Miriam Groen-Vallinga
Miriam Groen-Vallinga

The passion for education Miriam Groen-Vallinga

In this column lecturers discuss what motivates them in education, to counter the discussion of the ‘burden of education’. This time Miriam Groen-Vallinga, assistant professor in Ancient History (Arts) and lecturer ambassador at Radboud Teaching and Learning Centre, explains what gives her energy in education.

Where do you find your educational drive? 

‘I draw energy from the interaction with students, during one-on-one conversations and in groups. It gives me a lot of satisfaction if I manage to reach all students during a lecture, for example. That includes both the student who needs some extra encouragement to complete a course on the third attempt and just wants to share their story, as well as the student who truly masters the course and wants to take it to the next level for their own research. In both cases I learn a lot from them.’ 

What moment in education has stayed with you? 

‘In my own education, for example, I think of unessay assignments, which I have used a couple of times now. Students keep amazing me. An unessay can be anything – except an essay. Until now, the results have varied from an interactive Greek tragedy to a party game about the Seleucid Empire. There are also students who have submitted truly great literary chapters based on the assignment, or who've made a computer game. It is amazing to see what other talents students have, which are hardly addressed during regular assignments. Students are not always graded for it, but you'll notice that they are extremely eager to show this side of themselves.’ 

Where do you find the inspiration for your education? 

‘With Ancient Times and the Middle Ages, there are a ton of lecture series we develop and teach in duos. That way you keep learning from each other and remain in discussion on how to keep your education dynamic. I always try to involve students in that discussion, because good and original ideas often come from them as well.’ 

What is your favourite approach in education? 

‘I do not like to often be the only one talking: you learn the most from actively using your knowledge. When students have prepared literature, I try to start a discussion by only asking a few guiding questions. Let them discuss with each other. That doesn't always work, but when it does, you see students rise above themselves. Those moments are what it is all about for me.’ 

What tips do you have for lecturers? 

‘Do not be afraid to try something new for once. Students often enjoy actively being involved in new modes of instruction. And if it doesn't work, there is always a next time.’ 

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