Joud Alkorani
Joud Alkorani

The educational passion of Joud Alkorani

As a counterpart to educational burdens, we invite a Radboud lecturer each month to talk about their educational passion. This month, Joud Alkorani, Assistant Professor of Islam, Politics, and Society, talks about what energises her in teaching.

Where do you find your educational drive?  

'I think it comes from recalling my own experiences as a student – the thrill of learning something new, feeling my world expand as a result. The memory of a class discussion sparking a new line of inquiry, an assigned reading completely upending an otherwise rooted idea, an assignment shedding light on the significance of concepts and theories beyond the classroom. To think (and hope) that I now have the ability (and responsibility) to provide my students these meaningful learning experiences, as my lecturers did for me, is exciting and motivating – it can also sometimes be scary!'

Which moment has always stayed with you?  

'Probably the first time I gave a lecture. I was a teaching assistant for a course, but my work was supposed to only entail grading. When some unexpected travel came up, my course instructor asked me to fill in for him, leaving me with no guidance but a page of almost illegible scribbled notes – two days before class! It was a topic that was entirely beyond my expertise, but I prepared as well I could and gave it my best shot. When the time came, I was surprised at how natural it felt. I was not nervous – my words and ideas flowed, and I could see students grasp the points I was trying to make. Later that week, the course instructor forwarded an email a student had sent him describing me as an excellent teacher. It was an incredibly rewarding and affirming first teaching experience.'

Where do you find the inspiration for your education?  

'I am an anthropologist by training, and so for me, everyday life is the main resource for teaching inspiration. I use examples that my students are familiar with to help them understand things that they may be less acquainted with. For instance, we explore how the self-discipline needed to go to the gym, before dawn, on a cold winter day is similar (or different) to that Muslims develop through their five daily prayers, or in their practice of memorizing the Quran. This is one illustration of my attempt to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar, as anthropologists like to put it.' 

What is your favourite educational approach?  

'Also inspired by my background as an anthropologist, I like to offer students a range of perspectives on an issue or idea while trying to avoid definitively identifying one as the “correct one.” While this is certainly not manageable (or ethical) on all topics, I see the classroom as a place to be introduced to the wide range of human experience, rather than a place to establish a singular narrative for how to be in the world. I find this to be a challenging but valuable method.'

What tips do you have for other lecturers? 

'Humor goes a long way! It can not only wake up those students who may be falling asleep in the back during an early morning class, but also disarm a prejudice, serve as a memorable example, and drive a point home. A little laughter can lighten the mood during serious discussions and may unsettle, if for a moment, the hierarchies of the classroom in productive ways. A joke can also be educational in its own right.'

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