[no]WURries: from fellow student to supervisor

‘As student-assistant I’ll supervise fellow-students. How to deal with this new role?’

Be clear

‘You already imply this is a case of changing roles. So be clear about it with the students: state at the start of the practical that you are there to teach and that you are in charge of content and assessment. Afterwards it’s fine to have a beer together.

Of course it might happen that you end up failing someone, but if you’ve been clear about the criteria and in your support, then that grade is a reflection of the student’s effort. Experience shows that everyone respects that. And if not, they wouldn’t be very nice drinking mates anyway. Enjoy being a student assistant!’

Peter van den Berg, Biology teacher ELS

Be yourself

‘Your students probably feel a bit embarrassed too. So be open and honest. There’s nothing wrong with showing that you’re finding this new hierarchy a bit difficult, by making a joke for instance. Beyond that, I would say above all, be yourself and don’t pretend to be someone completely different. A bit of acting is part of teaching, but too much of it leads to uncomfortable situations. What does seem strange to me is that you have to grade the students. I would have thought that was the teacher’s responsibility, partly to avoid this kind of tension.’

Arie Nieuwenhuizen, Teacher of the Year 2020


‘It’s no problem that you know the students. If necessary, tell these students during the practical that you now have a professional relationship with them as a student assistant. They will probably soon notice that you know what you are doing with the experiments, and that they can learn something from you. Stay objective and communicate in a businesslike way. That will clarify the nature of your interaction with the students. It doesn’t have to influence your relationship with them in your private life.’

Carlo van Mierlo, assistant professor of Biochemistry


‘Ask the course coordinator to introduce you and any other student assistants at the start of the practical. The coordinator can clarify what your role and task is on the course, so that your students know where they are right from the start.’

Saskia van Marrewijk, educational support staff

Assessment criteria

‘During a practical it is important that students perform experiments correctly and safely. If you were selected to be a student assistant, you must be a talented student who is very capable of handling this responsibility. I think student assistants have an advantage over more senior lecturers, as they can relate to the students more easily; they know better which bits are challenging for the students and where they need some extra explanation. The grading can indeed be tricky. Ask the coordinator for a grading guide (rubric) that makes the criteria for each grade explicit. That way you will be sure to give an objective grade. Alternatively, ask to be assigned to a group without any of your friends. 

Jessica Vervalle, teacher

Next WURry: As a non-Dutch-speaking researcher in my group I feel left out and alone, what to do?

Do you have any suggestions for this Wurrier? Or could you use some good advice yourself? Email your tips or question (100 words max) by 10 June to resource@wur.nl, subject line:  noWUrries.

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