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Students and pupils are enthusiastic about new elective

Date of news: 28 September 2021

Political science students and secondary school pupils are enthusiastic about a new elective. The course – Political Science and Education as a Profession – is part of a project by Assistant Professor of International Relations Gerry van der Kamp-Alons.

“The project has two goals”, she explains. “On the one hand, it gives students a good idea of what a career in secondary education might look like. On the other, it offers in-service training for social studies teachers and brings them into contact with each other.” Last year, that idea won her a Comenius Teaching Fellowship, a grant from the National Directorate for Educational Research intended for educational innovation.

The elective was taught twice in the most recent academic year. Students and secondary education social studies teachers designed teaching packages together under the supervision of political science lecturers and lecturers from the Radboud Teachers Academy. “During the first semester, almost all meetings took place in person. But the final piece, giving trial lessons to secondary school pupils, could not take place because of coronavirus. We rarely saw each other in person during the second semester – again because of coronavirus – but fortunately the trial lessons were able to be taught.”


Bachelor’s student Isa Emmen followed the course in the second semester. “I’d been thinking about a career in education for some time, mainly because I had a great social studies teacher myself. When I saw that this course was being taught, I immediately thought: ‘I'm going to do that!’” A good choice, she soon realised. “It was a lot of fun. The political science programme is rather abstract: you listen to a lecture and after 12 of them you take an exam. This was completely different: a small group, lots of interaction, direct contact with lecturers and a practical goal: designing lessons for secondary school pupils.”

Teaching those lessons was the highlight for Isa. “I find presenting terrifying. But the longer we worked on it, the more I wanted to teach the self-designed lesson. With two fellow students, I taught two lessons to different groups of secondary school pupils. The first lesson was a bit awkward but, after feedback from the lecturers, the second went a lot better. Because of that, I feel good when I look back on that day.”

Extra depth

Among the pupils was David Janssen, a fifth-year student at Stedelijk Gym last year. “We came with about five pupils from our school. Our social sciences teacher had told us about the lessons. He knew that we were interested and could use some extra depth. I think it’s a super-good initiative. The lessons were clearly a level higher than at school, but they were still easy to follow.”

David also enjoyed being on campus for a while. “Apart from an open day, I had never been here before. Partly because of this course, my interest in studying social sciences has grown. I’m not thinking so much of political science, but perhaps of public and organisational administration.”

Constructive feedback

According to Van der Kamp-Alons, other pupils were also enthusiastic. “We received constructive feedback. Pupils thought the themes were interesting and the content was at a good level. We’ll teach the course one more time next year, at any rate.”

Isa is not yet sure what she will do after she finishes her Bachelor’s programme, but the elective has given her a good idea of what it’s like to work in education. “It has taken me a step further in my career orientation.” Van der Kamp-Alons: “That was precisely the intention. This course is not there to recruit as many students as possible for education, but to enable students who are considering a job at a secondary school to make a well-thought-out choice.”