Dr. Birgitte Madelung

We stay in Europe for this episode as Jessica and Pat chat with Birgitte Madelung, Head of the unit charged with Academic Development at Roskilde University (Roskilde, Denmark). At the time of our discussion, Birgitte was an educational developer at Southern Denmark University.


thank you so much for joining us um on our series of the award-winning Educators talking through narratives of

failure and hope today we have a wonderful guest Dr birgit madlong Who is

a educational developer and and helper supporter of teaching and learning the

southern Denmark University it is a great pleasure to join us across time zones as we talked to Bear Geet who is

working for the University Center for teaching and learning at Southern Denmark University and her journey

itself has been one that has gathered insights and knowledge from various fears her master’s degree is in English

and International Development studies from the University of Ohio her PhD is

in history at the southern Denmark University um and her her role in teaching and

learning and universities was sort of inspired when she was an

assistant professor and she participated in a lecture training program and has been working in this field of support

design and delivery since 2009. so Brigade helps faculty with exploring

and Excavating learning objectives the planning of teaching and Innovation as

well as study management and the organizational anchoring of pedagogical practice she also helps with curriculum

and program design um and and works with faculty from an across the the disciplines and silos of

our institutional structures including on a bachelor program of integrated design of engineering so from history to

English to International Studies now to engineering we have such a broad skill

set to talk about the um the pandemic teaching and learning and the role of higher education in in

Denmark but also internationally so big thank you so much for joining us today

well thank you very much for having me it’s a pleasure so this just sounds like such an

incredible journey and an adventure across you know sort of international spheres can you tell us a little bit

about your story and and how you got to where you are now

um yeah I mean in

many things no idea that I was going to do for instance a PhD and actually when

I when I graduated from actually Ohio University um I actually had plans to go teach

English in India of all places so that was sort of the initial idea but I also

knew because it was sort of more on a voluntary basis so I would have to go back to Denmark and and try to earn some

money so I thought okay I’ll go back and then I’ll I’ll just take whatever job I can

and then I was offered a position teaching American history at the University of Southern Denmark


of course a few years younger than me because I had just graduated right but I

think just the experience of being with young people and and having that

experience of seeing them progress of developing of entering the classroom

Without Really knowing anything perhaps about the subject of course they you know they they choose a

specific program but there’s so many things that the students do not know and

opening for instance in my case the the field of History to the students

um I thought it was uh it was an amazing experience um and then I was uh

um it was suggested to me that I’d apply for a PhD and so I did which was really

hard work uh I I also I continued teaching and of course then I did my research I went to

the states again to to do my research I did my PhD on the Vietnam Veterans

Memorial so I’ve been working with the history of memory which is quite interesting because it was this was as I

have to say it was all about dead people right but then and this is the major

shift that I realized that I really wanted to work with people here and now so but I actually continued in Academia

and continued on to be a an assistant professor at the the Copenhagen Business

School teaching American history and culture immensely enjoying the teaching part and this is

when I did my lecture training program and here I realized that I was not much

of a researcher in history actually there was no energy in it for me but

where I got my energy from was from teaching because I really loved I and

this is this is uh in around 2005. and the whole sort of

aspects of teaching and learning had not really developed I mean I wasn’t a lecture training program but much of the

effort was really my own because I took a keen interest in it so I just realized

that I had to do something in order to have more more possibilities

of teaching so I actually left my position as as a as an assistant

professor which is I don’t think that that common actually because it’s always hard to get an academic position

um and then I had to do different things and then I did uh uh the most of a

master program in the in the learning processes I decided not to do the thesis because I had already done two and I had

my PhD and I thought this is I don’t need to prove myself in that sense so it was more about you know learning much

more about learning theory processes learning processes Etc um and then by chance just I just being

very lucky I actually got to the University of Southern Denmark

because we was as you know you know her she was going on maternity leave

um and I just I just made the right phone call at the right time So speaking of hope uh sometimes you

know you you you just think okay I’m going to call this person and then it actually ended up in a in a job or a

maternity position the Sony student position but then eventually I got a um a a permanent position

um I’ve been to other universities and university colleges also working I’ve

been a leader at one point but I always returned back to the University of

Southern Denmark and I think it has something to do with the way we work together and so so I think that that’s part of it

too um so this is this is really how I got here uh so when I look back I think that

that teaching and I also I I when When I Was preparing for this starting thinking

about it I thought I always took the opportunity as a student when teachers

asked does anyone want to do this next session I thought oh yes I’ll do it uh uh so so

in that sense I think um I just always enjoy being in the classroom and I like the interaction and

