Gunnel Ekroth has been awarded the 2021 Distinguished Teaching Award in the area of Theology, Humanities and Educational Sciences. Among other factors, the jury’s citation for the award highlights her “clear, distinct and inclusive manner of communication during lessons and feedback”, as well as that she “interacts in a matter-of-fact way, but always with a twinkle in her eye”.

This vital interaction may involve something as simple as always responding as quickly as possible and with clarity to students’ emails, even if the information might not always be what the student wants to hear.

“I consider myself to be very specific and unambiguous about the scope of my teaching and what is expected of the students,” she says.

Participation and context

That said, honesty regarding the high demands of university study, reading text books in English and writing essays and doctoral dissertations should not preclude, in the midst of it all, seeing every student as an individual and offering them the support they need.

“I always try to show my enthusiasm for the subject, for teaching and for interacting with the students as a group and as individuals.”

She also strives to both link to her colleagues’ presentations and refer to what her students themselves have said, in seminars for example.

“This increases the chances that students will become involved in the larger narrative and that the discussion will find a place in a greater teaching and learning context.”

Preparation and self-distance

Finally, what are her own best teaching tips? Naturally, one should always be “prepared to the teeth”, with clear, stylish but uncluttered presentations, and time and structure each lesson so that it is a complete whole.

“But also, don’t be afraid to admit that you may need to look something up to answer a question, to laugh at yourself when things go wrong and not take yourself too seriously, even though the task of teaching should always be taken with the utmost seriousness.”