The May edition of the magazine Onderzoek van onderwijs (51(1):22-23) featured a contribution about StudentKwalificatieOnderwijs (StuKO). The article describes a national project where teachers, Teaching and Learning Centre employees and student assistants from nine different universities work together. Together they inventorise what is happening in practice to support student assistants and they conduct a literature study about what is already known on this topic. Based on this they will set up pilots. This is a great initiative, since students are our future teachers. And how wonderful is it to support them with this role at an early stage.
Students who provide education is nothing new of course. Student assistants have been taking care of all kinds of educational activities for years. Supervising work groups, tutoring, developing education and assessments are all things they are involved with. Sometimes student assistants are specifically trained for these tasks, but often they learn by doing. Outside of this formal teacher role students also learn from each other by solving issues together and giving each other feedback. This way of learning is often called peer teaching or peer learning. This can be done very knowingly – for example by doing an assignment to give each other feedback – or without anything arrangements, simply because students ask each other for help, discuss issues et cetera.
Without doubt student assistant are a big advantage to our education. They connect to other students better and can place themselves in their shoes. Through a range of research it has been proven that the quality of the education provided by student teachers is good, and not inferior to that of senior teachers.
What is great about having student assistant is that they get the chance to experience multiple facets of teaching, which might motivate them to get into education as a career choice. This way, having student assistants contributes to the recognition and appreciation of teaching careers in education.
From our own research into experiences from students and teachers with student-teacher positions we gathered that the contribution students give is extremely appreciated. Especially with regard to education implementation and development. However, including students in a way where they're completely equivalent to teachers within the team proved to remain difficult.
The Faculty of Medical Sciences started with providing student the opportunity to get a Student Education Qualification (StOK – a derivative from the BKO) a few years ago. Students can choose to follow an optional housemanship focussed on education. They then join one of the departments involved in the training for doctors. There they fulfil various teacher roles on the basis of an internship plan lasting one to three months.
The Covid pandemic has given a significant boost to the teaching internships at the Faculty of Medical Sciences. During the period when no clinical internships were possible, students could choose to follow an educational internship. Here they often contributed to the development of online material.
After the pandemic we really noticed a remaining increased interest in the teaching internships. Each month at least one or two students apply for an internship. During the preparatory meetings they often indicate that they are surprised that they have never been trained to perform teaching tasks, even though they often get a teaching role after graduation. In fact, everyone should get a similar internship, they believe, or at least be prepared for teacher roles after graduation.
Within the university there is much more expertise in this area, such as the Radboud Teachers Academy, which trains students to become teachers in secondary education. At the TLC, we want to properly shape and expand the support for students who also teach. This way we not only invest in our education, but also in our future teachers and their lifelong learning!
If you have ideas, suggestions, questions, we'd love to hear them! Send us an e-mail at TLC [at] ru.nl.