Portretfoto van Liesbet Veenstra

The educational passion of Liesbet Veenstra

As a counterpart to 'educational burdens', each month we invite a Radboud lecturer to talk about their educational passion. This month, Liesbet Veenstra, associate professor of Statistics and Research Methodology at the Communication Studies programme, tells us what energises her in teaching.

Where do you find your educational drive?  

‘My drive emerged when, as a third-year Educational Science student, I was allowed to teach statistics work groups and practicums. I was good at statistics, but there I discovered that I could also explain the learning materials well and that I had a lot of fun helping fellow students. It was beautiful, to see in students’ eyes when the penny dropped. Reaching that moment together with students is what still motivates me to this day. I never stopped teaching statistics. You could say that I found my passion early on.’ 

What moment in education has stayed with you? 

‘During my PhD research, I researched the effects of the use of an interactive voting system in large-scale lectures. Back then, in 1998, that was quite a hassle. Smartphones did not exist yet, and a company with specialised equipment had to come to the lecture hall for my experiment. Years later I used Mentimeter during my lectures for the first time. Totally in line with my dissertation, I combined that with Peer Instruction, because then you'd have the largest effect on learning.’ 

‘I remember the excitement I felt when projecting the QR code. I had no idea how that worked. I did not own a smartphone yet but guessed that it would be a piece of cake for students. I remember the sight of all those phones raised in the air in order to scan the code, the murmur, and the curiosity in the hall when the graphs in Mentimeter would move. And I remember my own feelings when a lecture hall full of students actually started to have mutual discussions. At that moment, I had no idea what to do, because I was not used to letting go of the reigns during a lecture.’ 

Where do you find the inspiration for your education? 

‘From students and my colleagues. During conversations with students or course evalutions, I always ask for tips on how to improve my education. That results in great and interesting insights. I also enjoy talking to my colleagues about education. Every month, we discuss education-related topics during a lunch meeting, for example. I also have a teaching buddy. That is a colleague with who I exchange experiences for a whole year and whose education I may glance at (and cheat off). Finally, I like to visit meetings organised by SURF, TIP, or the TLC, for example. For the RU Education Days, I always clear my schedule as well.’ 

What is your favourite approach in education? 

‘The approach varies, but the starting point does not. I am a big supporter of autonomy-supporting education. I find it important that students can individually choose how to navigate through my courses, but they also need to feel supported in doing so. That is why I often make use of flipped classrooms. That means I have replaced my lectures with educational clips and an online forum. Moments of contact on campus are used for extra supervision, a deeper look at the study material, questions, and feedback.’ 

What tips do you have for lecturers? 

‘Cheat! Not only talk to your colleagues about education but be sure to check them out too. Every now and then, visit an (online) workshop that is out of the box for you. It can broaden your vision on education and who knows, maybe different puzzle pieces suddenly fit together very nicely at a later moment.’ 

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