In the last two years, nine trainees have found a unique path to higher vocational education at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. After they were hired, they immediately started teaching three days a week and attending a trainee programme two days a week. During those two days, they attended workshops, participated in inspiration and peer coaching sessions, completed the Foundation Course Didactic Competence and the Basic Examination Qualification internal training courses and worked on assignments.
The Hague University of Applied Sciences had earlier signed the Diversity Charter. A nice gesture. But such a document quickly becomes a paper tiger. While around 50 per cent of students have a very diverse cultural background, the THUAS lecturer staff is much less diverse. How do you change that? The pilot of the lecturer traineeship, among other things, was created as an answer to that question Dieuwke de Boer and Danielle Dersjant are the driving forces behind it.
Dieuwke: ‘We can offer beginning young lecturers a great start with this trainee programme. The first cohort successfully completed the programme on 4 July. We see that these trainees have built a wonderful strong network within The Hague University of Applied Sciences.’ Danielle says, ‘They have been able to discover what they are good at, what gives them the most energy.’ To find out if the trainees themselves are just as positive, we talk to Ayşe Avci (HRM lecturer), Büsra Bacaksiz (Nutrition and Dietetics lecturer), Sudhan Balakrishnan (International Business lecturer), Dany Aguirre Broca (lecturer Communication & Multimedia Design), Tuba Çatalbas (lecturer in Commercial Economics), Özge Levent (lecturer in Communication), Janice Maduro (lecturer in Integral Safety Studies), Roline Palmer (lecturer in Law) and Reyber Turgut (lecturer in Communication & Multimedia Design).
Özge Levent: ‘We started in a strange period, during corona. I had just finished my masters and was keen to look for work somewhere. But all vacancies were put on hold. So where do you start? Then I came across this traineeship. To be honest, I hadn't thought about becoming a lecturer so soon. Now, two years later, I'm proud. As a group, we completed a good training programme. I learned what I can and cannot do. What I like and dislike. We have been given the opportunity to choose our own direction.’
Janice Maduro: ‘I never thought I would become a lecturer. I wanted to do more with security and work more with people. This lecturer position offered both aspects. It has been an extraordinary experience. I benefited a lot from the trainee programme. But you do start without any experience. That took some getting used to.’
Sudhan Balakrishnan: ‘I found some workshops to be very valuable. I learnt the most by just doing it. The real added value of this trainee programme lies in the peer coaching sessions.’ Büsra Bacaksiz: ‘For me too. You could bring your own cases to these and discuss them with the others. That provides a piece of awareness. You also learn methods that you can then apply yourself.’ Roline Palmer also mentions the safe feeling during the peer coaching sessions as a great asset. ‘That you can just share openly and honestly what is on your mind. I sometimes hesitated to contribute something. Then someone else did. That is how you experience that you are running into the same things. It's nice to talk about that.’
Tuba Çatalbas: ‘The fact that I have always felt safe in the group may have to do with the fact that in the beginning we were all together during the selection day. We were all a bit anxious for a while and shared things with each other even back then. The workshops in the first couple of months were personal in nature. That creates a bond.’ Ayşe Avci: ‘Yes, you seek each other out as new colleagues who are roughly similar in age.’ Reyber Turgut: ‘When you also experience some emotional moments together, it's not surprising that friendships were developed in the group.’
Insight and network
Tuba Çatalbas: ‘It's nice that we all work at different degree programmes. Each faculty and degree programme have a somewhat different culture. Talking to each other about it gives you more insight. What we learn from each other, we take back to our degree programme.’
Dany Aguirre Broca found a lot of inspiration that way. With a smile on his face, he says: ‘I see the trainee programme as a good mix of superpowers. It creates a large network of support within the organisation. As newcomers, we can rely on each other.’ Roline Palmer: ‘You talk to the others about questions that concern you. Together, you discover that faculties differ greatly from each other. That provides a complete picture of THUAS in a short amount of time.’
Many workshops were delivered by people from the organisation, so the trainees got to know a large number of people. Very convenient. Tuba Çatalbas: ‘For example, I benefited a lot from a session with the student psychologist and the deans. As a tutor and academic career counsellor, I think it's nice to have talked to the people you refer your students to.’
