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Award for Excellence in Teaching

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Dr. Simone Schipper

Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

+49 441 798 4743

  • Festively dressed award winners in autumnal surroundings.

    The teaching awards went to (from left): Dr. Nader El-Sourani, Niklas Angebauer, Ulrich Mathias Gerr and Burçin Amet. The awards are sponsored by the Universitätsgesellschaft Oldenburg, represented by Oliver Thomsen (right). Photo: University of Oldenburg

Excellent teaching

The university and the University Society (UGO) award two philosophers, an expert in German studies and a medical doctor for their successful and unusual classes.

The university and the University Society (UGO) award two philosophers, an expert in German studies and a medical doctor for their successful and unusual classes.

With Ulrich Mathias Gerr, simply going for a walk can form the basis for philosophical research. Gerr, a lecturer at the Institute of Philosophy, is one of this year’s winners of the University of Oldenburg’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. As part of his research seminar on the German philosopher Walter Benjamin he quite literally sent the participants off on a walk. Their assignment was to explore an area in the middle of Berlin on foot, write down their experiences, and thus experience for themselves what Benjamin often described in his texts: what it’s like to get to know a big city by walking around it.

But the three-day excursion to the capital was not just about going for walks. The philosopher wanted to show how researchers can gain valuable insights by combining theoretical work with a physical exploration that follows in the footsteps of the research object. Among other things, the students had the opportunity to view original manuscripts of Benjamin’s collection of texts Berlin Childhood around 1900, as well as a Kaiserpanorama – an entertainment device from the late nineteenth-century with a number of wooden viewing stations on the outside and a rotating mechanism inside which shows images from all over the world on rear-illuminated glass, creating a 3D effect. This visual device had a profound impact on Benjamin. At the Humboldt Forum in Berlin, Gerr’s students were able to try out a functioning Kaiserpanorama and thus experience it for themselves, and compare its effect with Benjamin’s philosophical concepts.

Impressions from Berlin incorporated into research

“Many participants found that through their experiences during the excursion they gained a better understanding of what Benjamin sought to convey in his texts,” says Gerr. The students were able to gather impressions and materials for research questions formulated in Oldenburg prior to their trip to Berlin. They enjoyed the seminar so much that they nominated Gerr for the teaching award. The jury consisting of faculty and student representatives from all schools as well as a representative of the Universitätsgesellschaft Oldenburg (UGO) praised this multifaceted research approach and chose Gerr as the winner of the teaching award in the category Research Based Learning.

The Institute of Philosophy also came out winning in the Best Course category, where Niklas Angebauer's seminar Property Conflicts of the Present brought together some interesting interlocutors. The seminar revolved around four questions concerning ownership policy: Who owns the city? Who owns the data? Who owns fossil fuels? And what forms of ownership are appropriate for socially sustainable enterprises? The students not only learned about the theoretical foundations of these questions, but also got to talk to a number of experts from the corresponding fields.

Discussions with experts

For example, an urban researcher and activist of the initiative “Deutsche Wohnen & Co. enteignen”, which is calling for the expropriation of large real-estate companies in Berlin, explained the legal background of the debate about affordable housing. The co-founder of a responsibly owned publishing company in which the owners have no share in the profits explained why it can be liberating for companies to waive certain rights from the outset. “The experts discussed the abstract theories of ownership using very concrete examples,” Angebauer explains. At the end of the seminar the students presented their own case studies, the results of which didn’t just disappear into a draw like other term papers but were to be made available to the public in the form of a radio report. This “successful mediation of science communication” was one of the aspects of the course which particularly impressed the jury.

Well prepared for the clinical internship

In the category Best Class Evaluation, this year’s awards went to Burçin Amet from the Institute for German Studies and Dr. Nader El-Sourani from the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. El-Sourani’s students were very enthusiastic about his surgery seminar, in which he used a variety of methods to prepare the participants for their clinical internship. The focus of the seminar was example cases for which the medical students were asked to make a diagnosis and then develop a treatment plan.

A big hit with future language teachers

Amet received the award for her course Second and Foreign Language Acquisition: Theoretical Foundations. She taught students in the Master’s programme German as a Foreign Language/German as a Second Language in a weekly online format. Despite the course being virtual, participants were able to gain practical experience, for instance by sitting in on online German courses at the university’s Language Centre and analysing students’ learning behaviour. Both lecturers received top marks from their students in the subsequent evaluation of their courses.

All the awards come with prize money of 1,000 euros. The awards are sponsored by the UGO.

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The picture shows the award-winning lecturers between bookshelfes in the library.
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