Peter Wellens best lecturer of the year 2020-2021
‘I don’t give instruction, I give feedback,’ says Peter Wellens. He has been elected best lecturer for the academic year 2020-2021 at the 3mE Faculty.
His first reaction when he heard that he had been elected Lecturer of the Year was: ‘That’s really great, I didn’t see it coming!’ It’s obviously not easy for lecturers to teach during a pandemic. But in his case, that may have resulted in this distinguished nomination.
What’s behind his successful style of lecturing? Peter Wellens tries to see his students as colleagues and give them the best possible guidance and support, tailored to their needs. ‘At the end of the day, students have to motivate themselves. I encourage them to immerse themselves in the subject matter, and then I provide the necessary feedback.’
During the lectures, Peter gives students ‘challenges’ to work on, a key part of which is to read academic literature. Students who send him their drafts always receive a response. He then uses aspects of these drafts in his lectures. For example, the last four exams included an article with the latest research results. The challenge, then, is to use the article to answer questions according to the system that he discussed during the lectures.
In describing Peter, students say that he explains complex problems clearly and patiently. In addition, he is very enthusiastic about the material, which gives students extra motivation. Peter has the students’ best interests at heart and is a very committed teacher. At the beginning of the academic year, for example, he visited the Froude student association. It was evident at the outset that there was a great need for an explanation of the link between all the mathematics and dynamics courses in the Marine Technology bachelor programme. He explained this in a clear online lecture, to show students why these subjects are useful. This lecture can be viewed here. That’s the advantage of lecturing online; the lecture can be used afterwards, which is also nice for new students.
‘I believe in identifying needs and then taking action’
When asked what Peter has done in addition to lecturing online, he replies that he has given students the opportunity to email him whenever they have questions, and he guarantees a response. As a result, his inbox was often bursting at the seams, but the students needed this and Peter felt it was extremely important, especially during the pandemic. ‘I believe in identifying needs and then taking action.’
‘I made a very conscious decision to start teaching’
Peter started lecturing at TUD in 2016. Before that, he worked at the knowledge institute Deltares as a researcher and later as head of department. ‘I made a very conscious decision to start teaching, and I believe that makes you extremely motivated and explains why you have something more to offer. Students also like it when I tell them that I actually started lecturing on the side and used to do other work. It’s important that what you do makes you happy so you can adjust your choices accordingly.’ For Peter, it’s a balancing act between doing research and lecturing, and that’s exactly what makes it such an exciting challenge. Research generates new teaching material, and questions resulting from teaching, in turn, inspire new research.
Over the past four years, he has seen the Marine Technology programme change from one that emphasises application to one with a more scientific character. ‘This has been a really organic process, the result of sparring with a team of teachers and continuing to talk with each other over a cup of coffee. I am very proud of that!’