Strengthening of lecturer role
The trainees had no prior educational experience whatsoever. In two years, they transformed themselves into excellent lecturers with their own teaching style. Janice Maduro: ‘I think learning on the job ultimately provides the best results. Teaching has become a sum for me: a bit from the Foundation Course Didactic Competence and the Basic Examination Qualification content, a bit from my experiences within the degree programme and a bit from myself. You then create your own blend.’
Özge Levent: ‘I enjoy being in touch with students more than teaching. The stories they share with you, that gives me a lot of energy. I am a coach for long-term students. When I hear from a long-term student that I understand them, even though I have never been a long-term student myself, it makes me feel good.’
Ayşe Avci: ‘Teaching has become second nature to me. I see where the students' needs are and teach at my own pace. If the learning climate is not good at that time, I discuss it. In a previous job, I was exhausted at the end of the day. Now I work more hours a week and it actually energises me.
Dany Aguirre Broca sees teaching as a performance. ‘You do want to keep the attention of your students. I try to get on their wavelength as quickly as possible. I gauge where they are mentally. I am also very open towards them. In the middle of corona, things weren't going so well for me for a while. After 20 minutes of teaching, I told my students that I wasn't doing well. I then asked them how they were doing. As a result we spent an hour talking about how corona affected people's mental state.’
Reyber Turgut: ‘I see clear differences in our teaching styles. One clearly outlines the learning objectives at the beginning of each lesson. I engage with students immediately. A degree programme like Law where Roline works is very focused on knowledge, books and literature. I'm much more hands-on in my classes: what is the student working on and how can I guide them in this?’
Many trainees want to work on their ambitions. Sudhan Balakrishnan wants to find a better work-life balance. ‘Two months ago, my sister passed away due to an excessive workload. I want to avoid that. That's why I will work four days instead of five. I really enjoy the contact with people, but I also want to spend a few days without people to reflect.’
Contact with and supervision of students are frequently recurring themes in the trainees' ambitions. For example, Büsra Bacaksiz has enrolled in the Educational Needs master's programme. ‘This ties in nicely with what I am doing now at Nutrition and Dietetics. The master's focus is on mentoring students. Also students who are struggling a bit and may have experienced some delays in their studies. Or students who have physical limitations. Then you look at the student's needs. I think that is very important in a changing world.’
One thing the trainees found disturbing about this trainee programme was the label 'diversity and inclusion'. It was always a central issue. Tuba Çatalbas: ‘I was annoyed that we were introduced on the intranet as the trainee group with a migration background. I'm a lecturer. And not necessarily a lecturer with a migration background. By mentioning this every time, you are actually NOT practicing inclusion.’
Ayşe Avci: ‘Fortunately we discovered that we were following the programme because we belong here as lecturers based on our competencies. Of course we need to have the conversation about diversity and inclusion. But that is not our job. It's the responsibility of everyone in the organisation to keep that conversation going.’
Dieuwke de Boer and Danielle Dersjant have incorporated this feedback. Dieuwke: ‘It was an important lesson for us to define diversity much broader than just ethnicity. The second group includes trainees who, for example, ended up as lecturers at universities of applied sciences through very different routes. In talking to the pilot group, we emphasised that they were appointed as new colleagues for their qualities and motivation, not as change makers for diversity and inclusion. That responsibility does not lie with them, but with the entire organisation. The pilot has also been very educational to us. We look back on it with a good feeling.’
‘I have seen the trainees grow tremendously in two years. They have become so much more confident. They have really conquered their own space within the degree programme. I'm very happy with that, even though there is still a lot of room for improvement in the trainee programme. There are now nine lecturers who really add value within their degree programme.’
Danielle Dersjant, supervisor
‘In the past two years, we have been able to give young, new lecturers a very nice start in this trainee programme, giving them a lot of attention and a lot of nourishment by offering them workshops, inspiration sessions, peer coaching and the BRB and BKE courses. They have built a wonderful network, which helps them get off to a good start at The Hague University of Applied Sciences.’
