Hogeschool van Amsterdam

Frankfurt launches Experimental Learning Labs for peer learning

15 Aug 2019 15:40 | Communication

The Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences (Frankfurt UAS) is introducing the concept for “Experimental Learning Labs”. Based on a design thinking approach this method supports multidisciplinary teacher teams in developing creative methods and solutions for the successful implementation of their degree programs. The Labs aim to enhance collaboration and interaction of teacher teams, since collective team agency has an effect on the quality of education and study success of students.

Higher education institutions are not always ideal settings for their teaching staff to work on educational concepts and training methods and adjust the course contents and modules to the learners’ interests. The Frankfurt UAS would like to tap and improve its existing potential by relying on the experience of two researchers from its U!REKA partner institution Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS).

Accompanied by Dr. Daniël van Middelkoop und Dr. Peter Horsselenberg, a team from Frankfurt will go through an Experimental Learning Lab. The concept of Experimental Learning Labs was first published in 2015. Since then it has been constantly improved on the basis of multiple successfully implemented labs in schools and colleges in the Netherlands and beyond. The close collaboration of both institutions within the U!REKA alliance has fostered this interinstitutional best-practice transfer.

Pilot project

The pilot "Experimental Learning Lab" will be carried out with a team of ten staff members engaged in the master’s degree Barrier-Free Systems (Barrierefreie Systeme - BaSys). Simultaneously, the two researchers from Amsterdam will qualify two university staff members from Frankfurt, Dr. Sabrina Engelmann (BeSt /Department for Strategy Advise: Teaching and Learning) and Saida Kattouf (Competence Campus) as trainers for the Labs. After successful completion, the trainers will be skilled to instruct other teaching teams at Frankfurt in close collaboration with the Human Resources department.

Boosting collaboration

Having staff qualified to support the work of teacher teams in the future will be a benefit for the institution: “We can think of many areas were Experimental Learning Labs can deliver important impulses and support, for instance the continuous evolution of curricula or the development of new and often interdisciplinary learning content” states Sabrina Engelmann.

Saida Kattouf adds: “This method was designed to support teaching staff by enabling better collaboration. Teams will be accompanied on their way to a structured approach to course development.” After the pilot lab both of them will be qualified to apply the method of the Experimental Learning Labs with other teams and to share their knowledge with Frankfurt’s HR department.

Next steps

The BaSys teacher teams will pass through three stages over the course of one academic year: First the teams will develop a shared vision for the degree programme. The vision will be translated into concrete measures to be implemented in the curriculum and the pedagogical units of the degree programme. Next, the teams select and implement a series of self-selected interventions designed to influence the content of the degree courses, but also the team work itself. Finally, evaluating the outcomes of these interventions, the teams will enhance curriculum and didactic methods throughout the learning labs.

Experimental Learning Labs encourage teams to regularly and continuously discuss the progress of the goals they have set themselves as a team and to engage in continuous cycle of improvement. Team members learn to appreciate and utilise each other’s strengths and develop their sense of a shared responsibility.