Educational innovation: ‘We had to make a major change’

ECIU | 2018-05-15

The University of Twente (UT) was one of the universities that found new inspiration in Aalborg. In 2014, the ‘Twente Educational Model’ (Twents Onderwijs Model or TOM) was introduced there. This form of education consists entirely of project-based learning.

‘We had to make a major change to adopt this new educational method as our central principle,’ says Tom Mulder, advisor strategy and policy at the UT. ‘Aalborg University has grown up with project-based learning, so it is part of their DNA. That is not the case for us. Although we definitely had experience with project-based learning, it was quite a radical move to structure all our education around projects.’

Their Danish colleagues continue to offer regular lectures as well, Mulder knows. ‘They thought we were brave to make this choice.’ The road was not entirely free of obstacles. ‘After the implementation, we had to sort out the usual difficulties with regards to testing and scoring.’

Other universities are interested as well, Mulder notes. He gives a talk about TOM at least once a week. ‘There is a continuous stream of interested parties. They mostly want to know how we handled the transition from regular education to project-based learning and what we encountered along. We can definitely help our colleagues in that regard, just like Aalborg inspired us once upon a time.’

‘Learning from the best’

Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM) and Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) are also interested in project-based learning.

Joaquín Guerra Achem, Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs and Educational Innovation of ITESM: ‘We have a history of educational innovation in its teaching-learning process.  We have always benchmarked around the world to learn from best practices and inform our innovation process.  In the late 1990’s, we went to Aalborg University to learn about their PBL model.  Tecnológico de Monterrey incorporated PBL as one of its pedagogy teaching techniques with the help of Aalborg University and the University of Twente.  Being part of ECIU has been of great value to us in exchanging knowledge and best practices in educational innovation.’

Kaunas University of Technology is the flagman in educational innovations in Lithuania. KTU has been learning from the best: acquiring the PBL competences from Aalborg University, transferring the good practices of the Twente Educational Model onto KTU’s product development project and the overall innovative KTU study model.

‘The new KTU study model has been driven by the exponentially fast changes in society and market needs, by the contemporary expectations of our students, and it certainly meets the needs of the modern teaching and learning paradigm’, states Jurgita Siugzdiniene, Rector Ad Interim at Kaunas University of Technology.

‘We are yet on our way of implementing the new curriculum grounded on competence development, problem and project based learning. Aalborg University and the University of Twente are the role models for PBL and project based learning for us and we are grateful for all of the received consultations and recommendations. We are certainly learning from the best.’

Hamburg University of Technology started implementing early forms of project oriented learning, later project based learning among other with the help of the Aalborg model: Members of the university’s Center for Teaching and Learning (ZLL) went to Aalborg several times. Now – six years later – both forms of PBL alongside other didactical formats support the university’s vision of implementing curricula so as to provide a research-based learning experience to students.’

Why PBL?

Using PBL ensures that students become professionals who are able to acquire and apply knowledge and who can contribute new knowledge to their field of study, through curiosity and a critical attitude. The PBL-model teaches students the ability to find, critically assess, combine and use new information is an important skill in the twenty-first century. They know all the ins and outs of their field of study and can contribute to its development. They are also capable of venturing off the beaten path and applying their knowledge in a broader context, in collaboration with other disciplines and society.