Dieuwke de Boer, programme manager traineeships
For two years, you will work very closely with your fellow lecturer
A great project for beginning lecturers to learn about education. This is how practice supervisor Cathalijne de Klerk characterises the trainee programme. ‘This gives new lecturers a soft landing within the organisation. Every beginning lecturer should get such a traineeship.’
Cathalijne is a lecturer in the Nutrition and Dietetics degree programme and has supervised trainee Büsra Bacaksiz for the past two years. ‘When my programme manager asked if I wanted to mentor a young fellow lecturer, I hadn't been a lecturer very long myself. In that short time, I had experienced the importance of good coaching. That's why I said yes to the invitation. As a practice supervisor, Büsra and I have been working very closely together.’
Time to learn
‘Many colleagues - like me and Büsra - have no training as lecturers. Suddenly you are standing in front of a class. You have to deal with a lot in a short amount of time. In the trainee programme, new lecturers are given time to learn, to reflect on what is happening. Because everyone teaches differently, I have also involved other colleagues in coaching. I attended Büsra's classes. She also attended mine and those of other colleagues.’
Stories of experience
‘I introduced Büsra to the organisation and shared my experiences with her. I advised her on the issues she was running into. Those were very recognisable. I would have liked a little more guidance in my role as practice supervisor. With some uncertainty, I got to work. It worked out very well. But what if the coaching is not going well? Then, as a practice supervisor, you need more contact moments with the leaders. I felt that more contact would have been possible with Dieuwke and Danielle. But because of the pleasant cooperation with Büsra, this was not necessary for me. Practice supervisor is a new role you are given. You work closely with a new colleague, someone on par with you. How do you do that? This varies per degree programme. That is why it's good to share experiences with each other beforehand.’
‘I would love it if every new colleague could take a traineeship. Now some get a trainee programme and others don't. As far as I'm concerned, it should be equal. I really like the fact that after two years of working and learning, the trainee programme leads to a fixed contract, to something permanent. That gives people two years to discover themselves in their role as lecturers. That could also be a coaching or mentoring role.’
‘With this programme, we can attract more young lecturers’
In a relatively short time, programme manager Petra Visser appointed four new lecturers to her Communication & Multimedia Design degree programme. Two through the regular route of recruitment and selection. Two through the trainee programme. ‘No matter how they come to us, new lecturers experience our training as a comfort blanket.’
Petra is very involved in the trainee programme. ‘As a university of applied sciences, we have to be open to new young lecturers. We need to support them well and introduce them to the full scope of lecturing. Being a lecturer at a university of applied sciences is a really fun job. It's so rewarding to be working with young people at some stage of their lives! That job should also be accessible to people who don't see themselves immediately as a lecturer. It's a win if this trainee programme can get those people interested a job as a lecturer.’
‘All our new lecturers are introduced to the organisation of The Hague University of Applied Sciences as soon as possible. They work together for a year in our own peer coaching group. We offer a lot of mutual cooperation. We facilitate this with various educational formats, for example. You can work on your own or provide subjects together. You have a lot of contact with your colleagues.
For Petra, the added value of the trainee programme is that THUAS also brings in good lecturers who apparently don't typically respond to a regular job posting. ‘The trainees have a very positive critical eye. They want to know a lot. More than the new lecturers who usually join us. During the trainee programme, they receive so much input in the form of workshops, inspiration sessions and peer coaching sessions that they gain a lot of insight in a short amount of time, which enables them to ask critical questions.’
Important for onboarding
‘Those workshops should be given to all young, new colleagues. That doesn't make them super lecturers or potential managers, but such a programme is very important for bonding, onboarding. How do you give them the space to learn as much as possible in a short period of time? More opportunity to meet others within the degree programme? More opportunity to learn about what the university of applied sciences offers and how you would like to develop yourself into the lecturer you want to be? Some just want to be in front of the class. Another person wants to combine a lecturing position with professional practice. A third person wants to combine teaching with research. To discover this, you need mental space. We do so many cool things here at THUAS. But they rarely have time to attend these, to discover what they want as a lecturer. That's unfortunate. So what we do within this trainee programme should be more widely accessible to many more young colleagues.’