Lecturer of the year 2016
Congratulations to the 2016 lecturer of the year: Associate Professor John Vestergaard Olesen, BTECH.
We have spoken with John Vestergaard Olesen about the award and his experiences as a lecturer, and he says:
“I’m incredibly honored and humbled by being nominated for the award in the first place. Considering how many excellent lecturers that work at Aarhus BSS, it’s amazing that the scales would tip in my favour. It’s actually a testament to the place as a whole, because no matter how good of a show you put on in the lecture theatre, the students will never be satisfied if all the supporting activities don’t work - from the secretariat, the reception and the library to the Building Operations and Maintenance.”
The nomination is an indication of considerable educational skills - how did you gain these, and which educational tools do you make use of to reach out to your students and spark their interest?
“My father was a thoroughly excellent and unique upper secondary school teacher from whom I’ve learned so much, and the educational training I got during my years as an upper secondary school teacher was also great for me.
However, I don’t believe there is a simple, unambiguous recipe for what constitutes good teaching, and academic proficiency is just one of the preconditions for learning to occur. To me, commitment, motivation, respect and especially a sense of humour are equally important keywords. I’ve learned how very important it is to create a good and relaxed atmosphere - especially in the lecture theatre - and that’s where humour can be the thing that creates a connection, builds trust and paves the way for a dialogue with the students (without turning teaching into stand-up comedy). Attachment to the students has been critical for BTECH in general, but probably for me in particular, for many years.
Furthermore, informal talks with the students often provide the best ongoing feedback and give an immediate indication of how what you say and do is received by the students. I’ve embraced Oliver Cromwell’s words: “He who stops being better stops being good”. I always try to fine-tune and improve lectures so that learning is optimised. This is also one of the biggest challenges as a lecturer: Good teaching doesn’t come about automatically. It takes a long time to plan, and there needs to be an understanding of this throughout the system.
I’m generally very interested in educational development, and in that regard I’ve benefitted greatly from CUL’s educational courses such as GoOnline, as well as a supervision session with Ole Lauridsen, who has given me the inspiration to improve from one semester to the next.
What do you consider your strong suit as a lecturer?
“It’s a huge privilege to get up every day and do something you love, and actually that’s probably the biggest “secret”: Commitment breeds commitment, and the students have to feel that you love your profession, are passionate about the dissemination of knowledge and have a definite interest in their learning. The students have to know that you sincerely looked forward to being there, they have to feel confident about the plan you’ve made for today’s session, and you must always provide an overview of how each session’s educational objectives fit into the course as a whole and know what the course contributes to their subsequent working lives.”
What do you emphasise in your teaching - what do you think characterises a good lecturer?
“My teaching is very classic, and for many reasons I use the blackboards diligently. First of all I know how easily you get distracted when you’re sitting passively in a room attending a lecture that might as well have been entitled “Death by 50 Slides.” But I also enjoy being free of an actual script, and it that way it’s easier to respond to questions or comments as they arise. Furthermore, I’ve benefited greatly from blended learning and enjoy spicing up lectures with the use of Kahoot, Govote and the like. It grants the students - and myself in my capacity as a lecturer - a prompt indication of the results and where improvement might be needed.”
The nomination for the 2016 lecturer of the year is so full of compliments for John Vestergaard Olesen that we’ve chosen to include some of them here:
“Throughout the years I’ve supervised a great deal of teaching, and also quite a lot of good teaching, but what I saw with you today, John, was quite simply extraordinarily well done. You’re in a league of your own.” Quote: Ole Lauridsen, Centre for Teaching and Learning.
“For 15 years, John has accomplished something quite unusual - making students love the field of Quantitative Research Methods - at every level ranging from diploma degree programmes to Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes.”
“The lecturer is good at organising the teaching well and explaining things in detail and in different ways. He pays attention to the facial expression of students, and explains it again if he can tell that we didn’t understand it. He takes an interest in how we learn things. Furthermore, he always shows up with a positive attitude, which tells you that he looked forward to teaching us about the subject matter. It motivates you to pay attention and work on things. A lot of other lecturers could learn from that.”
John Vestergaard Olesen is a Master of Science at Aarhus University (1992) and holds a Graduate Diploma in Business Administration (HD)-R (1999). Since then he has worked as an associate professor with teaching areas in math, statistics, market analysis and multivariate analysis techniques. He started as a teacher at Herning Gymnasium back in 1992, where he remained before returning to AU in 1999. He completed his PhD in 2016.
Criteria for receiving the award:
Applications may be based on teaching and educational activities in which the recommended candidate demonstrates several of the following competences:
Excellent communication skills and ability to contextualise the academic content.
Ongoing motivation of correlations between the academic content and the teaching methods and the forms of evaluations applied in the teaching.
Willingness and ability to engage in dialogue with students with a view to ensuring the ongoing follow-up of the students’ learning
Ability to create academic and methodological innovation in relation to dissemination and learning
Ability to vary, develop and use different teaching methods
Ability to teach and ensure learning at different academic levels
Ability to develop and strengthen the international dimension of the degree programmes at Aarhus BSS.