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Victor Gijsbers new fellow of Leiden University Teachers’ Academy

Victor Gijsbers, university lecturer in Philosophy, has been chosen as a fellow of the Leiden University Teachers' Academy. Over the next five years and with €25,000 to spend, he will be looking for a new interpretation of the Philosophy of Science for Humanities course. ‘Treating a tough and abstract subject in a way that fascinates, and that also teaches you something, is what I am committed to.’

Victor Gijsbers: ‘I like to give interactive lectures.’

Being able to tell his story to students is one of Gijsbers' favourite things about being a lecturer. ‘Actually, you are kind of giving a performance, in order to make the students excited about your profession,' he says. ‘I like to give interactive lectures. Having to do something themselves during lectures ensures just that extra amount of focus among students and that is why they are immediately more involved in the lectures. But creating interactivity is of course more difficult in a lecture hall of two hundred than in a class of ten students.’

A university-wide approach

With his project plan for the Teachers' Academy, Gijsbers wants to create an innovative approach that will make his Philosophy of Science course - which almost all Humanities students take - more educational and interactive. ‘Philosophy of Science for the Humanities is of course very specific, so there are not many books or online tools to achieve this’, Gijsbers explains. ‘I think there are many more possibilities for students to work more actively with the material and I would like to find out about these during my fellowship.’

The specific content of Gijsbers' project for the Teacher's Academy focuses on the humanities, but he hopes that his approach can eventually be applied throughout the university, including teaching programmes at other faculties. Gijsbers: 'This is one of the main goals of the academy, but for me it is also a big challenge, because how do you do that exactly? Hopefully, I'll also learn a lot from other fellows, it goes both ways of course.’

No innovation purely for the sake of innovation

Gijsbers explains that in recent years he has tried quite a bit to change the structure and content of the Philosophy of Science course. With the Philosophy of the Humanities knowledge clips on YouTube, for example. The knowledge clips, that serve as an aid for students in the self-study of the Philosophy of Science course, are an integral part of the curriculum and get a good amount of views. Gijsbers also worked with the online tools Presenter's Wall (a university version of Mentimeter) and ActivelyLearn. Both tools are used to more actively involve students in the course material.

‘But when it comes to the use of specific tools in the context of educational innovation, it depends very much on which goal you want to achieve. They shouldn't just be gimmicks, so showing a clip just to show a clip, or creating a quiz just to create a quiz’, Gijsbers argues. ‘Innovation is not about the innovation itself. It's about things that are not optimal or things that form an issue that you want to improve. That goes without saying, but it's an important thing to emphasize, for the sceptics as well. The specific problem I encounter is that it is often difficult to keep everyone focused when in a large classroom. If you can use certain tools to solve that problem, that's great.’

Trial & error

When it comes to growth in his performance as a teacher, he also mentions a point for improvement. ‘During lectures, I often get pulled into the stories I tell for too long. As a lecturer, it is important to find a good balance between sending information and interaction in the classroom. It sometimes happens that I have been talking the entire time, while there should also be room for students to ask questions. Sometimes I get feedback from my students, which often happens in smaller classes and less in large lecture halls. To hear what students did or did not like or what worked well or didn’t work in a lecture, is very insightful for me.’

Lieselotte van de Ven
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