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Victor Gijsbers wins the 2017 Faculty Education Award

Philosophy lecturer Victor Gijsbers has been awarded the 2017 Faculty Education Award. The Faculty Education Award is given each year to the Faculty’s most inspiring lecturer. After attending one of Gijsbers’s lectures, the jury said it was impressed by his energy and dry humour.

Gijsbers was nominated for the prize by five students on his Philosophy of Science course, which is taken by almost all second-year Humanities students. The jury then attended one of Gijsbers’s lectures as part of the selection process. The jury said afterwards that they were amazed at how active Gijsbers was throughout the lecture, and that they recognised his passion for his subject.

How did you feel when you heard you had won?

Gijsbers: "I had mixed feelings – I was really happy, but at the same time disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to attend the ceremony because of a conference [the prize is traditionally awarded during the opening of the academic year – Ed.]. But the overriding emotion was happiness."

Did you always want to be a lecturer?

"To tell the truth, no. I knew early on that I wanted to do something at a university, but I hadn’t expected to discover that I enjoyed teaching. I started teaching courses on the Philosophy of Science and epistemology nine years ago, during my PhD, and as it turned out I really enjoyed it. I noticed that teaching came easily to me and that I could hold the students’ interest. Since then I have enjoyed teaching almost every single course."

You teach Philosophy of Science, which is generally considered a dull subject. How do you manage to make it interesting?

"The thing about Philosophy of Science is that there are students in the group who have no background whatsoever in philosophy. I once had a student who said, “I just want to learn a language. How is this relevant to me?” So up to a point you have to hope that students are interested in broadening their knowledge a bit. But as a lecturer I consciously try to make connections to their own subject areas, so students think, “Hmm, this is relevant to me.” Big themes such as history, cultural studies and linguistics all come up during the course."

Victor Gijsbers with the Education Award: 'I have enjoyed teaching almost every single course.'

The jury praised your dry sense of humour. Do you think humour is necessary for teaching?

“It’s not absolutely necessary, but it does help. Especially in big lectures such as Philosophy of Science, humour helps you hold students’ attention. It also helps students to remember more of the material. But it’s not essential – you can also spark students’ enthusiasm by focusing on the content.”

What do you think is the secret to good teaching?

“I don’t know that I really have a secret. You have to try a lot of things, and at a certain point you find out what works and what doesn’t. For example, I’ve pruned the Philosophy of Science course a lot. At first, I tried to fit as much information as possible into the lectures, but I noticed that students didn’t remember enough of it. These days I don’t necessarily want students to know a lot of facts; I want them to really understand the material. I try to get students to actively think about the topics, and I’ve noticed that that works.”

What is the Faculty Education Award?

Each year, study associations and student members of programme committees nominate lecturers for the Teaching Prize. Once the nominations are in, a special jury attends lectures given by the nominees and decides who to name the Faculty’s best lecturer.

More information about the Faculty Education Award (in Dutch)

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