Lars Bengtsson appointed the title Excellent Teacher
Lars Bengtsson at the Department of Physics has more than 25 years of teaching experience, and has now been awarded the title Excellent Teacher. His subject areas are electronics, electronic measurement systems and embedded systems.
“I regard the role of teacher as my main mission at the university. I am a teacher first and a researcher second, but I strive for these two roles to overlap to allow cross-fertilisation to occur, Lars Bengtsson says. ‘It is certainly difficult to be excellent at both research and teaching, but I firmly believe that teaching has made me a better researcher and vice versa.”
Asked what importance teaching traditions have for teaching, Lars replies:
“Tradition has great importance, both good and bad. On the good side, one can assert that the teaching methods we use, and have used for a long time, are well established and unquestionably work well. On the other hand, there is a risk that tradition can restrict educational development. Teachers do not dare to try new teaching methods due to strong local educational traditions. Perhaps many reason, why change a winning concept?”
Lars Bengtsson maintains it is important that the university changes with the world around us and with students’ customs and expectations.
“In the future, which may already be here, the new ways in which students consume information will also force changes to teaching traditions at our higher education institutions, and universities face major challenges here. When, how and to what extent and in which direction must we change?”
Lars uses technological tools in teaching, tools that have to be tailored to different student categories. It is common for him to record lectures, calculation exercises and demonstrations.
“I use this material to create a ‘flipped classroom’. This is not without its problems, but it’s very exciting. In a traditional course I conduct lectures first, and then the students go home and process the material. In a ‘flipped classroom’ students view a recorded lecture at home before they meet me at the university. This means that when they meet me, it’s not the first time they are exposed to the material, and they can pose much more well-informed questions as a result. Of course, there are disadvantages as well, and depending on the student category in question, the pros and cons vary to different degrees.”
Lars feels that his extensive teaching experience makes it difficult to offer concrete tips, because his techniques have been refined over time.
“I observe carefully what works and what doesn’t work, and then I try to reinforce what went well and analyse what didn't work so well. My best knack right now is probably the long experience I have gained. For example, I’m never nervous before lectures or presentations. I have extensive experience as a lecturer, and I have well developed professional skills in my subjects. That gives me a sense of calm and confidence as a lecturer that I think rubs off on students. I think they feel secure with me.”
But if he is pressed to give advice to new lecturers, it is to be well-prepared.
“Students don’t want to see a lecturer who stands and reads by rote from a manuscript. Prepare your lecture as professional actors do. Learn the manuscript by heart, and when you then stand on the stage and lecture, you can ignore the manuscript. What actually is the difference between a lecture for 200 people compared to acting in a theatre for 200 people? An actor would never go on stage before an audience of 200 without knowing the script by heart, and at the beginning of my career, I might have underestimated the theatrical aspect of lecturing.”
To the question of whether the distinction as Excellent Teacher will change his job, Lars answers that he hopes it will make an impression on planning of teaching hours so that he is allowed time for educational development work.
“The need for educational development tends to be underestimated in the departments, and most of the development time has to be taken from research or spare time. I don't think my job is going to change much, but a positive effect is, of course, the focus that is directed at educational development issues in connection with the fact that such distinctions as this receive attention.”
More about the Excellent Teacher title
The University of Gothenburg has introduced the title of Excellent Teacher as a designation for teachers with special educational proficiency. Teachers at the University have the opportunity to apply to be considered for the title of Excellent Teacher, supported by assessment criteria shared across the university, on the basis of documented evidence of the applicants’ reflective practice as teachers.