Students who need help often do not know where to find it at their university, and research shows Fontys is no exception. 'Put the lecturer (coach) in a better position,' say student counsellor Pieternel Brughuis and lecturer and tutor Joost Maes. 'They have an important signalling function.'
'For example, it was a real eye-opener for me that DUO has so many options for students who suffer study delays due to illness or another cause,' begins lecturer/coach Joost Maes, from Fontys Child and Education in 's-Hertogenbosch.
'It's a real shame that this is not more widely known,' adds student counsellor Pieternel Brughuis. 'Sometimes I see students here who are already in their seventh or eighth year, and only then find out about it. Retrospectively, you can still arrange a lot, but I think: had they been sent to me earlier, how much stress could have been avoided?'
It is just one example of problems students can have that undermine their studies. If they are caregivers, for example, have an illness or disability, or have a condition such as ADHD or autism. Teachers sometimes don't know how to deal with these issues and, as a result, students unnecessarily delay or drop out of their studies. A timely referral to the student counsellor, in particular, would help enormously.
Hurdles during studies
Joost himself is already well aware of what to look out for in students and what to do in certain situations. Together with his colleague, he tutors an 'extended p-class' of pabo students who are in their second year of propaedeutics.
There are several issues involved and he and his co-tutor therefore asked the dean for help. 'We can help students with planning, for instance, but we are not counsellors or psychologists,' Joost explains. 'But you do have an important signalling function,' Pieternel adds.
Informing with an open mind
'They notice things,' says Pieternel. They notice if a student often misses class, is quiet or behaves differently in group work. If they spot that, they can ask what is going on. Do so with an open mind, without judgement. That is very important. If the issues are major, ask if they are already getting help and refer students to a student counsellor if the situation is causing, or may have already caused, study delays.'
Joost: 'Sometimes I literally make an appointment with the student counsellor together with a student. Although I never press the send button. The student has to do that himself, the ownership is always theirs. Pieternel: 'You have to know where your assistance stops. We also refer to professionals outside Fontys if a student needs additional help. Answering students' e-mails at eleven o'clock in the evening is really not the intention, nor is losing sleep over it.
Information in the class
Besides paying close attention to the people in your class or tutor group, it is also important to provide information in class about the options for help offered by Fontys. Because there are also young people who are completely unaware that something is wrong. Joost: "What not everyone knows, but is very nice, is that in addition to the physical walk-in consultancy, there is also a weekly online consultation hour by student counsellors, on Thursdays from one to three o'clock. That is very approachable.'
'Also tell people about the existence of the website Fontys Helps, where all kinds of information can be found and anyone can schedule an appointment directly with a student counsellor themselves,' says Pieternel. And the latter also applies to teachers, by the way. They too can schedule an appointment with a student counsellor if they want advice on how best to guide their students. Another website that comes in very handy for this: Fontys.nl/studentcoaching. Here, the teacher (coach) can find information, development opportunities and tools.
The ball is in the schools' study programmes
Despite all the support and good intentions, Pieternel and Joost also realise that Fontys still has some way to go. Research by expertise centre ECIO shows that students do not always know how to find their way to help.
Therefore, apart from the lecturer (coach), the counsellor (student dean or student psychologist), and online information, there is another party that needs to take action, Pieternel thinks: the study programmes. 'There are many that do it very well, but there are also some that are still struggling with how to deal with this issue. I can advise them to contact the consultants Dimpy Hooijmaaijers or Esther Tonnaer.'