BLASTER – The Best Liberal Arts and Science Teaching Expanded and Reinforced
TEACHERS’ TRAINING WORKSHOP: INTERACTIVE AND INNOVATIVE LEARNING IN LIBERAL ARTS
Bratislava, Slovakia, 25-26 May, 2017
ECOLAS is involved and helps to organize three events for those interested in Liberal Education in 2017 as part of the project BLASTER. The first of these events took place in Bratislava, Slovakia on 25-26 May 2017 (Campus of BISLA at Grösslingová 53) and was aimed at professional development of teachers in liberal arts and sciences and their pedagogical skills.
The seminar presented newly published book Learning and Teaching in the Liberal Arts which offers an overview of pedagogical methods supporting quality learning as an outcome of research on needs of university teachers. The workshop also offered opportunities and possibilities for starting a programme to train young teachers at academia.
The two days of sessions, intensive discussions, friendly debates, and enthusiasm about the topics among 50 participants from 8 countries prompted ECOLAS to offer not only a summary of the workshop lectures and mutual contacts but also to look into possibilities for cooperating in order to improve the condition, quality, and awareness of liberal arts education in Europe. In particular, the last discussion about our possible cooperation and the aim of our efforts was extremely helpful for plans and endeavors at ECOLAS.
It seems that the bachelor’s degree instituted throughout the Continent thanks to the Bologna Agreement has not reached its potential or fulfilled its expectations and it is often perceived with disdain by many educators in Europe. If there anything that can reverse this trend, and to legitimize the bachelor’s degree, it is through liberal arts education with its stress of teaching and learning, insistence on depth and breadth of knowledge, and stressing the variety of intellectual skills as the core of quality education. It was felt as a background of our conversation in Bratislava that you also care about the best ways to improve the quality of education, regardless if participants were part of a liberal arts program or a traditional university setting.
The workshop was facilitated by specialists in the field from Erasmus University Rotterdam, University of Warwick, Masaryk University in Brno and BISLA based in Bratislava. The interactive sessions covered following topics: problem-based learning, stimulating interdisciplinarity, encouraging critical thinking at students and reflective and scholarly teaching. You can download their presentations here, here and here. Here you can find the event’s programme.
BLASTER PROJECTS AT HALFWAY MARK
10 December, 2016
The Steering Committee for the Erasmus+ BLASTER project met October 19-20 at Leuphana Universität, Lüneburg, Germany, to hear progress reports on the three projects currently in development and to plan for the activities of the grant’s second year. The committee is composed of representatives from each of the six strategic partners that make up BLASTER – University College Roosevelt (Netherlands), Leuphana Universität (Germany), Warwick University (UK), University College Leiden (Netherlands), Vytautus Magnus University (Lithuania) and the European Consortium for Liberal Arts and Sciences-ECOLAS (Slovakia).
The committee heard from the leaders of each of the three “pillars” of the grant: Quality Standards, Teacher Training and Professional Development and, Undergraduate Research. The Quality Standards group is preparing a three-part manual aimed at educators and policy-makers interested in beginning liberal arts and sciences programmes. The manual will address the essential characteristics and framework for LAS, case studies of current European models and information on specific quality standards for curricular, structural and organizational aspects of an LAS programme. The manual will have both a text version and an interactive online version that will be maintained so that it can continue to serve over time as a resource for EU educators. The Teacher Training and Professional Development group reported on two successful workshops held for faculty at BISLA (Bratislava, SK) and University College Roosevelt (Middelburg, NL). In addition, they outlined progress toward the development of a “teacher training kit” that will be made available to all institutions that aim to strengthen instruction at the undergraduate level. The group dedicated to Undergraduate Research has held a workshop for faculty and students and is working towards the publication of a special edition of Reinvention: an International Journal of Undergraduate Research (Warwick University, UK) dedicated to the work of students of the liberal arts and sciences.
The results of the work of BLASTER will be disseminated publicly in a series of “multiplier events” throughout the second half of 2017. Each of the events will introduce the intellectual outputs produced by the project that will be made available for use by students, faculty, administrators and educational policy makers across the European Higher Education Area. Information regarding each event will be available during the spring 2017.
