Increasing Awareness of TU Berlin and Actively Shaping Change

The second teaching retreat of Faculty V – Mechanical Engineering and Transport Systems focused on future projects for school students and integrating social challenges into curricula

The retreat was organized by Dr. Mareen Derda, vice dean of academics and equal opportunities, and Christine Krejci, advisor for studies and teaching. A graphic recording was also made of the event by Janina Göbel from the Strategic Teaching Development Team. She met with the organizers to ask them about what motivated them as well as their impressions of the retreat.

Faculty V’s teaching retreat took place for the second time on 19 May 2022. It focused on shaping change and addressing social challenges in teaching and learning. What was your motivation when organizing the event and what questions did you want to explore within this area of focus?

Mareen Derda: The starting point and motivation for the event were the changes to the General Study and Examination Regulations at TU Berlin (AllgStuPO, in particular Section 44 (3)) and the fall in the number of students applying for our programs in recent years. Both of these situations require a revision of the curricula. Our programs have to adapt to the constantly changing requirements of the working world. Our curricula need to provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in their careers and to be able to react to changes in their professional fields. Competent use of modern information and communication technology must be continuously developed and expanded as part of our programs. We also need to link curricula to current and future social challenges such as sustainability and diversity. We want to actively shape this change working together with the faculty’s instructors Integrating socially relevant topics will also serve to make our programs more attractive. The teaching retreat initiated a discussion about how we can actually do this.

However, the most attractive and future-oriented programs count for nothing if there is no one to study in them. This is why we also chose to focus on projects for school students. Some of the faculty’s work in this area has regrettably been put on hold recently, in part due to the impact of the pandemic and in part to funding issues. To get these projects back up and running and develop them so as to raise the profile of our programs among school students was another goal of the retreat.

The first retreat back in 2019 focused on improving teaching and studying at Faculty V. Was this year’s event a continuation of this or a new start after the “coronavirus semesters?”

Christine Krejci: A faculty retreat focusing exclusively on teaching was the long-term goal from the outset. The first retreat focused on the results of our internal reviews of degree programs: What can we improve and what new paths can we explore together as a faculty? As Mareen already explained, the second retreat focused more on the future: How can we shape our curricula to better reflect current topics such as sustainability, diversity, ethics, and digitalization? What do we need to do as a faculty to attract more students to our programs?

Mareen Derda: Discussions about how to improve teaching are and will remain a focus in the future too - both across the University and at Faculty V. As such, I see the second retreat as a continuation of the first. During the early stages of the pandemic, a lot of work also went into organizing and designing courses, perhaps more than is usually the case, but with a different focus. Throughout this period, the focus was primarily on what format could be used to offer classes. Now it is time to broaden our view again.

How was the idea of a teaching retreat received at the faculty? Were there difficulties in preparing for it?

Christine Krejci: The idea came about fairly suddenly and was well received by everyone from the beginning. In addition to professors, the faculty’s research associates as well as representatives from the various student representative committees were invited to take part. In the end, about 60 people actually attended.

Mareen Derda: I think the instructors in Faculty V felt and continue to feel a real need to discuss and share their experiences and ideas with each other. I was very happy to see that the make-up of participants was very diverse and included professors, research associates and students. This was something very important for us. The attractiveness and design of study programs must always be considered and discussed from both sides - learners and teachers.

You said that the event focused on making degree programs more attractive and gaining new students. Were best practice examples presented as possibilities for attracting applicants?

Mareen Derda: Yes, best practice examples were presented, such as labs and initiatives for school students. Among these, of course, was the “Roberta” project, which is currently being revised and further developed as “INGenius” under Nadine Klein. I was also able to provide a small insight into effectiveness research on school student labs by briefly presenting some of the results of my dissertation. In addition, the faculty’s plans for expanding its participation at fairs and information events for students were explained. And I was delighted by the contribution from Ulrike Kretzmer, head of the Educational Outreach Office, on the subject of projects to attract school students. Now it is a question of building on what we have started!

Christine Krejci: As Mareen said at the start of the interview, we can make our programs more attractive for future students by integrating current challenges such as digitalization, sustainability, diversity, and ethics. However, we have to use the strategies listed above to make school students aware of our programs and what we offer.

One of the impulse talks was titled “Challenges of the new AllgStuPO” – what was this about? And were there any conclusions or ideas about how to deal with these challenges?

Christine Krejci: This talk was given by the University’s new vice president for education, Christian Schröder, and led to a very lively discussion. As already explained, the main focus of the retreat was the new Section 44 (3) in the General Study and Examination Regulations, which, in addition to good scientific practice, deals primarily with social responsibility and sustainable development.

Mareen Derda: Through the necessary revisions to the study and examination regulations (StuPOs) for our individual degree programs, we want to incorporate topics such as sustainability, diversity, ethics, and digitization even more strongly into our modules and programs. We already have some ideas abut how to implement these topics into our curricula, and these were presented at the retreat by Faculty V’s advisor for studies and teaching André Schelewsky. However, the retreat represents just the start of this process, as it is important to us to actively involve the faculty’s instructors. We will continue to discuss this topic together.

How would you describe the mood among the participants at the retreat?

Mareen Derda: I felt the participants were motivated and open to discussions and new ideas. Of course, there were also some critical questions, which are always good for enlivening debate. During the workshops, participants openly discussed the current conditions of their own courses as well as future-oriented approaches to solutions. It was also clear that work has only just begun and that there is still much to do.

Christine Krejci: Returning to an in-presence format after such a long time and having the chance to catch up with colleagues in the breaks was also positively received.

What surprised you personally? Were there any ideas and topics that were completely new? Was there anything that changed or sharpened your focus?

Mareen Derda: I was positively surprised by the fact that there is generally a lot of commitment in the faculty for projects with school students - even though this takes place "parallel to the real work" and is neither centrally recorded nor rewarded. At this year's Girls Day, seven out of the eight workshops at TU Berlin were offered by Faculty V. This is something I am very proud of, but I would also like to be able to actually reward the Faculty’s staff for their efforts. They should be paid for their work, which thus far has been purely the result of intrinsic motivation.

Where do we go from here?

Mareen Derda: To continue the discussions we began, we invited participants to take part in a think tank. Working together, we want to use this to look for approaches to teaching to integrate topics such as diversity, sustainability, ethics and social responsibility alongside digitization and internationalization more strongly into the faculty's programs. Six hybrid events are planned for this year and we look forward to lively discussions. We would like to take this opportunity to invite all staff at Faculty V to attend.

Interview: Janina Göbel