Didactic Skills Course @WUR

From 1 September to 9 October 2014 I took part in the “Didactic Skills” course offered by the Education and Competence Studies Group at Wageningen University (the Netherlands). The course focuses on the development of both teaching and communication skills and consists of 12 lectures of 3,5 hours each. The lectures included both theory and practice, and a reasonable part of the lectures was focused on giving and receiving constructive feedback on practical sessions. This course is intended for students who have the ambition to teach in higher-, college-, or academic education.

We were taught a wide range of didactic methods for interactive lectures and presentations, activating lectures and presentations, and facilitating group work. Next to that we were also taught how to give constructive feedback on the performance of students and how to incorporate audio-visual aids in lectures. We were given the opportunity to practice a wide range of didactic methods during three lectures in front of a heterogeneous audience. These lectures could be on a chosen topic in your field of studies and I chose to rely on the existing lecture material that I developed on ‘Visual Methods’. Furthermore, every student had to choose a practical assignment (e.g. assisting in an existing course at a high school or the university, or preparing a workshop). The learning outcomes of the course are that participants should be able to prepare and teach (scientific) courses whilst applying the didactic skills learned. The course is a specialization course for students with backgrounds in any kind of scientific discipline so previous knowledge or preparation work for this course was not expected.

Assessment of the Course

The Didactic Skills course is perfect for those who want to 1) practice giving lectures, 2) improve their presentation- and didactics skills, and 3) to receive and give constructive feedback on their presentations. Giving and receiving constructive feedback is really central during this course. The philosophy underpinning the course is that you further develop your strengths but also work on didactic skills that are less developed. Feedback is given by the course instructors but also by fellow students. How to give this feedback is also an important part of the course, and the instructors gave us various tutorials and instruments on how to give feedback in a constructive and positive way. All our lectures were taped so we could see and hear ourselves present and critically assess our strengths and points for improvement. Overall the course is a way to build confidence in presenting, and learn about the various ways in which you can actively engage your audience in your lectures. During the course I was able to prepare interactive and activating lectures that address the course themes that are part of my teaching portfolio at the Department of Geography and Regional Science in Graz. I was able to practice these lectures in front of the instructors and students from various disciplinary backgrounds, whom gave me constructive feedback and allowed me to improve my presentations. In the end, I felt I was well prepared for my first lectures I had to give as part of my teaching responsibilities at the Department in Graz.