parts of the course offered by WRM and SLM chairgroups and look for a new fieldwork location in the Netherlands where contemporary land and water management issues are at play. Eg in the east of the Netherlands near the German border, where intensive livestock production leads to soil and water quality issues. Also salt water intrusion is an issue here and transboundary issues with Germany too.

We will make use of the network of the Kennisloket. We are in contact already with Linda van Os and Ilse Markensteijn for suitable cases and problem owners. The preparation will largely focus on making the contacts and arrangements, talking to stakeholders and preparing the fieldwork locations where students can carry out soil and water quality and quantity measurements, make transect walks and carry out observations and interviews. Students will work in groups and produce a report from problem analysis and stakeholder analysis up to a proposal for a design or intervention to cope and deal with the land and water management issues at play.

The writing skills and group work skills part of this course can again make use of the knowledge clips that will be developed for this purpose. With group work skills we move to a more advanced level beyond chairing and minute taking to different ways of taking decisions (voting, consensus, expert) and levels in conversations (content, procedure, interaction, emotion) and to content versus character roles in team work (eg Leary’s Rose). The writing skills can move to new topics such as what is a Terms of Reference, writing a plan and a design, compiling a budget and so on.

2018 – 2019 and beyond

This period we will continue the development of the skills (the rest of the 12 sets of skills that should be generic in all WU bachelors) and integral and reflective pathways into year 2 and 3 of the bachelor.

The WRM 21312 Design in Land and Water Management 2 (end of year 2) and the thesis/internship combination (year 3) are essential elements in achieving these as well as the final learning outcomes of the bachelor BIL. We will also further fine tune and develop the conceptual and career development pathways into year 2 and 3. 

In that respect we are happy to support the proposal to transform the course YRM-21306 Research methodology for human environment interactions into an online version. This course is offered to BIL students in period 6 of year 2, a moment where some of the students have not yet made up their plans for internship and thesis topics or location. The online version will come in very handy the moment that these students have developed these ideas concretely and need to revisit and redesign the conceptual and technical design of their research project.

Together with the study association Nitocra - we are organising internship lectures during lunch, as extra-curricular activity (extremely well attended by 1st and 2nd year students). There are ideas to make it a more integral part of the curriculum and expand it to accommodate the career development pathway. Students in Nitocra expressed their interest in skills workshops (networking, pitching, debating) that do not ‘fit’ in the curriculum and lectures by master students and alumni. MSc colloquia, thesis and internship fairs, all can be planned in a more structured way and be matched with specific assignments.

This extra effort to create a cohort and community is important too when facing increased student numbers. 

RECOMMENDATIONS

For more information or recommendations, please contact erik.heijmans@wur.nl.

PRODUCTS

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