I think that when I did my lecture training program and especially with when I did

these further studies at this master program I realized that there is so much more to teaching because I also realized

that I did a lot of um of lecturing I I when I think back

I did some activities but boy do I have learned so much more uh in in these past

10 12 years reading and how much you can do with teaching and I think it’s just I

just find it’s very rewarding to teach because of the interaction yes so this

is really how I got here yeah and

that’s fantastic thanks bergite for for sharing your story with us I just want to go down sort of one of the one of the

threads of your story and and and it’s sort of the thread about the reward or

the joy that you find you know within the the Myriad of opportunities right so

so what is what what do you think it is that’s that’s made you seek out these opportunities it seems like you you know

you have a love for teaching and learning you find joy in in in developing you know students or or

seeing them um improve what can you speak to that a little bit more

uh I think it’s I mean first of all I think it’s it’s uh it’s it’s this aspect

of curiosity and I think that we can both um develop but we can also kill

curiosity with students um and I think this aspect and of course

also as an educational developer now because now I teach teachers rather than

teaching students but but this aspect or this this perspective or opportunity to

actually um feed or encourage curiosity and and

sometimes I wonder how is it that we actually do it of actually uh creating

that Curiosity but I think it’s to me it’s very relational to me having relationships with or a

relation rather with the the assistant professors that we supervise because we

supervise them individually in the lecture training program and actually having that experience of

having a rather new teacher and through supervision through discussion through

dialogue um and actually seeing them develop is

is extremely rewarding to me and I I enjoy the fact that some teachers start

almost from scratch you know I had a few teachers I almost have to turn them away from the Blackboard right because uh

because they’re uncomfortable in the classroom so the development is is different from

person to person I I like the fact that I don’t I don’t want to make

you know either the students or teachers the same but I like the fact that they’re

developing on their own terms on their own pace um some just thrive in the classroom and I

learn I mean I think I learned from each encounter but some are just

excellent teachers and of course our conversations are so much different from

teachers that are uncomfortable in the teaching situation but both are

extremely rewarding so I I think yeah so I think it’s this it’s the relationship

and I think that’s also why covet I I know maybe it’s jumping in questions but

to me that was so challenging because I find it very very difficult to create a

relation online I think a situation that we’re in now works well it’s a it’s a dialogue but when you’re sort of trying

to develop uh and and sensing what is going on I

think it’s so much more difficult uh online so yeah and big I think that’s

absolutely right that that building trusting relationships where people can be vulnerable and be willing to

um transform together is something that requires you know a really really

important trust framework where um you can do that in three-dimensional

ways that makes a little bit more challenging or difficult to do it in the two-dimensional because uh you know for

so many different confounding factors including like how our brains work and how we build relationships and pick up

different kinds of signals and and do that and so I’m I love that those

insights and I’m really interested in this sort of individualized mentorship that you build

um with you especially Junior faculty members through trust and through relationships and through their own

transformation right over time I’m I’m struck with the notion of how

you manage failure as a as a learner yourself taking and occupying a learner

position but how you also manage the the kind of emotional energy necessary to

work with your Junior supervises through their failures through their both perceived failures

and sometimes actual and measurable failures could you talk about how to

sort of manage the the difficulty both as the the mentor but also as a as a

learner yourself yeah I’ve been thinking a lot about this

uh this aspect of failure and I thought when have I actually experienced that I

have failed and and in many ways I think I’ve failed many times

but I think and it’s not just because I definitely failed there’s no doubt about that

but I think it’s just and and I can I can sort of recall you know the sense of

failure of you know you can all you can feel it physically in your body and you’re thinking oh this is this is

terrible and you’ve been in the classroom or or whatever but I think that

but somehow I I just always found it important to say that

um failures are just something that we need to learn from um and I I really try to encourage that

also in our junior staff or Junior faculty rather

um because I’m I’m always trying to tell them that that I’m not here to tell you

whether you’re a good or a bad teacher I’m here because I want you to develop

as a teacher and um I think the best way to to uh to

compare when I was teaching at Copenhagen business school um I had two classes of 30 students in

each group that’s when we had money now it’s just one group of 60 right but we could actually teach two classes but

it’s still a big class and I had one on on Tuesday I think and one on group on

Wednesday and you know the number of students were the same they were in the same year in

the program uh the room was probably also the same but and my of course my

the content and the way I had organized the teaching sessions were the same but the the teaching

