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Lecturer Hebrew Studies Martin Baasten wins 2013 LSr Teaching Prize

‘This lecturer’s aim is to challenge his students and to make sure that all of them understand the material,’ was the comment by Christel de Lange, chairman of the Leiden Student Council. Lecturer in Hebrew Studies, Martin Baasten, is the winner of the 2013 LSR Teaching Prize, the prize for the best lecturer of the year. De Lange, who is also chairman of the jury, announced the winner during the Dies Natalis on 8 February.

Attention span

‘What does a lecturer need to do to keep his students focused when they have an attention span of no more than 10 to 20 minutes?’ Christel de Lange asks in the well-filled Pieterskerk. She keeps the stress level high about who the winner is. The jury chairman, herself a student, recognises the need for lecturers to be able to pull out all the stops to keep a class of critical and well-educated students focused on the lecture. The LSR selected five candidates from almost thirty nominations who are experts in the art of keeping students focused. As well as Maartin Baasten, the lecturers nominated were Tony Foster (English), Victor Gijsbers (Philosophy), Hendrik Jan Hoogeboom (Information Science) and Maarten Kunst (Criminology).


Martin Baasten receiving the certificate and cheque for 5,000 euros that he may use for teaching purposes. Sababa Leiden, the study association that nominated hem, received 500 euros, also to be used for teaching purposes, such as organising a symposium.



Jury members from the LSR attended classes by these lectures to see for themselves how the nominees continually manage to inspire their students. ‘They are all very enthusiastic and keep their students involved by asking them lots of questions,’ De Lange says. She showed videos of all the lecturers in action. They each have their own individual style, but they also have some traits in common students praise their infectious humour, for example. Tony Foster will go so far as to do a semi-striptease to impress on students the use of the semi-colon. In Victor Gijsbers’ lectures students analyse unexpected texts such as the lyrics of a song by Lady Gaga. Humour and provocative examples are important, but the motto of all these lecturers is: the message is what’s important. ‘It’s good to be popular, but the main thing is that students absorb the material and learn to master the skills,’ is how one of the nominees recently put it in an interview on the university website.


The nominees


A further strong point of all the nominees is their ability to teach their students to adopt a critical attitude. Maarten Kunst shows his students journal images and asks questions about matters that the students cannot have seen. The idea is to set them thinking about how reliable their memories are. Martin Baasten checks how alert his students are by sometimes telling them something that is patently wrong. Students also value the way in which all the lecturers incorporate their research in their lectures. Students contribute to academic articles and have to track down solutions themselves rather than having them presented to them on a plate.


In short, all the nominees are champions, but there can only be one winner. In the opinion of the jury, Martin Baasten combines all the different elements that make up the best lecturer in the most masterly way. De Lange concludes: ‘He is a person who stimulates, inspires and encourages his students. The winner this year is able to bring together in his lectures theory and practice, current and classical events, and teaching and research. His goal is to challenge his students and to ensure that all of them learn to master the subject material!’

(8 February 2013 – LvP)

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