Bertus Beaumont: "I believe in the power of a more personal approach to education"
"I memorize all the names of my students and talk to them during the lecture. Yes, even the names of the eighty students who take my bachelor's course!" laughs Bertus Beaumont. He specialises in evolutionary biology and teaches three subjects on behalf of BN/Bionanoscience. "I am committed to renewing education with a personal and multidisciplinary approach." This interview is part of a series of articles on innovation in education and was conducted before the start of the corona crisis.
"'Muhammad, what do you think of this?" Bertus regularly interrupts his story during the bachelor course Evolution to let students think about the subject that day. "With that personal approach, I immediately say 'I'm here for you. I open up and hope that students do the same. Most students appreciate connecting, but I let it depend on the person. The feedback afterwards is very positive and I think that with this approach the content of the course comes across better".
He extends his personal approach to the elective course in biology for non-biologists, which has already been given twice. After the lecture series a student gives the following feedback: "Bertus is exceptional! Coming from a very limited Biology education (and somewhat of a phobia for Biology jargon), I (surprisingly) thoroughly enjoyed the course, so thank you! The instructor considers it desirable to challenge engineers more often with such a multidisciplinary approach and he contributes to this educational innovation with this course. "Universities are organised according to disciplines, but cross-fertilization is useful. I notice that more and more students, as true homo universalis, prefer to broadly organise their studies. They choose this optional subject because they are interested in sustainability, green production or cyclical production processes. It's great that after this elective, there are now twenty more engineers who are not afraid to dive into biology in search of inspiration."
Personal skills elective
Enthusiastically, the evolutionary biologist tells us that he is now working on setting up a long-term elective course in personal skills, intended for all TU students. "It is amazing that this is not a core skill in university education. After all, everyone benefits from developing personal skills, such as self-reflection, motivation, authenticity and stress management. After all, with only excellent technical skills, you're not at your best yet. Personal development is necessary to be productive and happy and it has an impact on study success. I think the time is ripe for such an elective, we are dealing with a whole different generation of students. I notice that they are interested in this".
The reactions to innovations in his courses motivate Bertus to try new things over and over again. Does he have advice for other teachers? "It's nice when you stand in front of the room as an authority, but not authoritarian. Teaching can be tense for all sorts of reasons and sometimes this triggers a closed and more authoritarian way of interacting on the part of teachers. That's a pity, because the funny thing is that openness and fallibility contribute to a safe atmosphere in which students really dare to explore their abilities. The more human you are, the more inspiring you are for students".
More information and contact
Would you like to know more about online opportunities for your course? As a AS lecturer you can enlist the help of faculty coordinator online & blended education Carola van der Muren.
Please also check out the Education Innovation platform on Brightspace for more information. Here, you can also get in touch with other lecturers and exchange experiences. Do you have a short question or would you like to start blended education for your course? Then send an e-mail to the support team via EI-AS@tudelft.nl.