What makes a good teacher?

The Teachers’ Academy, founded five years ago this spring, arose from a need to increase the status of teaching at the University of Helsinki. Now, four of the 80 Teachers’ Academy fellows reveal their secrets of how to be a good teacher.

The chair of the Teachers’ Academy, Hanna Korsberg, professor of theatre research, says that she considers herself a senior colleague of her students. Korsberg encourages students to learn and develop their scientific thinking, particularly at the master’s stage.

“Once students of art studies have attained fundamental study skills, which is to say, they have completed their bachelor’s studies, they must be encouraged to be active and to develop and evaluate their own opinions and interpretations. That’s why I prefer a dialogue-based style of teaching,” says Korsberg.

Korsberg involves her students in a variety of projects that require the application and analysis of information. For example, she has held a course on writing an academic article during which the students actually write an article instead of practising argumentation methods or reading previously published articles. An article manuscript discussing the course assignments is almost complete. The project is ongoing and also part of Korsberg’s research.

Students track their learning

Katariina Vuorensola, university lecturer in pharmaceutical chemistry, thinks that the main thing in planning teaching is to focus on the students and the development of their skills.

“I design the course content, the methods, assignments and assessment so that the students can track their development during the course,” says Vuorensola.

Even though Vuorensola’s courses may have more than a hundred students, she treats every one of them as an individual. She offers various teaching and assessment methods to her students, including workshops, written assignments, oral group assessments and lecture videos.

“Every success brings me a tremendous amount of joy. I love my students!”

A teacher’s enthusiasm and interest are contagious

Liisa Peltonen, university lecturer in physiology, says that there is no secret to being a good teacher and no magic bullet that can make a teacher excel.

“I chose my field based on my interests at the beginning of my studies. Consequently, my interest in my discipline has only increased as the years have passed,” Peltonen states.

Learning difficult things has made Peltonen think about phenomena in more depth while trying to find ways to make the information accessible to students.

“I try to convey my enthusiasm and interest which I hope will guide the students to discover, understand and learn.”

According to Peltonen, the future of teaching is in new students, developing learning and work environments, innovation and lifelong learning.

Include students in guidance

Seven years ago, Johanna Rämö adopted a student-focused teaching method known as “extreme apprenticeship”. Radical changes to the teaching of a course with 400 students would have been incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for a single teacher. Consequently, Rämö planned and carried out teaching together with other people: a teaching researcher, another teacher using extreme apprenticeship as well as administrative staff.

“Apprenticeship is now a successful and widely-used method at the Department of Mathematics and Statistics in Kumpula, and it continues to be a collaborative effort with collegial support and sharing of ideas.”

More advanced students are involved in the teaching. They guide junior students in their assignments and other course work. The younger students find them approachable, and they have recent memories of the kinds of problems a student may encounter.

“This also helps with the planning of teaching: I can get the students to think about what kind of guidance the students in my course may need, or plan assignments that address difficult areas.

The Teachers’ Academy is celebrating its fifth anniversary at Think Corner, 26 March 14.00–15.30. The theme is the future of teaching and the core message is investments in teaching. The event is open to all.

Sign up for the event

The full programme for the event will be published on the Facebook page

The Teachers’ Academy recognises excellence in teaching

The Teachers’ Academy was founded at the University of Helsinki in spring 2013. Its mission is to promote teaching and imporve its standing in the academic community while improving the quality of teaching and learning.  The Teachers’ Academy was established to provide opportunities to earn merit and reward members of the academic community for their teaching qualifications and competence.

The Teachers’ Academy has 80 members, with the Nobel laureate Bengt Holmström as an honorary member. In addition, experts from the Centre for University Teaching and Learning serve as expert members of the Academy. 

Teachers selected for the Academy receive a two-year grant to support their development as teachers, and their home unit gets a two-year grant to develop its teaching. The next application round for the Teachers’ Academy launches in May. Appointment as a fellow to the Teachers’ Academy betokens significant recognition for teaching merits and expertise in the field of teaching.