Eindhoven University of Technology: Two Senior Fellow Comenius grants for educational innovation

The national Netherlands Initiative for Education Research (NRO) annually awards Comenius grants to teachers on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science to put their vision on education into practice. These educational innovation grants are inspired by the well-known Veni, Vidi, Vici research grants, for Teaching, Senior and Leadership fellows respectively. Two teachers, Bert Weckhuysen and Annet van Royen, have been awarded a Senior Fellow grant for educational projects from the alliance TU/e, WUR, UU, UMC Utrecht. The prizes are an important impulse to further develop academic education.

Senior Fellows receive €100,000 for each project. This concerns project proposals for the duration of two years, focused on innovation.

Building on the success of the recently launched Da Vinci Project for Bachelor’s students, a programme for Master’s students of Eindhoven University of Technology, Wageningen University & Research, Utrecht University and University Medical Centre Utrecht is developed. In this programme students experiment with crossing the boundaries of scientific disciplines and work on real-life challenges.

The students will solve specific sustainable development-related challenges of external stakeholders through an integral design process. Via an active learning-by-doing approach, students are trained to collaborate in a transdisciplinary setting, thereby broadening their horizons and teaching them connecting skills, which are hard to acquire in a traditional academic environment.

Sustainable development and the strive to make our economies more circular are grand challenges the world faces. These can only be solved via an interwoven collaboration of society, science and technology. Academic education plays an important role in training the new generation of connectors, and to skill them in collaborating outside their comfort zones and in creating viable and practical solutions with different stakeholders. This manner of working requires strong disciplinary and transdisciplinary knowledge and skills, such as building bridges, experimenting, creating, philosophizing and acting.

Project team: Annet van Royen-Kerkhof (UMC Utrecht), Rene van Donkelaar (TUe), Jorge Uquillas Paredes (TUe), Anneke Berendts (WUR), Sanne de Jong (UU, UMC Utrecht), Marco van Brussel (UMC Utrecht), Stefan van Geelen (UMC Utrecht), Roos de Jonge (UMC Utrecht), Els van der Vlist (coordinator education alliance)

With this project interdisciplinary, challenge-based education in the field of healthcare is developed for Master’s students of Medicine (UU, UMC Utrecht) together with Master’s students of Biomedical Engineering (TU /e), Nutrition & Health (WUR) and Biomedical Sciences (UU, UMC Utrecht). Complex problems in healthcare require interdisciplinary collaboration in a creative search for innovative solutions. Medicine training will have to prepare the future doctor for interdisciplinary collaboration and the development of adaptive expertise. Adaptive expertise is the ability to solve new, complex problems in changing situations.

The project aims to develop and implement interdisciplinary, challenge-based project education for the medicine curriculum. An explicit choice has been made for a complex challenge without a known solution, because experience with complexity stimulates adaptive expertise and creative thinking. Structural implementation of interdisciplinary, challenge-based project education is new to the medicine curriculum.

At the same time, students from the other study programs can experience how they can contribute to solutions for health care problems. In addition, contact between teachers and researchers will strengthen cooperation between institutes. This provides a new generation of professionals who are able to generate effective solutions for complex problems in the health domain. The project is based on the experiences of the BITT (Bio-Med-Tech-Nutrition Interdisciplinary Team Training) Challenge of the alliance.

The motto of the strategic alliance between Eindhoven University of Technology, Wageningen University & Research, Utrecht University and University Medical Centre Utrecht is Challenging Future Generations. We strive to do that by putting young researchers, lecturers and students at the helm and by collaborating across the borders of the scientific disciplines. In the alliance, the four institutions combine their expertise in order to contribute to social transitions in the fields of health, food, energy and sustainability.

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