Albert Vijghen and Jim Bemelen studied Econometrics together at Maastricht University, after which they both became teachers. Vijghen teaches at the School of Business and Economics (SBE) and Bemelen at Zuyd University of Applied Sciences. In addition to their jobs, they hold voluntary “quarantine sessions” with a small group of SBE students.
These sessions focus on something that, in their opinion, is missing from the curriculums of their respective institutions: “Learning how to learn”, says Bemelen over Zoom. “It’s the most important skill you can teach your students.” As self-reflection is key to this, it plays a major role in the programme. “To us, being a teacher is about more than just teaching students theoretical knowledge.”
Four students from Vijghen’s tutor group have attended the sessions over the past few weeks. He says they deliberately kept the group small. “Learning well requires an open atmosphere, which can be created most easily with a small group.” They hold two sessions per week. Vijghen and Bemelen also tell the students about their own learning processes. “On Monday morning, we have thirty minutes to discuss what the group would like to work on that week. On Friday, we hold a longer session to reflect on this.”
How does their method work? “Instead of delving deeply into academic content, we discuss topics that play a role in everyone’s life, like sleep, love, exercise and nutrition”, says Vijghen. “Every week, we discuss a relevant theory. When talking about sleep, for example, we discuss wind-down routines: yoga, a short phone call to someone you love, no electronic devices an hour before bedtime. You won’t know what works for you until you try it. We try things and reflect on them together during the sessions. Improving yourself just a little bit every day results in a large change over time.”
Vijghen and Bemelen didn’t come up with the theories they discuss, which is precisely the strength of their programme, they say. Vijghen in particular has been collecting this kind of information for years, compiling it in “simplistic” handouts. “We help students think critically about it. Who knows? Maybe it works for them.”