T5-DM1-2 - Improving First-Year Teaching with Project-Based Learning and Support of STEM Modules

Difference Makers
Marco Winzker1 , Najat Bounif1, Claudia Luppertz1
1 Hochschule Bonn-Rhein-Sieg, University

The contribution describes experiences in managing a project in the German Teaching Quality Pact, a nationwide project running from 2011 to 2020.


To improve quality of teaching in German Higher Education the Government initiated the Teaching Quality Pact in 2011. This impulse was used to discuss possible improvements in our university. Learning analytics was employed as empirical foundation. For the engineering department, the installment of projects in the first semester was one of the measures identified.

*Program Entrepreneur*

With acquiring the project funding, staff was employed to enable the teaching innovation. New people were used to free up lecturers so that they can implement new teaching methods. This means, innovation is anchored within the existing workforce and not treated as a separate add-on. Besides projects, also other approaches could be suggested by lecturers of STEM modules. Again, this gives responsibility for improving teaching to members of the faculty. As an example, splitting up a cohort of students according to their academic performance was implemented.

An innovation friendly environment was achieved by events, like day of teaching and lecturers evening meetings. This led to adaptation of approaches from other faculties, like "study island", a place and time-slot for tutoring students.


The project will end 2020 and a center for teaching development was founded to transit from project to permanent institution. A call for workspaces was announced to give lecturers a structure for networking on new approaches for teaching. University-wide ten initiatives were founded, most of them across faculties. Topics include laboratory didactics, online labs and e-assessment. The center will also be the organizer for events, promoting exchange on teaching innovation.

The contribution will look in more detail on this transition and the lessons learned.


For sustainability, two aspects have to be distinguished.

The first aspect is establishing a network of lecturers that cooperate across faculties on new approaches for teaching. For some ideas, like using video lecturers, quizzes or writing in the disciplines it is helpful, to have the support and exchange of colleagues. They might share experience or be helpful as a "critical friend". Discussing new ideas with an open-minded person awakes enthusiasm and often is the small impulse to bring a concept into realization.

The second aspect for sustainability is teaching capacity. Most curriculum changes need lecture time and, to a certain extent, faculties can reallocate this time in a study program by changing priorities. For the engineering curriculum, the project initiated a first semester project and after some years of project funding it is now maintained, while a sixth semester project is skipped. In addition, the Government announced permanent funding for teaching as a partial replacement for the project funding. Communication of project impact and benefits for students is done, to claim part of this funding for quality of teaching and continuation of teaching formats from the project. Again, as for acquiring the project, learning analytics are employed. This effort is ongoing.