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From proposal to action

From proposal to action
Welcome back. In this video, we want to show you how a problem at the university is dealt with on the different levels of university government. We will discuss this using an example regarding insufficient training of student assistants. In a small group teaching session, students keep noticing that the quality and expertise of the student assistants differ. Sometimes students have the feeling that they learn a lot, but other groups of students feel they are not benefiting enough from the small group teaching session, because the student assistant does not seem to be able to engage the entire class. The students discuss with each other that it is a problem that needs to be solved.
Some talk to the board members of their study associations, others approach the programme committee. The students in the programme committee address the problem during a meeting of the committee, but the programme director states that it lies outside his circle of influence, since the faculty does not have enough funds or people available to provide adequate pedagogical training to all student assistants with teaching duties. Luckily, the programme committee is not the only one who knows about this. The boards of the study associations were also informed by the students about the problem. During several informal gatherings, the study associations discussed this problem with the students who are a member of the faculty council.
The faculty council agrees to discuss the issue with the faculty board. But they respond that there are simply not enough funds to have every student assistants do a course where they learn teaching skills. The course coordinators, however, go over the content of the course with the student assistant. But they often lack the time and proper training to teach a student assistant about pedagogics. Unfortunately, providing pedagogical training to student assistants lies outside the circle of influence of the course coordinators. The students of the faculty council have tried their best, but since the faculty is not able to solve this problem, they also talk about this problem to new students from the university council.
During their discussion, it appears that differing quality of student assistants has been noticed in other faculties, too. It is a university-wide problem. Since the circle of influence of the university council extends to the entire university community, the students of the council feel it is their responsibility to take action. They decide to survey every faculty about this topic. How do faculties prepare student assistants for their teaching duties? And find out it is problematic for various faculties, but that some do provide proper training to their student assistants. In order to assure that all student assistants receive some kind of preparation, the students of the university council decide to write a proposal to the university board.
The board acknowledges that their quality of education has to be the main priority and, therefore, provides a sum of money to help solve the problem. However, student assistants are temporarily staff members. After graduating, most of them leave the university community. The money, therefore, has to be invested wisely. And after talking to many students at the university, the decision was made to develop a free online course, the one that you are watching. An online course has the potential to reach many students at once and can be rerun many times.
As you’ve probably noticed, a large part of this course focuses on pedagogics to ensure the student assistants with teaching duties receive some kind of training for the task they will be doing before teaching their class. So from individual students to student associations, programme committees, faculty councils, and finally, the university council, this issue is dealt with in a successful manner, whereby having good relations with their colleagues and other boards, but also with the entire student community was essential. We hope this example inspired you and demonstrated the importance of regular communication between the different governing bodies.
In the next step, we would like to invite you to share how you, if you were a member of a governing body, would deal with other issues inside your institution.

Student representatives are active in all layers of the organisation. If student representatives throughout the university work together, problems or issues that might appear “small” can be taken up all the way to the level of the University Council. An example of this is the development of this online course. Sebastiaan and Rowanne will explain how the course came about in this video.

Do you know other problems or issues in your own organisation that you would like to be handled by the governing bodies? How would you make sure the issue is guided from proposal to action? Please share your thoughts in the discussion below.

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Becoming a Student Assistant: Teaching and Mentoring

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