On Wednesday, 31 May 2017, TAUU board members Irma Meijerman and Jaap Bos exchanged ideas with CHNG Huang Hoon and Johan Geertsema from the national University of Singapore and talked about sharing good practices, teaching & learning and the value of TAUU. This short note explores some of the most important issues discussed during that meeting.
Q. So what exactly is TAUU?
A. In brief, it is a grass roots organization from and for university teachers. It stands apart from any official university structure. And although financed in a marginal way (1 fte support, some additional funding for maintenance of the website and other activities), it relies otherwise entirely on voluntary work. A ‘board’ oversees activities, but does not direct these activities. Anyone teaching at UU is TAUU, and, more importantly, can use TAUU.
Q. As a ‘grass roots organization’, how does it relate to management and university policy, specifically on teaching and learning?
A. TAUU is not embedded in any curriculum, nor is it designed to carry out official university policy; however, it is recognized as an important institution by the university’s executive board, and the various deans and vice-deans. It is a bit anarchistic, in the sense that it determines its own agenda. Perhaps most importantly, it allows teachers to share the good practice and other ideas they believe are important, regardless of whether or not that is on the agenda of policy makers – as long as it has to do with teaching and learning.
Q. If it is so anarchistic, what do you do to prevent misuse? In other words, what quality control mechanisms do you employ? Because isn’t it quite possible that some teachers may use TAUU to disseminate faulty ideas and frankly do more harm than good in creating confusion? To give a concrete example from Singapore University. There have been teachers who proposed that giving feedback to students is really not necessary, it’s quite enough to just grade a paper. Now, what do you do if such a person would use TAUU to disseminate these ideas?
A. There are no safety valves in that sense. However, we trust that if someone comes up with this idea and would organize a workshop on the ‘importance of not giving feedback’, other teachers will contradict him of her. Trust is the key word here. We are academics, we toy with ideas: shouldn’t we therefore allow others to propose ideas that we disagree with? Plus, at TAUU, we insist that activities are organized by teachers from (at least) two different departments, so chances that misguided teachers will succeed in confusing our community are not all that great.