Educated Guesses seeks to take guessing out of education

Eindhoven University of Technology

A new TU/e podcast series that seeks to understand how learning and education have evolved, has just been launched. Educated Guesses, which is hosted by Barry Fitzgerald and Oded Raz, focuses on various aspects of education, including stimulating and improving learning by students. The first season, which is made up of six episodes, is now online.

Oded Raz. (Photo: Bart van Overbeeke).

Pursuing a dream

"This has been a dream that I've been thinking about, and trying to make a reality for the last couple of years," says Oded Raz, associate professor in the department of Electrical Engineering, in relation to TU/e's new education podcast series Educated Guesses.

"I had the idea to create an education podcast after I got involved in editorial writing with Cursor where I found an outlet to write about my experiences as a teacher," adds Raz. "We need to understand education and learning at the fundamental level. The best way to do this is to talk to people who work on the methodology of education and how we learn."

Teacher at heart

Raz, who leads the Electro-Optical Communication Group at TU/e, might be a successful researcher, but from the very start of his scientific career, he's also been a teacher. "I started teaching very early on as an undergraduate student. I've been teaching now for almost 30 years. When I think about it now, that's a long time!"

"At TU/e, I've had some very interesting teaching experiences, such as teaching on technical subjects in my field, but also on courses such as the ethics of engineering," says Raz. "And in my teaching, I have gained a lot of inspiration from big and small moments during interaction with students in the classroom. It's these interactions that have motivated my writing and the drive to make this podcast."

Barry Fitzgerald (Photo: Bart van Overbeeke).

The team-up

Raz might have had the big idea, but making it a reality required some outside assistance. "I had this ambition to make a podcast. If I did it alone, I might have struggled. I needed to find someone to join me on the podcast adventure, a co-host for the series who could also contribute on the content side"

Cue an e-mail in December 2020, at the height of the pandemic, from Oded Raz to Barry Fitzgerald, Science Communication Officer at TU/e. "I had worked with Barry on the promotion of my research in news articles and also on a podcast episode for a different series. I liked working with Barry, and felt that there was good chance for collaboration," notes Raz.

The e-mail from Raz was met by enthusiasm by Fitzgerald. "During my years as a postdoctoral researcher, I taught courses in physics and numerical modeling at a number of universities, including TU/e. So, education is something that I'm passionate about. When I received Oded's e-mail, I was instantly interested in being part of the podcast," says Fitzgerald.

Over the past two years, Fitzgerald has been producing the English-language podcast Science is here, which focuses on research stories from TU/e. "I like producing and hosting podcasts, and it's great to make podcasts on different topics such as research and education. You're always learning when making podcasts, and the best way to do this is by working with other people on podcasts."

Covid delay

The pair had hoped to release the podcast sooner, but the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the release of the podcast on numerous occasions. "While we succeeded in finding guests for the episodes, it was often difficult to find the time to interview them. And then to do the all-important post production for the episodes," says Fitzgerald.

Nevertheless, Raz and Fitzgerald have crafted a six-episode first season that covers various topics such as attention in the classroom, challenge-based learning, and acknowledging excellence in education.

And the pair are already planning for the second season. "We are looking for new guests for the coming seasons. We are looking for historians and researchers on motivation. And we want to speak to people on blended learning, as well as the future of online teaching," says Raz.

With the podcast launching this week, the final word must go to Raz. "I'm very excited about this new podcast series. It's great to be sharing these discussions with the wider educational community. I hope that this podcast can serve to drive conversation and collaboration on innovating education."

Overview of episodes in Season 1

Episode 1 is with an introduction to the new podcast series with co-hosts Barry Fitzgerald and Oded Raz, where they discuss the aims of the podcast, and talk about some of the themes and people featured in the series.

In episode 2 and episode 3, Fitzgerald and Raz spoke to Lilach Shalev from Tel Aviv University in Israel on the topic of attention. How is it possible to sustain attention? What is attention? And how can educators keep students listening in the classroom?

For episode 4 and episode 5, the pair chat with Mark Nichols, who is one of the pioneers of Challenge-Based Learning (CBL), which he worked on during his days in the Apple classroom. This episode has an important link to TU/e as many educators at TU/e are implementing CBL in their classrooms.

And in episode 6, two Dutch Teachers of the Year from TU/e - Johanna Höffken (2020 winner) and Reinoud Lavrijsen (2022 winner) - talk about their education approaches at TU/e.

You can also listen to all episodes on Spotify.

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