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Tutoring and the Laboratory of Didactic Initiatives at the University of Gdańsk
New technologies, the generation gap, realising the current and predicting the future needs of the job market as well as a dynamically changing society ─ these all pose a great number of challenges to teachers as to methods and forms of teaching as well as rules for broadening their own knowledge and didactic skills.
The IQ Project
Inspired by “The School of Academic Tutors”, a tutor training scheme conducted by the Collegium Wratislaviense, Dr Beata Karpińska-Musiał initiated the IQ Project “In the interests of quality in quantity – a University of Gdańsk programme of interdisciplinary support provided to students of foreign languages, based on the academic tutoring method (Eng. Ideal Quality in Good Quantity)”. The project, implemented in the years 2014-2016, was made possible thanks to a grant which Dr Karpińska-Musiał received as part of the Scholarship and Training Fund (within the Development of Polish Higher Education Institutions) from donor states such as Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein (EEA Grants, Norway Grants and state resources). The Polish project operator was the Foundation for the Development of the Education System. The value of the entire project was 345 407.88 PLN. It was aimed at enhancing the quality of education and developing the intellectual potential of students searching for challenges more ambitious than those offered by their regular field of study.
A two-day conference to conclude the project was held in April 2016 at the Shakespeare Theatre in Gdańsk. It was entitled “W trosce o jakość w ilości – edukacja akademicka w procesie zmian” and brought together over 120 participants from all over Poland, including the student participants in the project who presented the activities implemented during the tutoring.
The IQ project has also resulted in three publications: two collective monographs edited by Beata Karpińska-Musiał, written by project tutors (http://libron.pl/katalog/czytaj/id/204) and students (http://libron.pl/katalog/czytaj/id/203) and a monograph by Beata Karpińska-Musiał, entitled “Edukacja spersonalizowana w uniwersytecie. Ideologia – instytucja – dydaktyka – tutor”, containing the results of research carried out during the course of the project (http://libron.pl/katalog/czytaj/id/219).
Summary of the IQ Project:
- 1576 hours of individual tutorials
- 222 students
- 29 trained academic tutors of various specialities
- two semesters of implementation in the academic year 2014/2015.
Summary of the current implementation of the project at the UG’s Faculty of Languages:
- 420 hours of additional offer for students, spread over 4 semesters (3x120 + 1x60 h)
- On average, around 55-60 students have so far participated in the tutoring.
Summary of the implementation of the project at the UG’s Faculty of Oceanography and Geography:
- 990 hours of individual tutorials
- 95 students
- 42 trained tutors, including 13 as tutoring practitioners
- Implemented since the academic year 2014/15
The UG Tutor Centre
The UG Tutor Centre, headed by Dr Beata Karpińska-Musiał (Faculty of Languages), Dr Ewa Szymczak (Faculty of Oceanography and Geography), Dr Monika Woźniak (Faculty of Management) and Dr Anna Malcer-Zakrzacka (Faculty of Languages), is a continuation of the academic cooperation and the forms of education implemented as part of the IQ Project and revolves around “an interdisciplinary didactic cooperation of UG academic tutors based on the Design Thinking method and its application during elective classes and seminars with students of languages (Polish and others), Pedagogy, Geography, Spatial Planning, Water Management, Geology and Oceanography, Biology and Management.”
The UG Tutor Centre is financed from the UG Didactic Innovation Fund and is an interfaculty project aimed at certified University of Gdańsk Tutors as well as interested academic teachers who work as mentors, promoters of diplomas and MA papers or tutors and mentors of doctoral students. The UG Tutor Centre organises cyclical meetings four times a year which offer discussions, training or integration workshops for tutors, supervision or meetings with students. The cyclical meetings are open to all interested UG academic teachers. In the first edition of the project, the Centre received funding to the value of 11 000 PLN, the second 10 666.70 PLN.
Laboratory of Didactic Initiatives
As regards didactics and training, the UG Tutor Centre is involved in cooperation with the UG’s Laboratory of Didactic Initiatives (LID) which, together with the Didactic Initiatives Fund (FID, formerly the Didactic Innovation Fund), forms a system to provide support for and to enhance didactics at the University of Gdańsk.
