In the words of a lecturer - Rianne van Melik

Rianne van Melik, associate professor of Social Geography. has been identified by students as one of the best lecturers they have had in their programme. In an interview, she explains what it means to be a good lecturer and shares tips and tricks.

What do you think makes you a good teacher?

"I have two core principles: personal and collective education. I make teaching personal by not just getting to know my students' names, but really trying to understand who they are and how they would like to develop. At the same time, I make it personal by using my own story and experiences in my teaching. When it comes to specific theoretical concepts, I translate them into how they play a role in my own life and that also inspires students that the concepts we study are very close to us."

"Education is also something that you do together. In some of my courses I go on excursions to cities with my students. But it doesn't stop there; an excursion like this does not mean that I walk through the city with the students and explain to them how the theory fits into practice, but rather I put the ball in the student's court. They have to tour me and the other students around, or have to contact organisations themselves, for example to arrange an interview."

What could other teachers apply in their own course?

"Moving education outside the lecture halls helps very well to create personal and collective education. This is of course easier at the MSc level, but I also do this at the BSc level and this is certainly possible. It does require good preparation for the student: for example, I ask them to make a research plan or neighbourhood report in preparation for the fieldtrip. I also use coaching sessions with the various groups of students to guide them in taking ownership in these less conventional forms of education. At the same time, these sessions are also ideal for me to be able to sit together with each specific group of six students and get to know each other better personally."

"You can also emphasize the personal by giving students more autonomy in what they want to study. For example, I supervise a student whose family member is disabled; this student is now researching the accessibility of the city for people who are less mobile. Getting to know each other better also helps to understand and explore where students can get their intrinsic motivation from."

Onderwijsprijzen voor Rianne van Melik en Matthijs Moorkamp

How did you come up with these ideas?

"I started as a lecturer at Utrecht University and there I enrolled in a course in which excursions already took place, but in a more traditional way with the lecturers showing students around. When I came to work in Nijmegen in 2012, students were already given more ownership, but I continued to optimise this and link it to the appropriate didactic teaching methods, so that we can give students more and more ownership."

From whom have you learned the most in terms of teaching? What is their core lesson that you would pass on to other lecturers?

"I started as a student at University College Utrecht (UCU). There I was taught social geography by Rob van der Vaart and Jan van Weesep, who sparked my love for geography and really inspired me to enter this field. Their most important lesson, however, which also filters through in my approach, is that education is about talking with the student instead of talking to the student."