Knowledge that is not passed on is lost knowledge. In recognition of knowledge transfer – an essential task of teaching – Graz University of Technology honours lecturers for outstanding pedagogical-didactic achievements every two years. The "Prize for Excellence in Teaching 2019/20" was awarded to language teacher Isabel Landsiedler, food chemist Barbara Siegmund and patent law expert Gunter Nitsche in a virtual event on Thursday, November 19th, 2020. The "Special Prize for Young Teachers" went to molecular biologist Melina Amor, electrical engineer Paul Baumgartner and mechanical engineer Benedikt Weger. The electronics engineer Michael Fuchs was awarded the "Special Prize for Digital Teaching". It was awarded this year for the first time ever. The prize money is 2000 euros per person. The prizes were donated by TU Graz, the Styrian Chamber of Labour and IV Styria.
Teachers with a role model function
"The quality of teaching is crucial for a successful future for our students. It is therefore important for us to honour particularly successful and motivated teaching concepts and outstanding teachers themselves as role models. After all, excellence in teaching requires great commitment, lots of personal involvement and a great deal of time from the lecturers," says Stefan Vorbach, Vice Rector for Academic Affairs at Graz University of Technology. Vorbach emphasizes that the Special Prize for Digital Teaching awarded for the first time this year reflects the accelerated development of digitally supported teaching technologies in 2020, "even though the decision to award this prize was made before corona".
How the prizewinners teach:
Prize for Excellence in Teaching | Spanish for Engineers (elementary 2)
Languages, key competencies and internal training
Isabel Landsiedler designs her award-winning course "Spanish for Engineers" (elementary level 2) with a very varied teaching methodology. In addition to a weekly learning portfolio, she provides her students with daily learning tips and short work packages, with audio exercises and video explanations, with quizzes as learning controls and exercises that can be corrected by the student with a QR code.
Prize for Excellence in Teaching | Food Chemistry and Technology
Institute of Analytical Chemistry and Food Chemistry
In Barbara Siegmund's course "Food Chemistry and Technology" there is room for input from everyday life. With the help of practical examples from the kitchen and using current issues, such as various "food scandals", she makes a point of interacting intensively with her students to make the theory understandable.
Prize for Excellence in Teaching | Patent Law
In his course "Patent Law", Gunter Nitsche uses the so-called Socratic method. By asking appropriate questions, students are enabled to question their own points of view. This is a tactic that greatly increases the potential for knowledge. Material from real life helps students to be able to judge comparable situations in practice.
Special Prize for Young Teachers | Molecular Diagnostics
Institute of Biochemistry
Melina Amor focuses intentionally on health-related topics in her course "Molecular Diagnostics". Experience has shown that these are the ones that attract the most interest. Amor uses a range of didactic and educational strategies to teach her students about a variety of molecular biology techniques.
Special Prize for Young Teachers | Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering
Institute of Fundamentals and Theory in Electrical Engineering
One of the challenges of the course "Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering" is the very heterogeneous previous knowledge of the students. Paul Baumgartner and his team therefore rely on instructional videos for the most diverse needs and maintain very intensive contact with all students. Every year, the elements of the course are reconsidered and revised through discussion with all those involved. A further pillar is the promotion of talent, which is taken into account through the strong involvement and training of the student assistants.
Special Prize for Young Teachers | Continuum Mechanics (Laboratory Practical)
Institute of Strength of Materials
In his laboratory practical course in "Continuum Mechanics", Benedikt Weger focuses on "humour, authenticity and enthusiasm". It is important to him to design the learning process as a cycle and he asks himself the question first and foremost "Where should I begin the explanation?" Another aspect of his teaching involves the course participants being able and encouraged to help each other.
Special Prize for Digital Teaching | Electronic Circuit Design 2
Institute of Electronics
Michael Fuchs is the first winner of the "Special Prize for Digital Teaching". In the digital implementation of his course "Electronic Circuit Design 2", he uses a structure with clearly defined learning goals, media diversity with live demonstrations, educational games and various apps, and digital tools such as the FeedbackR app and course recordings.
Elaborate selection procedure: how the prizewinners are chosen
The awards ceremony comes after an exhaustive selection procedure. Students, deans of studies and
lecturers themselves can nominate courses that have taken place during the last three academic years and have been offered in the current semester of nomination and evaluated by at least five students. Nominees have to submit a description of the course and a concept with pedagogic and didactic backgrounds. These documents serve as a basis for the decision. Other criteria, such as teaching methods and teaching goals, the quality of the teaching material as well as organization and adherence to deadlines are also taken into account in the assessment.
The final decision on the prizewinners is made by a selection committee chaired by the Vice Rector for Academic Affairs and consisting of representatives from the Students Union, the university management, curricular committees, the Senate and external experts on the subject of university teaching. The successful academics are nominated for the Ars docendi State Prize for Excellence in Teaching at public universities in Austria.
Further details can be found on the "Prize for Excellent Teaching" website.