BLASTER – General Description
Strengthening the relevance and the quality of higher education is a key objective in Europe’s educational policies. Current higher education lacks the emphasis on creativity and innovation needed to prepare students for the 21st century. In addition, as a result of a lopsided emphasis on research, there are concerns about the quality of university teaching. This applies particularly to undergraduate programs, even if these form the bulk of higher education.
Liberal Arts and Sciences Programs, as they slowly (re)emerge all over Europe, hold true potential to meet these needs. They offer interdisciplinary undergraduate education, stimulating academic skills and students’ ability to “think outside of the box”. They also emphasize teaching excellence, and bridge the divide between teaching and research in undergraduate research.
This strategic partnership brings together six of the forerunners in Liberal Arts and Sciences in Europe: University College Roosevelt, Leiden University College The Hague, Vytautas Magnus University, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Warwick University and ECOLAS. Together, these partners aim to expand and reinforce the best of Liberal Arts and Science Teaching, in order to strengthen the relevance and the quality of undergraduate education and LAS education – both by project partners and by others – in particular.
These general objectives are met via 3 activities:
* The development of LAS guidelines
* The development of a Teaching Training Kit
* The development of student and teacher undergraduate research guidelines and showcasing best practices
Each of the strategic partners has a unique expertise in one or more of these fields – quality assurance, teaching excellence and undergraduate research in LAS – which makes cooperation particularly fruitful and strengthens the combined impact. This impact is enhanced by the fact that all output will be disseminated widely: digitally (video’s, podcasts), in writing (a special issue of the Reinvention journal) and physically (in seminars and in meetings).
Put together, the project activities will not only strengthen the quality and relevance of the education in the participating institutions, and existing and aspiring LAS colleges, but also of higher education as a whole. The Dutch experience with University Colleges, for instance, demonstrates the spill-over effect of broad bachelor programmes and an emphasis on teaching excellence and undergraduate research to higher education as a whole. In doing so, this project will ultimately benefit young Europeans via offering them an education that opens their hearts and their minds, and expands their horizon beyond compare.
Current ECOLAS Initiatives
Joint activities of ECOLAS members are planned and run as part of various projects administered by liberal arts programmes from varying countries based on their specific needs and suggestions. Currently, we are approaching potential sponsors for issues common to the partners including but not limited to:
- Teacher training and professional development
- Small research grants for teachers
- Undergraduate research opportunities
- Faculty and student exchanges
- Accreditation and organisational consultation
- Summer school
The consortium applied for EU’s Erasmus+ programme for funding in the beginning of 2015. Its members are welcome to participate.
LLP Erasmus Multilateral Project: ECOLAS – Service and Certification Institute for Liberal Arts & Sciences Colleges in Europe (2007 – 2010)
By combining the size of the Oxbridge colleges and adopting a Liberal Arts & Sciences program, project partners have succeeded in improving both the quality of the bachelor programs in their universities as well as the number of successful graduates. They have received many questions for assistance from other European universities, who, as a result of the so called Bologna agreement, are prepared to build the same type of college. The three colleges have the expertise with respect to programming and organization, but lack the funds to actually assist these universities. The universities themselves, most of them being located in Central and Eastern Europe, have too little financial means to pay for these activities. As mobility and comparability in European higher education is an important policy goal, the consortium ECOLAS hopes that funds will be made available through the LLP. The objectives included (1) establishment of Liberal Arts & Sciences Colleges throughout Europe, (2) the construction of a Liberal Arts & Sciences certificate and (3) a campaign to put the liberal arts program on the list of accreditation committees throughout the EU member countries. The impact will be improvement of undergraduate university education throughout Europe.
Coordinator: Bratislava International School of Liberal Arts (BISLA)
Partners: Stichting Roosevelt Academy, Middelburg Netherlands; European Colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Vesalius college vzw, Brussels, Belgium; Faculty of Humanities, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic; New Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria; University of Hradec Králové