The national Netherlands Initiative for Education Research (NRO) annually awards the Comenius grants, on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. These grants enable teachers to bring their vision on teaching into practice. The grants for educational innovation are inspired by the well-known Veni, Vidi, Vici grants for research. This year two teachers, Annet van Royen and Bert Weckhuysen, will receive a Senior Fellow grant. This is an important impulse for the further development of academic teaching.

Senior Fellows receive €100,000 for each project. This concerns project proposals for the duration of two years, focused on innovation.

Interdisciplinary, challenge-based project education in the field of healthcare: Annet van Royen-Kerkhof (UMC Utrecht)

Project team: Rene van Donkelaar (TUe), Jorge Uquillas Paredes (TUe), Anneke Berendts (WUR), Sanne de Jong (UU, UMC Utrecht), Marco van Brussel (UMC Utrecht), Stefan van Geelen (UMC Utrecht), Roos de Jonge (UMC Utrecht), Els van der Vlist (coordinator education alliance)

With this project interdisciplinary, challenge-based education in the field of healthcare is developed for Master’s students of Medicine (UU, UMC Utrecht) together with Master’s students of Biomedical Engineering (TU /e), Nutrition & Health (WUR) and Biomedical Sciences (UU, UMC Utrecht). Complex problems in healthcare require interdisciplinary collaboration in a creative search for innovative solutions. Medicine training will have to prepare the future doctor for interdisciplinary collaboration and the development of adaptive expertise. Adaptive expertise is the ability to solve new, complex problems in changing situations. The project aims to develop and implement interdisciplinary, challenge-based project education for the medicine curriculum. An explicit choice has been made for a complex challenge without a known solution, because experience with complexity stimulates adaptive expertise and creative thinking. Structural implementation of interdisciplinary, challenge-based project education is new to the medicine curriculum. At the same time, students from the other study programs can experience how they can contribute to solutions for health care problems. In addition, contact between teachers and researchers will strengthen cooperation between institutes. This provides a new generation of professionals who are able to generate effective solutions for complex problems in the health domain. The project is based on the experiences of the BITT (Bio-Med-Tech-Nutrition Interdisciplinary Team Training) Challenge of the alliance.

The Da Vinci Programme: Mastering an Active Learning-by-Doing Approach to Foster Sustainability: Bert Weckhuysen (UU)

Project team: Emiel Hensen (TU/e), Harry Bitter (WUR), Appy Sluijs (UU), Brianne McGonigle (UU) en Sabine Uijl (projectleader alliance)

Building on the success of the recently launched Da Vinci Project for Bachelor’s students, a programme for Master’s students of Eindhoven University of Technology, Wageningen University & Research, Utrecht University and University Medical Centre Utrecht is developed. In this programme students experiment with crossing the boundaries of scientific disciplines and work on real-life challenges. The students will solve specific sustainable development-related challenges of external stakeholders through an integral design process. Via an active learning-by-doing approach, students are trained to collaborate in a transdisciplinary setting, thereby broadening their horizons and teaching them connecting skills, which are hard to acquire in a traditional academic environment.

Sustainable development and the strive to make our economies more circular are grand challenges the world faces. These can only be solved via an interwoven collaboration of society, science and technology. Academic education plays an important role in training the new generation of connectors, and to skill them in collaborating outside their comfort zones and in creating viable and practical solutions with different stakeholders. This manner of working requires strong disciplinary and transdisciplinary knowledge and skills, such as building bridges, experimenting, creating, philosophizing and acting.