Dutch Directness

I have wanted to write something about “Dutch Directness” for a while, the phrase was introduced to us at orientation week and I hadn’t taken it too seriously until I witnessed it first hand. It has been one of the biggest adjustments for me.  Students are encouraged (and given grades) on expressing their opinions and judgements on other student’s work.  Maastricht University takes “constructive criticism” to a whole new level.  To give you a background on how the classes work, students are put into groups and every week you make a presentation in front of your class.

When a QUT student is presenting, questions and feedback are generally light hearted and supportive, after all they are being assessed there is enough pressure and nerves without fellow students adding to it. At Maastricht it is a dog eat dog world, questions are flung at the student presenters with no mercy, “Why didn’t you address this theory?”, “I don’t think your idea is feasible”, “Well, at least your English is improving”, “I didn’t like the colour of PowerPoint slides” (I make no exaggeration theses are all statements made in my class).  As the type of person who doesn’t enjoy confrontation, I found this really difficult to deal with and at times upsetting.  I was lucky enough to not be on the receiving end of these attacks, I had generally received good feedback and minimal criticism on my work, that was until Monday…  Now I can officially say it is not the nicest feeling in the world.

While I think the idea behind this “honesty” is to prepare students for the “real world” where clients will criticise, the problem with this in a classroom setting is it doesn’t allow a positive learning environment where students can feel free to make mistakes and ask questions, and trust me it does nothing for building comradery between students.

To those students coming to Maastricht, you had better grow some thick skin!  For any European students coming to QUT, you might want to ease up on the “feedback” if you intend on making any friends…. Just being direct;)