Larger tutorial groups in the master’s? FPN council does not like the sound of it

Larger tutorial groups in the master’s? FPN council does not like the sound of it

Council afraid PBL won't work well in larger groups


MAASTRICHT. The Faculty of Psychology and Neurosciences has had to economise for some time. During their last meeting, the faculty council considered the options for economising on education in the coming years; where can more changes be made, while maintaining the quality of education? The council was not equally happy with all of the board’s suggestions.

For example, there is the idea to increase the tutorial group sizes in the master’s to 14-15 students. This would mean that fewer tutors and tutorial group spaces are needed. That shouldn’t cause any problems for education, said Anke Sambeth, head of the Section Teaching and Innovation of Learning, who gave an explanation on behalf of the Budget Shortage Committee (Commissie Begrotingstekort). “In the master’s that I co-ordinate myself – Neuropsychology – we decided a few years ago to increase the group size from 12 to 24 students. It works fine; when necessary, we split the group up for part of the meeting, and at the end we get back together again.”

The council fears a repeat of the situation in 2015. In those days, the groups in the bachelor’s were increased from 12 to 15, also because of the cost. A year later, the board decided to reverse the decision. Doable, but not desirable, was the conclusion of the lecturers and tutors at the time. They noticed that there was less discussion and students who were naturally shy had an even more difficult time. 


“The master’s student is more mature and already has experience,” Sambeth argued. “Some students are quieter than others, but in smaller groups that is the same.” However, the council was not convinced. “Some of the master’s students come from outside Maastricht; for them problem-based learning is completely new,” said chairman Michael Capalbo (academic staff). “Small-scale education is one of the reasons why I chose Maastricht,” student council member Hannah Finklenburg added. “That is how the university characterises itself.”

Sambeth’s idea to split the group up every now and again, as is the case at Neuropsychology, also fell on deaf ears. “If you start to adapt your way of teaching, it is going to be very difficult to maintain the same quality,” academic staff member Bram Fleuren felt. Capalbo informed the board that when this point was included in the budget – over which the council has a right to approve – “chances of them being happy with the budget will decline.”

Oral exams

The council also had objections regarding other points. For example, the suggestion to do oral exams in the Research Master’s of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience – “How can you keep the exams fair when everyone gets a different question?” – or to give a maximum number of teaching hours to every master’s. The idea to replace the formal work placement contracts with a simple form, on the other hand, was received with cheering from the academic personnel.

Author: Cleo Freriks

Photo: Monstera via Pexels

Tags: FPN,budget,budget cuts,council,pbl,tutorial groups,economising,shortage,master's,bachelor's

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