how it all sort of materialized was so different because the two groups were so

different and I think I I sort of brought that that that’s been quite a lesson for me

because I I recall how nervous I was for instance when I was being supervised you

know I knew I had my supervisor come into the teaching and I thought oh my goodness I’m I’m being watched you know

she’s going to grade me and Etc but I think from from having that comparison

was actually quite helpful for me because I could I could sort of tell

myself that there’s always um I think the word in English is also resonance I mean that that whatever

happens in the room is is not it’s it’s not just me that’s

responsible for it of course I as a young teacher I felt extremely responsible

um but I think that experience men or taught me that that

um that that whenever I reflect on my teaching I always have to think about

what took place in the room and that that sort of the the relationship between me and the students and of

course I you know you reflect on whether it was you know did I do my best

uh but but it sort of allowed me to think okay I’m not completely

responsible for it because there are always so many factors at play and I think that’s also why teaching is so

interesting but at the same time it also it it makes it difficult to develop

teaching and develop teachers because so many parameters are um at stake

also during covet you know if Zoom did not work you could not teach right so so

there there are many ways to fail so I think it’s important um as a teacher when you reflect that

you you sort of allow yourself to step back and say okay what are the

parameters that that influence today’s teaching um and sometimes you realize well the

way I I gave this assignment it was not clear to the students fine okay

it can it can you can sort of say oh I was almost going to swear now but

you could uh you can say oh what a shame but then next time around I know that I

have to be more clear about the assignment so it’s not to say that that you know

um I I I I think I probably see failure as something to learn from sort of in a

general perspective which doesn’t mean that I have not left you know a work

situation or where I didn’t sort of feel failure immediately but then I I sort of tell

myself you know you need to to breathe and you need to start thinking about it tomorrow

so I think that that makes a difference and I I really try to when I work with

teachers to let them know that this is not about finding failure I’m not going to

identify lots of failures but I’m going to have a dialogue about your teaching and then sometimes you know they

discover saying maybe if I did this in another way then it would work better next time so I

think it’s it’s um I’m never I always try to it’s I don’t

want to avoid talking about failure but I don’t want to sort of pinpoint you

know you this this and this you need to to to do differently because to me it’s

still a development uh so it’s something that we progress over time and of course if it’s

something that continues uh then you have to do maybe you have to have a very direct conversation about it but I think

it takes patience uh to not sort of pinpoint your failure

um I had a very interesting conversation with a uh an assistant professor in the

program in the lecture training program

her teaching and then we had a follow-up conversation and sort of halfway through the

conversations he said it’s so amazing to have a conversation about

progression about my teaching in such a relaxed manner because she was used to

from her academic work that it was all about when she went to conferences it

was all about pinpointing you know failures in the research uh in the

development of her argument Etc and I I actually often think back to that saying

okay um this is actually something that I need to be aware of you know because how

do we develop I think she would probably develop better as a researcher with a different type of

uh of feedback if you could put it that way yeah I think that’s that’s critically

important right the context and how we contextualize all of this is is

Paramount right because you know obviously none of us are the the teacher

the instructor the learner that we were 20 years ago and and none of us could

have foreseen this Global pandemic when now it’s like I have to use technology all the time and if Zoom crashes it’s

not my fault uh and and that’s true right so so I guess for me it’s a bit of a follow-up question how do you see your

own growth in relation to failure from you know I’m not much older than my

students and I take failure as like uh oh what am I going to do to now when

you’re actively critically reflecting with colleagues and you’re helping them grow so you’ve become this educational

leader who’s trying to help others contextualize failure or vulnerability

or resilience or whatever Concepts you like well I think it’s and and of course

that’s that’s hard for younger teachers but I think it’s it’s also about experience uh and and age possibly also

right uh but I think that um that experience allows you to be less

vulnerable because you know that okay this was a not a good teaching session

but you know you can you you can improve it you can learn from it and I think I

think that’s that that and that yeah experience is is quite key but I would

still argue the way that we then as an institution support our teachers and and

of course this is also what I’m I’m very interested in is how we institutionalize

pedagogical thinking and pedagogical approaches and thinking about

pedophotical development Etc um because I think when if teachers if

they feel too alone in their work of actually having to

carry out the teaching on their own without having any type of support and

it’s both support in in terms of course the lecture training program or supervision Etc but it’s also knowing

