The challenges facing university teaching
The programme concentrates on the introductory phase of study courses in which the foundations are laid for a successful graduation. Bielefeld University is applying this programme in response to the following challenges:
- It is particularly those students who have already taken longer than the standard period of study who report having had orientation problems at the beginning of their studies and were not given enough information on the relevance of the content of their courses.
- There are increasing signs that students have problems with their basic competencies in mathematics or writing. These already make things difficult for them right at the start of an academic study course.
- Up to now, there is no systematic, target-group-specific qualification for teachers at universities in Germany.
By specifically further developing counselling, supervision, and teaching, more students should be enabled to start studying the subjects that match their needs and goals. We have developed measures for this in six different fields that aim to establish sustainably effective concepts and structures to promote better study conditions and high-quality teaching:
- Writing competencies: Right from the start, practicing how to write well in teaching courses should help students to acquire in-depth knowledge within their specific subjects and learn how to engage in academic work.
- Mathematical competencies: Project members within the faculties help to build up the students' mathematical competencies with preparatory courses, courses during the semester, and introductory seminars. They are supported by coordinators of the sub-project who are based at the Institute for Didactics of Mathematics (IDM).
- Counselling and orientation: Academic counsellors within the faculties allow us to provide an extended counselling service for first-year students. In their subject areas, these counsellors are committed to providing professional, low-threshold counselling. Both students and prospective students should have the best possible preconditions for planning their studies well and making good decisions.
- Peer Learning: The programme provides specific opportunities for learning and working together. Training courses for tutors, a cooperative learning centre [Mitlernzentrale], and the skript.um student writing counselling are just a few examples of the ways in which we promote and support cooperative forms of learning.
- Study success monitoring: A new database for student and examination data enables specific analyses of qualitative and quantitative information. These deliver insights into which places confront students with hindrances and what are the reasons for this.
- Professionalization of university teaching: Improved procedures for introducing personnel with teaching duties to the art of teaching combined with an extension of courses to improve teaching qualifications should strengthen the potential professionalization of teachers and establish a culture of reflection on teaching and teaching quality at the university.
All measures are interlinked and designed not just to overcome short-term problems but to establish the basis for sustained further advances in teaching within the faculties. Without question, this is the more difficult path to pursue, but it is certainly also the one that will lead to the long-term establishment of outstanding study conditions at Bielefeld University.