The Brainport region in Eindhoven is famous for its close collaborations between education and industry. TMC’s contribution to this happy marriage is the initiative of Hybrid Teaching, where Employeneurs transform into part-time teachers to transfer their technical knowledge to students. Two Employeneurs and a team leader at Fontys College share their first experiences.
The first talks about TMC Hybrid Teaching started in 2018. In the spring of 2019 several TMC Employeneurs have been working several hours a week as teachers and tutors at the vocational colleges of Fontys and Avans, both in Eindhoven. Several new teaching projects have already started in the new school year. Time for a first evaluation.
As one of the first hybrid teachers, Employeneur Niels Puts (business cell TMC Application Lifecycle Management) supervised first years mechatronic students at Fontys college in a project where they had to build their own robot. He liked it a lot. ‘The energy and open-minded approach of the students was very inspiring,’ he says enthusiastically. ‘My hands were itching to develop together with them, but of course we’re not supposed to.’
Niels spends around six hours a week as a hybrid teacher. He loves the variety with his current assignment at Bosch. What he likes about teaching is that it operates on the intersection between theory and practice, with the goal of creating an end product. And he learns from the students as well. ‘Although students perhaps lack knowledge and experience, they are much more open-minded,’ he says. ‘In business we often see many obstacles when we want to create something new. Students dive into projects head first, which enables them to accomplish things very quickly. I think we can learn from that.’
According to Niels, his added value as an industry expert is that he can hold up a real-world mirror to the students. ‘Students sometimes think that they receive too little information from the school to complete an assignment. Then I tell them that in business it’s no different. There you also have to search for information yourself. That inspires them to see what they can do about getting that information.’
Employeneur Tom van den Broek (business cell TMC Application Lifecycle Management) works as a hybrid mechatronics teacher for both Avans and Fontys colleges. He also mentions the added value of his own practical experience for his teaching job. ‘In business people are confronted every day with something they’ve never done before. We share that with the students. The difference is that students often don’t know how to start when they’re confronted with something new. We can teach them to distance themselves from the problem and just start by charting out their knowledge and blind spots. It allows them to think at a higher level of abstraction.’
Both Employeneurs took a short teaching course hosted at the TMC office, where they were introduced to the basic didactic principles by an experienced teacher. Tom: ‘The aim of the course was to help you go beyond the hesitation of confronting students in a classroom setting. For instance, we learned how to help students by asking directional questions in stead of providing ready-made answers. It was very insightful.’
Thinking outside of the box
Bart-Jan van Lierop, teamleader of the mechatronics course at Fontys college, is happy with the hybrid teachers. ‘The teachers from TMC bring the latest industry knowledge to the table. In the classroom they’re able to show significant practical examples, which makes the teaching material really come to life. Our own teachers benefit from that knowledge transfer as well. Conversely, our teachers impart didactic skills to the people of TMC. I can imagine that will change the way they view their own work.’ The students are enthusiastic as well. Bart-Jan: ‘They enjoy having a teacher who is also dealing with mechatronics in the real world.’
According to the Fontys teamleader, TMC’ers are used to thinking outside of the box, which helps them bring valuable insights to their teaching job. Sometimes it even translates into a modest educational reform. Bart-Jan: ‘A TMC teacher who taught sensors at our school advised us to use more practical examples in our teaching material. We discussed this with the other teachers and have adapted the curriculum accordingly.’
The TMC Employeneurs highly recommend hybrid teaching to their colleagues. ‘Don’t hesitate, just do it,’ says Niels Puts. ‘It’s a lot of fun.’ Tom van den Broek is more careful. ‘Only do it if you take it seriously,’ he says. ‘It’s quite an investment of your time. Moreover, you’re dealing with the futures of students, which is a responsible job. But if you go for it, you get a lot back in return.’