that the you know the the Dean’s office or uh

the the head of studies Etc support uh teaching the way we

um talk about teaching the role of teaching uh I think is is quite key to

supporting uh handling vulnerability because you are actually quite

vulnerable when you are a teacher because it’s uh I now you talk to

Jessica about Shakespeare right and and that’s I I don’t I don’t quite want to

compare it to a stage but still um you are sort of you are it’s

um once I when I was a Copenhagen business school because I I work with the history of memory and and the use of

places and Etc and at one point uh one morning I just got into the classroom

then and I sat down just among the students and nothing happened

so after 10 minutes I got up and I said what’s going on here and they said well

you’re you’re the teacher so you’re supposed to tell us what we are supposed

to do and of course it was about because we they’ve been working on article with

with you know different um how rooms or settings in the city

would use in different ways in in in the 1800s but the ideas and I think that sort of

demonstrates that how much um how much influence you have as a teacher

you actually frame the teaching and I think in a Danish context and I don’t

know Pat if you remember your school here but um as a teacher in a Danish setting you

you don’t have the authority as I experienced when I was a student in the

in you know at Ohio University for instance um it’s not that we don’t have

you know leverage in the in the classroom but the students are much more independent they don’t have to show up

class uh they can walk out in the middle of the class if they want to because they they’re they’re not interested or

they have to leave early or um so so so the The Authority is

different in a Danish context um Authority comes from building relations

actually uh that um I’m very keen on Vincent tinto’s work

about creating a sense of belonging and this aspect of that

when you when you experience that you belong somewhere then

the the way your mind works I think opens up to learning in a different way

so I think this this aspect of creating relations and I think I’ve been discussing this with lots of teachers

and they say well I have 120 students in my room but and then I still argue with them and

try to work with them saying well you can actually still create relations with your students you don’t know their name

but you can still recognize their contributions in different ways for instance

um so I don’t even know if I’m psychtracking now what was the question you’re perfect and what you’re doing is

you’re giving us a road map for a systems and design approach to creating

um systems and policies and structures that value teaching and value learning

so you’ve just given us a whole list of or a sort of guide about what you would

build into hope University right these ecosystems where people are not isolated

that there is more support formally with mentorship supervision and training but also that you create relationship-rich

environments and I brought that term from Peter Felton’s recent book on relationship Rich that is both informal

and formal um clusters for people to feel connected and feel like they’re

they’re belonging so that they can be vulnerable enough to open themselves up

for transformation you just gave us this beautiful overview of what that would look like and of course you did it well

citing Shakespeare so so my question to you is as we build hope University and

my my premise here in Hope University is that what we say we do as universities

and what we actually do there’s a gap there and that Gap is threatening to to

widen and and I think we’re addicts sort of critical and Urgent place where we need to think about our system

structures and policies that we have in place to Foster the things that you’ve just talked about which is curiosity

right which is um a deep engagement in in learning

together and a focus on process rather than on product and you know I I quote in the in this

book on Hope University that it is about the systems not about the individual so we ask the individuals to do things in

deteriorating um conditions and of course Shakespeare gave us the the sort of key here and he

said um something is rotten in the state of Denmark right it’s not Hamlet’s fault

that he can’t make up his mind it’s not Hamlet’s fault that he can’t make an informed decision he cannot access the

appropriate knowledge necessary to move forward with his plan whatever that plan

is so Mike my question is is something rotten in the state of Denmark

higher education can swap in or Danish higher education and then if that’s the

case where do we find and locate and take that Rod out and what do we what do we

replace it with so that it is not rotten anymore that our individuals can flourish in systems that are resilient

so that they don’t have to be boy now I can talk for two hours I think

because um well it’s I think something is is

rotten in the state of Denmark in the sense that that um

it’s always to say do do the government need to send more money uh I think yeah

I mean it’s in the sense that that we can always use more money but I think we also need to consider how we spend the

money so to speak in in higher education um there’s no doubt that the pressure on

some of our programs uh passed especially in the humanities uh as in as

I think it is in many countries because of course for instance uh the technical

faculty and I think the faculty of Health they have more external support or external funding right but uh but

it’s not it’s not just about money but I think it’s also about regulation

um we live in a highly regulated Society here which helped us through covet so

thank you for that but but um there’s there are so many regulations to the way

we can conduct the programs uh and I think because there are very strict I

don’t know how it is in Canada and the United States now but when I was a student at Ohio University I could sort

of look in the course catalog and then I would show up for a class and then the teacher had designed the course as he or

she found best you know the type of exams midterms papers exercises whatever

but here in Denmark of course the teacher still has an influence but we have very strict study guides

so and and they can only be changed sort of uh annually so that means if you are

a teacher and you have a great idea about how you want to conduct your program or sorry your course then you

