Portret van Gerry van der Kamp-Alons op de campus
Portret van Gerry van der Kamp-Alons op de campus

The educational passion of Gerry van der Kamp-Alons

As a counterpart to educational burdens, we invite a Radboud lecturer each month to talk about their educational passion. This month, Gerry van der Kamp-Alons, associate professor of International Relations, talks about what energises her in her teaching.

Where do you find your educational drive?

I suspect that it is part of my nature. I have always been a curious person and happily explain things when people ask me something. At our university, I thoroughly enjoy exchanging knowledge with the younger generations. For example, in a first-year course such as Academic Skills, it is amazing to see how students go through a steep learning curve in just six months' time. For me, that is about more than transferring knowledge and skills. For me, a course is not simply 'successful' if the majority of students have successfully completed it. It is a process that feeds my educational passion: talking to students, during which I gain new insights and am made to think for myself; working together to find solutions when things are not going as well as they would like for some students and doing my bit to create a pleasant learning environment.'

Which moment has always stayed with you?

What I would like to mention here is not so much a specific teaching moment, but a comment made by a student in a course evaluation that has stuck with me. For years, I have been teaching the course International Organisations, which revolves around international governance in areas such as security, development and environment. In the evaluation of this course, a student said that after taking the course, he had a much better understanding of international sections in the media and was now well versed in discussing them with others. What more could you wish for as a lecturer?'

Where draw inspiration from for your education?

Very much from current affairs. I teach courses in the field of political science, especially international relations. This is a field that is always on the move and where current developments lend themselves well to practical application of the more abstract theories that characterise the field together with students. International conflicts, for example, such as the war between Russia and Ukraine, raise questions that you can analyse on the basis of theorisation in international relations. What different explanations can be given for the actions of Russia and Ukraine? What kind of reactions would theoretically be possible from the European Union or the United Nations, and how do we explain what they do in practice?'

What is your favourite educational approach?

An interactive approach where it is not only about the presentation of my lecture, but also about exchanges with and between students. Of course, what is possible also depends on the teaching format. We do not have the manpower within the programme to use working groups for every course, but even in my lectures I try to create as much interaction as possible and let students work on smaller assignments and cases. In my maths teacher's classroom, a saying by Confucius used to hang on the wall: 'I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand'. I try to keep this motto in mind when I design my teaching. By shaping all three components in a course, you not only contribute to an effective learning experience, but students also achieve learning objectives that require high order thinking, such as analysing, evaluating and creating like in Bloom's taxonomy.'

What tips do you have for other lecturers?

Actively ask for feedback yourself. Even if you feel like your teaching is running smoothly, it is refreshing to have colleagues or experts from the Teaching and Learning Centre take a look at or critique your course design or teaching format. In addition to written/digital course evaluation, conduct panel discussions with students to evaluate your course. It often leads to pleasant conversations that are valuable for both lecturers and students.' 

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