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Qualifications for TAs

Tutors are important pillars of university teaching. Kiel University runs a comprehensive advanced training programme called BEAT – Be A Tutor.

Kathrin Ludwig and Maria Woischwill
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Kathrin Ludwig (left) and Maria Woischwill

Starting university is not often easy: not only do new students have to find their way around the university, a lot about the teaching is also new and unfamiliar to them. This is where tutors can help. The required skills in terms of didactics and methodology can be gained through Kiel University's training programme BEAT – Be A Tutor.

There are various tutoring activities to be completed by students with teaching duties at Kiel University. Examples include planning practicals for relevant lectures, supporting new students in the laboratory and providing feedback on writing term papers. They also function as mediators between students and lecturers. “TAs or teaching assistants play an important role in university teaching,” explained Dr Kathrin Ludwig, who is responsible for the BEAT training programme together with her colleague Britta Petersen.

The programme was set up at Kiel University in 2013 to support tutors in their duties as well as further improve the quality of tutoring at the university as a whole. The programme is made up of workshops on various topics of university didactics – ranging from the fundamentals of tutoring via methodology through to digital teaching. Interdisciplinary exchange between colleagues with mutual feedback from participants is a further component. Participants receive a certificate at the end of the course.

“The workshops and feedback from other participants were really helpful and valuable,” explained teacher training student Maria Woischwill (7th semester). The 22 year old has been a text tutor for History since the winter semester 2019/2020. Among other things, she reads introductions to and drafts of term papers by first semester students and gives feedback on the writing process as well as other aspects of academic work. “The advantage for the students is that they can make changes based on my comments and avoid making formal errors,” she said. Most students are happy to receive her advice. “At the beginning, however, I was unsure how to offer criticism without it having a demotivating effect. Early on, I often asked colleagues for their advice. BEAT helped me out a lot in this respect.”

The course gave important answers to questions of how knowledge can be conveyed generally and specifically in a virtual space, how feedback can be given constructively or how to motivate students to learn. Woischwill also gained tips on combating writer's block and conducting digital teaching. “Basic knowledge on how to structure a lesson, for example, was also helpful to me as a prospective teacher.”

The programme also covered her role as mediator between students and lecturers. “If, for example, a large number of students failed to understand an assignment – which I can tell from their texts – I let the lecturers know. The lecturers can then go over the task again in a seminar,” said Woischwill. She attaches great importance to the fact that no names are mentioned in talks with teachers. “Confidentiality is maintained when referring to the students.”

According to Kathrin Ludwig, around 630 students have attended the workshops since the start of the programme and 160 certificates have been issued to date. The quality of the training was also reviewed and recognised by the German network “Tutorienarbeit an Hochschulen” (tutoring at universities) in 2019. Kiel University has even more good news: BEAT has proven so successful that Kiel University is to continue running the qualification offer for tutors specialising in quality development when the PerLe project is concluded at the end of December 2020.

Author: Jennifer Ruske

More information: www.perle.uni-kiel.de/de/quali/beat