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David Ehrhardt awarded Comenius Teaching Fellow

Assistant professor at LUC The Hague, Dr. David Ehrhardt has recently been awarded a Comenius Teaching Fellowship. Winning the Fellowship means that he has been awarded a bursary of fifty thousand euro in order to implement and develop an educational project within LUC.

After submitting the preapplication in the fall, Ehrhardt received positive advice that he had been selected to advance to the next round. Following this, he submitted a final application in January which was then evaluated by a committee comprised of both experts and students with a positive result.

An Eclectic Toolbox of Skills

The project that won David the fellowship centers around the question: how can we help student learn transferable skills more effectively? It aims to implement a ‘skills journal’, which students use to reflect more systematically on their skills learning process. The project is currently being piloted in David’s course ‘Development Project Management’, which he teaches with Dr. Caroline Archambault. After the pilot is completed, he aims to redesign both the journal and the methods of supervision before rolling out the project in the next academic year.

Africanist

David completed his bachelors at UCU and following this he pursued both a MPhil and DPhil in Development Studies at Oxford. His research focus has largely been on governance and conflict in Nigeria. "I’m a real Africanist; my main research project at the moment focuses on the role of traditional chiefs in conflict resolution in Nigeria. But I’ve always loved teaching and have recently, together with LUC colleagues, started also researching and writing about education, including on the internationalization of education and skills learning."

3 Questions to David Ehrhardt

What is the project that you will implement and how does it fit within the programme at LUC?

"This project introduces a skills journal to help LUC students learn transferable skills more effectively. It starts from this idea: think of how professional sports people or musicians improve their performance. They analyze their strengths and weaknesses in detail (with feedback from a coach or teacher), set clear goals, practice to achieve these goals, and evaluate their performance with feedback, which they then use to set new goals and practice some more. This cycle of goal setting – practice – feedback – evaluation – goal setting is crucial to learning any skill. It is called ‘deliberate practice’.

Students in university practice skills a lot, in writing essays, doing presentations, and all kinds of other assignments. But very often they only practice, without setting clear goals and using feedback very deliberately to evaluate their performance and adjust their goals. So they don’t get into the cycle of deliberate practice, and so they don’t learn as much as they could from the practicing. The skills journal is a simple (ideally handwritten) journal that students will use for each of their assignments in LUC courses, to keep track of their learning goals, feedback, and self-reflection and, in this way, use assignments to practice skills more deliberately."

What kind of participation is required from staff and/or students?

"Students who participate in this project will have to use the journal, which may sound like a lot of work, but it actually isn’t – and I think very quickly it will save students time, help them plan, and even get better grades. And of course learn more! Staff members can help by referring to the journal in their classes (for example by asking students what their learning goals are for an assignment, or for the class as a whole) and by giving targeted and constructive feedback to students."

How will the project benefit Leiden University College?

"Students will have better transferable skills when they leave LUC. But perhaps more importantly, they will also be better at learning new skills, and they will be able to systematically reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses. All of this is hugely beneficial for their future careers. I also hope that the journal will help students to be more conscious of their learning process, and of what they want to achieve at LUC. This will not only help them learn more, but also help us as teachers to provide them with the teaching that they need and want."

Collaboration

David expects that the project will improve learning for students and hopes that students will get into the habit of journaling. He notes that journaling has a multitude of benefits for both personal development and mental health, and in light of COVID-19 this has never been more important.

Upon completion of the project David is committed to disseminating the methods of the skills journals and his evaluation of the project in order for its benefit to extend to other universities and beyond the students of LUC.

Among those who played a crucial role in the development of David’s idea was Dr. Caroline Archambault and Dr. David Zetland of LUC The Hague, several of Ehrhardt’s students and Tanja de Bie from the Leiden Center for Innovation. Given the enthusiasm for the project, David is looking forward to the engagement of more academic staff in the implementation of the journal in the future. If the magnitude of the bursary awarded the project is any indication the impact has the potential to have on students, the upcoming academic year looks incredibly fruitful.

The projects for the Comenius Teaching Fellowship must fall under one of four categories: Inclusive Education, Building/personal development, Connection with society, or and open theme that covers the value of knowledge. David’s project falls under the theme of Bildung/personal development.

Article written by Jayne Fitzgerald.

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