Een portretfoto van docente Serena Daalmans voor de ingang van het Maria Montessorigebouw
Een portretfoto van docente Serena Daalmans voor de ingang van het Maria Montessorigebouw

The educational passion of Serena Daalmans

As a counterpart to 'educational burdens', each month we invite a Radboud lecturer to talk about their educational passion. This month, Serena Daalmans, associate professor at the Communication Science programme, tells us what energises her in teaching.

Where do you find your educational drive?

‘As a student, I was inspired to pursue a career in education during the third year of my bachelor's degree. I was enrolled in the course ‘Theories on media messages’. My then lecturer and later colleague, Addy Weijers, stood there talking about his subject with so much passion and love that I thought: I want that too! I went on to do a PhD and always had a substantial teaching job as well. I found that incredibly fun and inspiring. The meaningful connections you make with students is one of the reasons why I enjoy teaching so much. Another reason is that I find the subjects I teach about incredibly interesting myself. And when the subject ‘connects’ with students and the penny drops, that's pure gold.'

Which teaching moment has always stayed with you?

‘The master’s thesis students I supervise in my masterclass always bring a wide variety of topics to the table. Every year it is exciting to see whether they will become a team that stimulates, challenges, helps, and supports each other during their graduate research and everything that accompanies it, which is the ultimate goal of our masterclasses. And so far, that has happened every single year, without exception. The moment it happens might differ, but it does happen. That moment, when they form a ‘real’ team and tackle the task of graduating together, is magical. Me being allowed to be there during that moment as a sparring partner and coach is one of the most beautiful aspects of my trade. I find graduation tracks extra cool to begin with, because you get to know students more personally and see them grow and seize their potential.'

Where do you find the inspiration for your education?

‘From being in contact with students, talking to colleagues (both to lecturers as well as programme directors and student advisors), but also from talking to my friends and family. Inspiration often comes at the most unexpected moments. For instance, while reading a book last holiday, my eight-year-old daughter loudly concluded that old women in fairy tales are always evil. Like witches, for example. 'And old men are always wise and helpful', she remarked. Two weeks later, I used that anecdote during the orientation week while giving a lecture on group representation on television. There, we see exactly the same pattern.'

What is your favourite educational approach?

‘At our programme, we work based on an autonomy-supporting vision of education and I consequently apply that in my teaching. In my own courses, that usually works by setting clear boundaries combined with freedom of choice for the student when elaborating. I also try to make use of topical examples from the media and I facilitate regular moments of interaction and application to embed knowledge more deeply.'

What tips do you have for other lecturers?

‘Always be honest and authentic! That way you can always keep feeding your educational passion. Find your own ‘academic tribe’, a group of colleagues who you can always lean on – colleagues who will help, criticise, stimulate, inspire, and support you. And let yourself be inspired by (interacting with) your students!’

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