Christer Elvingson received the 2023 Distinguished Teaching Award in Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Technology. Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt2023-11-14
2023 Distinguished Teaching Award recipient’s outstanding teaching ability
Hello Christer Elvingson, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Chemistry – Ångström Laboratory. A belated but well-earned congratulations on receiving Uppsala University’s Distinguished Teaching Award in Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Technology in May 2023.
You received the award in part for your great commitment to your students, your mentoring and your outstanding teaching ability.
Did you have any idea that you were going to receive the award or did it come as a surprise?
“It was a total surprise. I was called to a meeting that I don’t usually participate in. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor also attended, but even then I didn’t realise what it was about.”
Elvingson does not know who nominated him.
“I really have no idea, and despite all the great colleagues I have, it would still be very special for me if it proved to be the students I’ve had on my courses,” he says.
Elvingson has not really thought up any special tricks to succeed in his teaching, at least not in those terms.
“But having thought through and justified to myself why I want to include something in a lecture, what aspects are really important and how I can explain them as clearly as possible is perhaps not original but still extremely important,” he explains.
Just me and the students at the whiteboard
In his view, a good teacher does not simply enter a classroom and run through a range of components included in a course.
“It’s about trying to put things in a context and justifying why they are important and relevant,” he adds.
When Elvingson stands at the whiteboard during a lecture or sits with students around a table at a seminar, he can usually block out everything else.
“Then it’s just me and the students, and everything else I need to do vanishes,” he explains.
What do you think is most important as a teacher when teaching students?
“Showing them that I’m there for them,” he replies. “They need to feel that they can ask anything they deem is relevant to the course. I try to answer their questions as best I can in the time I have. As programme coordinator, the lunchtime meeting with student representatives each academic period gives us an opportunity for discussion and feedback, both for students and the course directors. Some aspects can be easily adjusted during the course. For me, discussions with students and teachers are what develop my teaching and our courses.”
Do you also contribute to the development of your colleagues’ teaching?
“I have been part of the Mentor Network for those undertaking the Academic Teacher Training Course,” replies Elvingson. “I also help with an initiative at the Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology where new assistant professors are given a teaching mentor. We also have lots of informal and rewarding discussions among colleagues at the department, and I try to attend the lectures given by our Council for Pedagogical Development.”
Do you have any concrete advice about teaching?
“Being yourself is definitely something the majority give as advice,” replies Elvingson. I have learned to scale things down and stop worrying about failing to include every single detail. Instead, I focus on what I consider to be the core of what I want to explain or discuss.”
What will you do with the prize sum?
“My wife and I have both got new glasses, so the money is a welcome addition, but I am going to get a good CD radio for the kitchen. I like having music on when preparing food, as our neighbours can no doubt attest! I also expect we’ll be buying a few really good cheeses.”
Each year, Uppsala University presents distinguished teaching awards for outstanding contributions in undergraduate education according to specific nomination categories.
Students and staff can nominate teachers who have made outstanding contributions to student learning in one or more categories. These include teaching activities, research basis in teaching and educational leadership and collaboration.
A total of five awards worth SEK 20,000 each are presented.
Four awards are given to teachers in:
- theology, humanities and educational sciences
- law and social sciences,
- medicine and pharmacy,
- mathematics, natural sciences and technology.
The fifth Free Distinguished Teaching Award is presented for educational contributions in a particular priority area for the year.
In 2023, the theme was 'Creative education'.
The Distinguished Teaching Awards
Winners of the 2023 Distinguished Teaching Awards selected, news item on the Staff Portal, 24 May 2023
2023 Distinguished Teaching Award winner wants to be clear and fair, news item on the Staff Portal, 13 October 2023
2023 Distinguished Teaching Award winner sparks curiosity about economics, news item on the Staff portal 31 October 2023