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Mentor Instruction

Subject: History of Ideas. Project: Mentor instruction at the History of Ideas with focus on the courses: The History of Philosophical Ideas, The History of Judaeo-Christian Ideas and Studium Generale; General Studies. Study level: Bachelor 1st semester. Class size: approx. 25.

Motivation for the activity

The Study Environment Survey in 2011 showed problems with loneliness, lack of contact between year groups, lack of academic integration and poorly functioning study groups. At the same time, the students’ experience a need for more focus on communication, more textual teaching and for supervision in written exercises. See also a longer version at the bottom of the page.

Central learning outcomes for the activity

  • Academic integration
  • Introduction to working in study groups
  • Training in reading texts and writing assignments in the history of ideas, mutual feedback

The objective of the project is to make it easier for students of the history of ideas who are in their first semester to meet other students across year groups via a focused effort with didactics and educational theory. This will also increase their feeling of belonging to a greater community on the degree programme, as well as increasing the number of hours used directly on the degree programme. In addition, the project has the objective of contributing to a common and constructive discussion of the problems referred to.

Description of the activity

Joint workshops: Joint workshops every other Wednesday where the immediate objective has been to help lay the foundation for well-functioning study groups. Mentors have each been assigned to one of the first year's 10 study groups and have:

  •  facilitated alignment of expectations between the group members (on the first workshop)
  • made sure that breakaways from study groups are placed in other study groups
  • talked to each of the study groups about their goals and how they have or can be used

Concurrently with these activities, the objective of the workshops has been to give the new students an early insight into what are for beginners, slightly diffuse and very intangible academic skills.That is done by reading texts with different focus (a political history of ideas text, a classical philosophical text, a philosophical history of ideas text used to provide perspective on the remainder of the syllabus), where the mentors have performed student teacher-like instruction based on group work and a little plenum start or summing-up.

Independent meetings between mentor and the study group: The mentors have regularly participated in study group meetings with the group they have been affiliated with and they have participated in text discussions and supervision of written exercises.

Writing workshop: In continuation of the work from the Wednesday workshops the mentors participated in a writing training workshop that was held by student teachers employed on the Studium Generale; General Studies course. Here the mentors discussed the written exercises with the groups - performance, important focus points etc.

Assignment café: Later in December the mentors and groups meet for an assignment café where they discuss the first semester's assignment in the History of Philosophical Ideas I, which is the first written exam. For example "What are the key elements of the text?", "Which secondary literature can you lean on" and "How should the concept be interpreted?"

Outcome of the activity

The formal evaluations follow after the semester is completed, but an informal survey among the participants says:

  • Greater academic awareness
  • Better integration between year groups
  • Ensuring that everyone who wishes is part of a study group
  • Greater understanding of how to communicate the subject in writing
  • Better qualified academic discussion in the study groups
  • Closer affiliation to the subject.



Simone Sefland Pedersen, Department of Culture and Society, History of Ideas, student teacher and supervisor