can’t because the study regulations the study guides tells you that it’s this type of exam

the students you cannot ask the students to hand in you know an additional paper because it’s not in the study guide and

and for me as a teacher it was extremely frustrating and I think it’s also frustrating when I work with teachers

they have great ideas you know they would like to do this this and this but

they can’t do it because it’s not in the study guide and I think that’s one of

the major sort of um um sort of institutional

um what’s the word for that uh sort of influences or something that that halts

development I wish that we could sort of lighten up or at least that that the

rather strict rule uh because it it um it kills it kills Innovative uh

practices uh and I I think that’s um yeah that’s that’s a that’s a sort of a

major flaw that’s the rotten part about the educational system and of course we

are challenged by funding because all of a sudden you have 60 students in the classroom rather than 25 or 30 students

um but I think we can deal with that as educational developers we can we can help developing teaching that also

supports large classes because we always have had large classes uh but what we

want to avoid is of course that they that they lecture for two by 45 minutes

each week we want them to create the or practice Active Learning right with with

the students actually actually being active but then it can be difficult because the students will look to the

study regulations saying no no no I’m not supposed to turn anything in I’m just supposed to be here for the exam

so yeah and I think this is also where we run

into the probably in Denmark certainly in Canada we run into things like academic freedom

right and we run into the way that research is prioritized over teaching

and learning in the in the job description of of individuals right where where it’s sort of like I’m

encouraged to innovate I’m encouraged to think outside of the box in my in my research but in the teaching I want to

I’m told I have to stay in the box right and and I stay in the Box not because uh

you know it’s the best thing ever but because it’s how it’s always been done right like the the teaching and learning

so so I guess the question that I’d like to to ask you burgit is really about

how did kovid throw all that out the window right sort of I mean things had

to change because the modalities had to change because places got locked down and we had to go online so so how does a

global pandemic change things present new challenges present New Opportunities

and where where do we hope we’re going um in uh I don’t know 2023 post pandemic

yeah um well certainly

um we also of course have e-learning educational experts in in our Center

and um and what I found interesting and perhaps also a bit disturbing really was

when covet hit all Focus was placed on the e-learning aspect

and of course it was because you know how do did the teachers actually know how soon worked or teams worked Etc and

and I sort of tried several times to raise my hand and said maybe we could

also support the teachers in developing teaching activities that the students could do at home

so it so it wouldn’t have to be just meetings on soon because there were a lot lots of teaching was saying okay

then it’s the teacher talking then we learned how to use the breakout rooms Etc after a few months Etc but I

actually found it quite interesting at least in a Danish context how fast we were to sort of accept the idea that it

was so or nothing but at least that’s that the first lockdown here I sort of had that sense

and I actually got rather frustrated because I I sort of felt that my head

was bubbling with ideas that we could ask teachers to develop for the students

to do at home or in smaller groups and and of course you know some they actually

created these um these groups where you knew that you only saw these four people and some of

the students could have done that um so so in in in many ways I think that

covet and the lockdown initiated new ways to think about teaching and also

this aspect of okay I could actually record this lecture and then the

students can see it and then we can do something else together in the classroom so that was definitely an opening uh but

I was still also quite sort of puzzled by the fact how how so many just thought okay we’ll just

teach on soon and if the teacher is not present then it’s not teaching and I’m thinking

huh here is really an opportunity to think outside the box and actually

consider how important it is I always think of teaching as before in and after

so how do we support the students in preparing before we meet in the

classroom or on soon for that matter and then what do they do afterwards and how

is it linked to what we do the following route so that we think progression with

the students uh to so that the teacher’s role is very much about

um framing a sort of a path so to speak and then the students develop their learning

strategies um so yeah I was sort of facilitating the conversation versus being the

conversation and when when folks were looking for um Zoom they were looking at I need to

replace the classroom with zoom not looking to how can I augment how can I

make it even better by saying you can get the content over here and the class

will take you 12 miles further down the road yeah for instance yeah so uh so so

but but I think in still in that sense I do see sort of broadened perspectives on

teaching and one thing I I realized was that uh many of our teachers they

realize if you want to teach on soon and I I also realized this myself you have

to be much more detailed in your planning so so teachers started to think

more about you know in a sense also activities what was what was significant

because if you have to do a a lecture online you have to be quite to the point

we’re in the classroom you can sort of you you are perhaps a little bit more sort of and then you go off uh and then

