SEFI 2014 location:Birmingham date:15-19 September 2014
At KU Leuven, practice sessions are traditionally the responsibility of teaching assistants (TAs), typically PhD students with an additional teaching assignment [1, 2]. The Faculty of Engineering Science attaches great importance to the role of the TAs since practice sessions are an indispensable tool in a student’s learning process . After all, these additional contact moments serve as the necessary bridge between the theory taught during the lectures and the practice these students will face during their exams and in their future careers. Since many TAs struggled with coaching these practice sessions , the Faculty of Engineering Science at the KU Leuven introduced an educational training programme for PhD students in 2005.
As a consequence of educational developments in the course of the past ten years the existing TA training needed to be evaluated and updated, so the PRIMA (Professionalization in Engineering Science: the Millennium Assistant) project was brought to life. The aim of this project is to revise the current training program and to adapt it to the present needs and expectations of the TAs at the Faculty of Engineering Science. In order to identify the priority needs of TAs with an educational assignment and to evaluate the existing training program, a large scale questionnaire was organized in 2013 among the TAs at the Faculties of Engineering Science, Science, Bioscience Engineering and Engineering Technology, combined with focus groups with seventeen TAs of five deliberately chosen courses at the Faculty of Engineering Science.
In what follows, the results of the survey and hearings will shortly be discussed since they were one of the major sources of inspiration for the new TA training. Furthermore, based on these results, some priority needs were identified and we suggest possible ways to remediate, drawing on the ‘teach as you preach’ principle . This guiding principle was used to develop a blueprint for the new TA training that will respond to the identified issues, enabling the TAs to get acquainted with new didactical techniques that will enhance and facilitate the learning process of their students. This program will consist of a number of sessions that revolve around different teaching formats, designed to reflect the educational practice of the TAs. These training sessions will focus on the principles of flipped teaching, dealing with frequently occurring problems, activating students and the implementation of modern technology in the teaching practice. Finally, we will discuss the substantive, formal and structural improvements that the new TA training will entail, as well as the accompanying materials and the plans for the future.