The Laboratory of Didactic Initiatives is a series of workshops conducted by and for UG academic teachers, including also tutors. The training sessions organised are devoted to unconventional didactic solutions and modern methods of education. The instructors, who represent different fields and scientific disciplines, stress the practical aspects of the issues in question, which allows participants to adjust the good practices presented to their own needs, very often resulting from the nature of their specialist subjects. The aim of the workshops, organised in line with the UG Tutor Centre slogan “teachers for teachers”, is to inspire academics to create their own didactic projects, the implementation of which will be facilitated by financial resources from the Didactic Initiatives Fund. The workshops also offer training in how to complete applications for funding correctly.
The University of Gdańsk’s Doctoratorium
On the basis of experience by the Laboratory of Didactic Initiatives, the UG’s Quality of Education Office has established Doctoratorium – a course in academic didactics for doctoral students, conducted by the same academic teachers who run the Laboratory and cooperate with the UG Tutor Centre. All faculties have been offered the chance to implement the course as part of the subject “Didactics of a Higher Teaching Institution”, present in the programme of doctoral studies, and in the current academic year (2016/2017) the following faculties have used the opportunity ─ the Faculties of Biology, Biotechnology, Law and Administration and Social Sciences.
Perspectives for the popularisation of tutoring at the UG and the activity of the UG Tutor Centre and the Laboratory of Didactic Initiatives
As a result of the IQ Project and her activity in the UG Tutor Centre, Dr Beata Karpińska-Musiał has received a number of invitations from the authorities of various universities in Poland to take part in seminars and conferences connected with the promotion of tutoring as an option to enhance the quality of academic teaching. Some of these invitations have included:
- a research visit at the Institute of Linguistics of the Adam Mickiewicz University – 18-23 April 2017
- participation in one of the cyclical Academic Didactic Meetings held at the University of Silesia – 8 May 2017
- a presentation at the 4th All-Poland Tutoring Congress in Warsaw (organised by the Collegium Wratislaviense) – 2-3 June 2017
The coming academic year 2017/18 will see a totally new dimension of academic tutoring at the University of Gdańsk in the form of a preparatory course for international students qualified for study in Pomerania, known as the Gateway to Studies in Europe. This is a unique initiative by the University of Gdańsk’s International Office, with Dr Karpińska-Musiał having been invited to become Director of the Gateway Course, responsible for coordinating the work of 10 UG tutors who will provide complex assistance to the arriving students. The concept of complex tutoring which involves the assistance of three kinds of tutors per one student (academic, peer and corporate tutor) constitutes a unique innovation by the University and, even at the planning stage, has evoked some emotions and brought hope for new chances to employ tutoring and high competences of UG tutors to enhance the attractiveness of study at the University of Gdańsk.
Examples of implemented new didactic initiatives
The IQ Project came to an end in May 2016 but owing to the goodwill of the former Dean of the UG’s Faculty of Languages UG, Prof. Andrzej Ceynowa, as well as the present Dean, Prof. Maciej Michalski, 12 interested tutors have decided to continue their tutorials after the IQ Project expired. As mentioned above, the Faculty of Languages went on to offer 420 tutorials in the years 2015/16 and 2016/17. The continuation of this educational offer and the means of finance are currently being discussed between the tutors and the Faculty authorities. Individual work with a student in a long-term process of meeting and acquiring knowledge and competences is a unique didactic innovation in the field of Humanities and Social Sciences. In addition, team work which focuses on issues suggested by the social and business environment, implemented in the form of tutoring as part of the second edition of the UG Tutor Centre Centrum using the Problem Based Learning method, creates new fields in which students can hone their social competences.
Benefits from the implementation of tutoring
Tutoring is nothing new for educators and education historians. Personalised education based on the skill of posing questions and steering students towards new fields of research and new knowledge goes back to ancient times. In the modern mass university the return to selected elements of the personalised approach seems to be a unique offer for ambitious students with high expectations. It creates voluntary space for joint intellectual investigation with the Tutor, suited to one’s own needs and possibilities. There are students who come to study at university just to experience this option.
Complied by : Monika Rogo, Office of the UG Spokesperson