you come back to what you initially wanted to say so I think the issue of

planning has become much more clear to uh to teachers saying okay there is

actually a point in considering different activities uh thinking about

myself well what what do I um what why why do I do this activity

uh so so that there is alignment between learning objectives and and a learning

activity um that you create right yeah so birgit I I love this and I wonder if

we can capture this word alignment that you just um brought in because I think it’s I

think we have seen broader perspectives in teaching around modality and platform and and increased awareness of the

importance of alignment in our classrooms your son just went down

we just saw that time in real life

um and I I just wonder because in Canada we have a pretty specific way of evaluating

um and promoting professors so we call it promotion evaluation and review um professors go in at the assistant

level associate level and full Professor level um and they’re assessed based on

depending on the institution service teaching and research and one of the

problems in our promotion evaluation and review is that we don’t for the most part value teaching in in promotion

especially actually from associate to full Professor so what we say we we do

which is you know part of our mandate as as higher education is to you know equip

citizens to go out into the world and make it better and more democratic and more just but we don’t actually value

that kind of work activity and critical reflection in our assessment of faculty

and I wonder if you could speak to that from the Danish perspective if there’s

something rotten Denmark and then how we could imagine alignment of valuing the kind of work

that you’ve suggested vulnerability informal and formal relational ecosystems

um and senses of belonging how do we how do we take that into consideration when we review and evaluate and promote our

faculty um well I think it’s I it’s it’s really a

and a tremendous challenge because it’s really changing a culture right because I think I mean we were all

evaluated on our academic work uh our you know our PhD the number of

Publications we did as an assistant professor Etc um

I think there are I I think that there’s not an easy answer to it because I think

it’s it’s about institutional thinking really it’s about that that um

that the the whole way the institution thinks about teaching uh must be sort of

integrated uh in in the sense that um and it’s not just about you know

evaluating for instance the teaching portfolio when you go to your interview for a position

um I think that’s part of it and maybe that’s the first sort of stepping stone uh in in terms of that you’re recognized

when you are hired you are recognized for your teaching as well but I think the whole system needs to support

teaching and it’s it’s again it’s a way that you know the the study guides it’s

the way that um heads of studies how are they actually are they sort of I don’t know

if if that’s the word but equipped uh pedagogically uh and and with all

respect for my colleagues at sdu I I’m also a bit concerned about how well they

actually um are understand educational development

some sometimes I think it would be interesting to have educational developers as head of studies uh of

course then there is the aspect of the academic part of it but I I often see that heads of studies they become

administrators you know and and at the various meetings you know they look at well how many

students did not take the exams you know did everybody do an evaluation so it

becomes sort of very much a sort of quantitative rather than sort of a

qualitative approach to uh to thinking about teaching uh teaching and learning

at the University um and admittedly I’ve just uh I’m just

waiting for my book to be published on on pedagogical competence development in

higher education and it’s a handbook and it is really for educational or heads up

studies and not so much educational developers but those that are responsible they’re saying well how do I

actually go about this and it’s a handbook so it’s not sort of heavily academic in it in its sense but it very

much Embraces the systemic thinking that is that everything is sort of

interrelated and that the individual teacher is very much dependent on the

decisions that are made at the various levels um and if I was to be very critical I

could go through probably any Danish University and say well what do what decisions I actually made at the various

levels uh do our vice principals how how Keen are they actually on on on teaching

and learning do they ever talk about it um if I look at some universities and

I’m saying well what are their sort of the vision you know and often there is a vision

about you know perhaps something about it’s an educational institution Etc but

then when you sort of go through you know what they do it’s very much about academic life uh I mean in in terms of

of research I was just one of us to use that word right um so I think it it’s it requires

um a development of the various hubs uh and a recognition it it actually

requires from the very top I’m a very much a bottom-up approach person uh but

but I do see that that it needs to be recognized um at the very top of the University I’m

curious about how many boards at universities actually discuss teaching

uh I think they more discuss funding and research

Etc yeah um and I think

um we have in Denmark we also as perhaps also in other countries of course we

have a sort of a national teaching award at each University

um points out if you can or two candidates from each University and then there is a

a national group that that votes and then the one is is voted for

um and I think it’s it of course it draws attention to teaching but it also

it it tells the new teacher you know look at how good you have to be because

it’s it’s the it’s the creme de La Creme right it’s the it’s the best you can ever find which is wonderful I think in

many ways but the large majority of teachers perhaps do not have the

opportunities as this one teacher has had um and again I think you know a teacher

