Teaching obligation – doesn’t sound very attractive. Why? Because generally it means much work for little money and almost no reward. Apply for a job in academia. What are the metrics of your qualification? Publications. Impact points.
Don’t worry, this is not another discussion about quality metrics in academia, but a very clear statement, that teaching can be a great experience. Even if it’s a teaching obligation.
It is true, that the effort for good teaching is huge; even more in an interactive setting. It is further true that the payment is not worth to talk about and that most of the time your work is unseen. But on the other side it is an unpayable experience to grab your student’s hand and take them for a few steps on your journey. I love the skeptical looks in the first lesson, the chance to generate interest and, in some cases, enthusiasm in the end. Of course, there are students who remain bored and uninterested, but nevertheless they get an idea that there might be something interesting beyond the horizon … Apart from trying to equip students with a basic set of skills in thematic cartography and geovisualization, teaching is a good training for myself. I have to question and reflect my own knowledge and break the – sometimes blurry – concepts in my head down to something 3rd semester students can understand. Maybe it’s beneficial to have children who are in the “WHY?!-age”.
I’ve been teaching the introductory course for thematic cartography and geovisualization together with my dear colleague Christoph for 4 years now. Yesterday was a great day for both of us. We were nominated by our students (this is a really big honor!) for the university’s excellence in teaching award. After a competitive two-stage process with an extensive student evaluation and a distinguished jury which judged our course concept, we were among the four highest ranked courses of the summer semester 2014 and winter semester 2014/15. These four candidates were invited to present their course at the university wide “Tag der Lehre” , a special interest day dedicated to academic teaching, which took place yesterday. Fortunately the jury liked our presentation (we performed a fictitious dialog between two students who were talking about the course) and ranked us in the first place. To make it short, we are enormously happy winners of the award for excellence in teaching.
This award is more than a compensation for the numerous late night hours we’ve invested. It’s an encouragement and mandate to further invest in our teaching. Such awards bring unseen work to the surface and affirm that there are more ways to make an impact than publishing in high-ranking journals! In this sense, thanks to the university’s department for Quality Management for this initiative.