ECAL: Learning ‘Maastricht’ style
September 16, 2004 Leave a Comment
Market demand matched with unique expertise is a tested formula for success, and the Dutch have a good nose for that.
The Centre for Active Learning (ECAL), a small Maastricht-based, university-related institute was created to accommodate external demand in educational matters.
For the last 5 years, it has specialised in knowledge about learning and instruction related to organisational issues.
ECAL assists academic institutes in Maastricht and around the world in organising new learning with activities ranging from secondary to tertiary, business and post-graduate education. Maastricht University is a client on only one project which analyses how the university should adapt to changes in secondary education. For the rest, ECAL focuses on parties outside the university and is completely self-supporting, with its reputation resting on the UM image of a centre of innovation.
Maastricht University has had an enormous impact on higher education, particularly in the field of health education, where Maastricht is an important name and more and more people from around the world are trained here.
The university chose Problem Based Learning (PBL) 30 years ago and those who have been applying the methodology since are now working on its evolution. So while the basis of ECAL’s work is modern theories of learning developed worldwide, the methodology applied is generated here.
“This university is changing; it is becoming more international and more entrepreneurial and we are a good example of that change in itself. We know now there is a competitive market and we are, ready to play it with a relative success”, says Dr. Peter Bouhuijs, Director of ECAL.
The institute works primarily at secondary education in Maastricht on behalf of the Ministry of Education, the city and the school boards themselves. Its biggest project at present is on how children are placed for the various levels of secondary schools in Maastricht – a typical research study with policy implications.
ECAL just finished an ICT project with all Maastricht secondary schools in which specific materials for pupils on how to select study in formation from the Internet were developed.
Other projects include how slow learners can benefit from active learning approaches, restructuring of postgraduate-ate nursing education at the Maastricht Academic Hospital (AZM) and a post-graduate training course for all Committees on Research Ethics in Dutch hospitals.
By contributing to different UM initiatives such as summer courses at the Faculty of Medicine and development projects by Mundo in South Africa, Mozambique, Ghana, Yemen and Indonesia, ECAL works also internationally.
In that set-up, the institute is being subcontracted to provide the necessary expertise. The uniqueness of ECAL’s approach is in working on instructional or learning methodologies while taking the organisational aspects into account in more inquisitive and research-oriented than consultative activities. “Here at ECAL,” concludes Dr. Bouhuijs, “we are no preachers”.
Source: Crossroads print issue, September 2004