that develops within uh his or her assistant professorship actually you

know being able to move away from the Blackboard and ending up feeling comfortable in the classroom uh actually

starts doing different activities with the students start to think about the

curriculum the content Etc I think it’s it has so much more I I

think deserves an award because that development is so much harder uh and and

and speaking of failure and vulnerability you know I think we really

have to give credit to those that uh that I would I would say truly develops

because if you are an excellent teacher it’s always easier to become better right right because your vulnerability

is just so much is is so is perhaps almost not present right because you

just know you nailed it and and you can you can do better and that’s of course you know they are

um uh they are role models of course but I’m not quite always sure they’re the

right role model because as a young teacher I would feel so much more

vulnerable uh with uh with having saying okay I’m supposed to do this uh rather

than than developing on my own terms and I think this aspect of understanding

that teachers are different and they they Thrive differently in the classroom

um we had to recognize that so we don’t I don’t want all teachers to do the same because they are they are individual uh

people and they develop in their own pace but I still think we have to Place demands on teachers

so so that the institution is also clear about what they expect

um so yeah and I think that’s that’s sometimes difficult in the Danish setting to actually have when you do

something in in a department for instance maybe only a third shows up

or some some kind of educational development activity

um so yeah I think I completely agree with all of what you’ve just said like

the culture change the top to bottom the the shift that’s required and and I

guess you know when when I look at it in my new position as a Dean right it’s about it’s about role modeling and it’s

about providing some you know you could get here to this level or whatever but

it’s not about standardization all it is is about here are some options some promising practices they may not be the

best practices for you but here’s a safe space for you to have those conversations for you to be involved in

that maybe it’s with like-minded folks all emerging you know early career researchers or early career

teachers or maybe it’s with a series of of mentors uh or not but that that’s

that’s beside the point what I wanted to come back around to um was in terms of teaching and learning

um you know you’re obviously very passionate about teaching and learning and and have all kinds of insights what

is the one thing that sort of like gets you out of bed in the morning you’re so excited to go and work on around

teaching and learning or or on the flip side what what is it that sort of you

know keeps you up at night that that just irks you and makes you want to like make a change maybe they’re the same

thing those well um tomorrow uh I’m I I think I probably

do this course six times a year now but I teach our PhD students because they

also they have the teaching obligations in in their PHD programs so we created

this two-day course for them and I always um

it’s always such a thrill to teach them because they are they

even though they are vulnerable they also curious I have very once in a while

there are some that you know because for some it’s mandatory and they’re like well I was supposed to do research and

then I don’t really want to do this teaching Etc but but then you know most of them the match they warm up and I

think it’s um I’m always excited uh when I I do that course uh they usually they

always send me their challenges beforehand so I look through them uh and then we

sort of integrated in in the in the course so that we address some of these issues that they bring up and I’m always

amazed at how in many some some of them are very new and you can almost read the

vulnerability between the lines in a sense but they also they’re quite

reflected already you know just the fact that I asked them and and then they say hmm what is it about my teaching I

actually find challenging so they’re not afraid to share

that those challenges and I think that that that is quite helpful in terms of

in a sense uh indirectly addressing vulnerability that it’s okay that we

really want them to address these issues and it’s something that we can work with

and some of them they think okay I do this two two-day course and then I’m a

teacher uh but of course we also then of course address that they’re just entering that

interesting Road of the of life of teaching uh so and to some I

actually had a colleague when I was an assistant professor we had a PhD student come in and I was I was in charge of of

of the teaching part of Distributing teachers Etc and I asked him to do a

specific course and then he resigned because he was so afraid of teaching

um and I’ve often thought back to that story because I was simply not at that point I would in my career I was not

aware of what was going on but we should have definitely taken him under our wings and said it’s okay you can come

teach with us and then we’ll help you help you through right but then there’s a system you know you have to teach you

in your own but I think we could have perhaps created a good teacher out of him so that was a lesson that was a

failure that that I had to recognize many years later yeah so

yeah was that an answer Pam that’s a wonderful answer and it you know it it

um beautifully leads into my final question for you which is back to your your disciplinary or your

interdisciplinary lens that you you use to probably see the world whether that’s

teaching or the ways in which we understand the the huge and tremendous Global instability right now which is

the notion of memory and history and International Studies

um and you mentioned that some of your doctoral work was on the Vietnam memorial and about dead people and about

sitting in the grief of memory and how memory is really important to

memorialize something is to remember something with the intention sometimes

historians often say that history will not repeat itself or it will not allow it to be repeated because we have this

