The Psychology Education Committee:
An interview with two student members
Is it true that without the Education Committee (EC), the psychology programme would not exist? Can students only become a member if they openly admit to loving statistics? And what about those rumours that the EC treats students and lecturers equally. Confirmed or busted? To find out, Diemensies interviewed two student members of the EC, Judith den Boer (who acts as the vice-chair) and Nina Ploegstra.
Thank you for receiving us. To start off, what is the Education Committee?
The EC is an advisory board that assists and informs the Teaching Director of Psychology. While a variety of problems and topics are discussed, the main goal of the committee is to secure the established quality norms of the education program. The committee includes four lecturers and four students.
How many times do you meet?
Every four weeks we meet for two hours. Occasionally we also attend other meetings, for example BeHave is the meeting during which all ECs of the Faculty come together. In those meetings we try to help each other with problems that some ECs might be facing while others have dealt with them in the past. Common themes are internationalization and E-learning.
What happens during a meeting of the Psychology Education Committee?
The chair, currently Dr. Maarten Derksen (succeeded in January 2015 by Prof. Sabine Otten –Ed.), guides us through a list of items on the agenda. Before each meeting, the vice-chair, as the representative of the other student members, asks other student members what topics they wish to cover and sits down with the chair and this way helps decide what will be on the agenda.
Can you give us an example of problems you encounter?
Many students experience difficulties with statistics. The statistics practicum has always been somewhat of a problem to many students, but this years’ practicum has been particularly difficult. Many students did not find it useful and there were many complaints issued with the year representatives. They informed us and we try to assess the problem.
How will this assessment go? How do you deal with a problem effectively?
We first start a brainstorm session and try to find out whether the complaints are founded. In another example, there were many complaints about the mandatory oral thesis presentations. Students complained that their supervisors often were not there during the presentations. We first checked whether these complaints were well-founded. When it turned out that indeed supervisors were often absent, we started thinking of possible solutions that could change the situation.
What happens to the student evaluation forms?
The students complete these forms after an exam and course coordinators read them and use Nestor to lead students know how they plan to deal with criticism. The EC receives a summary of the evaluations and the course coordinators’ responses. We hope that the response of the course coordinators is sufficient. For instance, if an evaluation indicates that the book does not adequately cover the material, then a course coordinator may choose an appropriate alternative. If this does not happen, then we look into it.
Would you say that you mostly have brainstorm sessions on possible solutions when the problem is an organizational one, rather than about the content of the course?
We have a look at all problems that occur, but if the evaluation forms indicate that a lecturer should work on his teaching skills, then the Teaching Director deals with this without the help of the EC. The best we can do is advise that the person take extra lessons in teaching. However, students must be aware that the faculty does not always have the resources to find a qualified substitute. We have also encountered problems that were not specific to a particular course, such as when too many people were using the toilet during exams. The Examinations Committee asked us for advice. Though we concluded that students should not be denied toilet use, the Examinations Commiteee did not agree with our position. In other words, we do not always have the final say.
If a student would like to join the Education Committee, what should he or she do?
You can simply be offered a position after you apply for one. At the end of each academic year there is a call for new students to apply. The number of positions differs from year to year. It depends on how many student members leave. Applicants need to send their CV and a letter of motivation. The current student members are in charge of selecting new student members.
Why did you join the Education Committee?
Nina: During a lecture the EC announced a call for new members. I decided to give it a try thinking it might be fun and interesting.
Judith: I think it is important that our education is organized properly and, of course, it seemed like a very good learning experience. Moreover, it has been an excellent opportunity for getting to know other involved students and seeing how the Psychology Department works “behind the scenes”.
This blog post is an adaptation of an article that appeared in Diemensies, a magazine by and for students of the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, in 2015.