lens through which we can understand our past in order to reflect on our present in order to innovate our future

so I’m I’m really curious about whether or not looking back to history sitting

in the discomfort of grief and watching the the world unfold as it

is unfolding right now and in many ways um having a kind of World War II repeat

or having some of the the same things happen even the speeches that current

leaders are using they’re quoting Churchill and Shakespeare and you know a

number of of other thinkers where are you right now on the spectrum of Despair

to Hope with our relationship to history to memory and to grief

well I I think I was born hopeful

I um I mean in many ways when I woke up on in

on February 24th as as everybody else I was I was quite shocked I mean of course

referring back to the Ukrainian situation um

but then I go to work and I see the students walking down the hallway and I see teachers still developing

their courses um I have seen a tremendous change from

when I started in 2009 uh during this this work of course I’ve been teaching before that and to where we are at now

and actually I think in even though I’m quite still critical of some of the ways

we’ve dealt with the teaching situation right when we locked down

um I still think that we have learned a lot from this crisis um and in in that sense I think that

that failure is also it that is also part of us as as human beings

and these are very big questions right because if the the question is have we

learned anything from World War II um and in in so many ways I would

actually say I’m still I’m utterly concerned about the current situation

but I also think it’s interesting that our current leaders across the world or

more or less across the world do make references back to some that had quite significant ideas about the world

and about the future of the world in the realm of World War II

um this of course does not mean that that we don’t have other leaders that can

create havoc and a third world war situation um but I’m still I’m I’m quite curious

about the responses to the situation I don’t know how it is in Canada but here the Ukrainian flag

has flown in many different places and because we have very very strict rules about the flag here

but it was actually allowed for a foreign flag to be flown from uh from

from also private businesses Etc and

and I also um I think one of the reasons why I wrote the book that I just written and

would come out here in May I I guess well that’s the actually the plan

um was because I am hopeful because I think there are ideas to

um to create better universities to to place greater emphasis on teaching to

have the institution not just think about research but about

um about teaching as well and this is what makes me get up in the morning what what

makes me that that I can’t fall asleep at night is because it’s it’s so slow

change is so slow uh right and and and I I get impatient and I do have days where

I’m thinking I’m going to quit my job now I want to go out into a prime the private sector I

want to work in a small business because I’m sure they have no problems of this this kind and then I realized well

that’s probably not quite true right so um I think it’s because I do see change

I see hopefully tomorrow afternoon I see happy PhD students leaving you know the

room they might you know they come into the classroom like this they’re so worried they’re so vulnerable and then

their shoulders sort of you know even out and they feel so much more relaxed about

um having to teach perhaps next week or uh just before the summer right so I

think in in that sense I I I I think there’s lots of Hope and I think that’s the only

that’s the only way to approach this it might some some people sometimes call me

naive but I say oh that thank you very much for calling me that because I I do

believe that we hope is actually quite significant it’s it’s hope is part of

recognizing failure because if you recognize failure that means there’s also hope uh to uh to do

things differently um and I think in many ways

I’m still curious about for instance how our younger generation if they can if

they experience um if they they can

if if life becomes um richer for them because they they

sort of experienced what they they lost so to speak uh during during the

lockdown but then of course much of the lockdown and the and what they

experienced was also because they had expectations which is quite interesting because I

have a daughter who is 17 and she just she graduated from that’s our primary

school system and so they did they didn’t go to go to Berlin they didn’t go to have the final a ball uh because we

were in a lockdown so it was also about the expectations that were not fulfilled

so so I’m I’m thinking that maybe we become better at not having I think

expectations is a is a driver for us but maybe we we um

expectations also makes us much more vulnerable in many ways I think so that

that I hope young people becomes better at living here and now saying there it’s

it’s it is an uneasy world but now then I have to do my best right now rather than wait for

um for two years or or whatever how we should put it yeah so yeah but I’m just I’m just very

hopeful hopeful person I love that and well and we chose the

right profession because we’re surrounded by Young thoughtful insightful humans who are willing to sit

in the complexity and difficulty and together imagine a world that is better than the

one that we have and if that is not the antidote to despair if that is not the

champion of democracy as a social institution as a mandate of a publicly

funded institution I don’t know what it is so thank you thank you so much for joining us and for connecting the dot

between the narratives of failure and hope and the ways in which we can trace those through through memory and through

um senses of belonging and design thinking around how we can foster the

what it animates all of your um your interests which is curiosity so it’s just been it’s been a pleasure to have a

conversation with you today likewise thanks so much you’re most welcome

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