Recipients of 2020 teaching quality awards announced

Like every year, students have elected the recipients of this year’s teaching excellence awards and the Academic Affairs Committee has announced the programme directors of the year and the laureates of the teaching quality enhancement award. Teaching staff of the year have been elected since 2006, the teaching quality enhancement awards granted since 2012, and the programme directors of the year recognised since 2014 at the University of Tartu.

Teaching Staff of the Year

The title Teaching Staff of the Year is awarded to recognise one teaching staff member in each faculty for teaching excellence in the previous academic year. Recipients of the teaching excellence awards are elected by students in accordance with the University of Tartu good teaching practice. To nominate a member of the teaching staff for the award, at least five students have to jointly make a reasoned proposal. The student council of each faculty selects five nominees out of all the proposed candidates and the evaluation committee will decide on the recipient of the award.

The committee formed by the University of Tartu Student Union decided, based on the proposals they received, that the Teaching Staff of the Year 2020 are

  • Alexander Stewart Davies, Senior Research Fellow in Theoretical Philosophy, Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics, Faculty of Arts and Humanities;
  • Liina Lepp, Lecturer in Didactics, Institute of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences;
  • Doris Vahtrik, Lecturer of Muscoskeletal System, Institute of Sport Sciences and Physiotherapy, Faculty of Medicine;
  • Meelis Käärik, Associate Professor in Probability Theory, Institute of Mathematics and Statistics, Faculty of Science and Technology.

Vice Chairman of the Student Union Helo Liis Soodla said that students recognise teaching staff for teaching the students to think critically and lead their actions, and for helping them create a ground for personal development. They also acknowledge them for integrating theory and practice, and for creating a learning environment that supports cooperative dialogue and equal opportunities. “All recipients of the teaching excellence award encourage students with their dedication and hard work, they notice and offer help when someone has a problem, and do not let students stay in their comfort zone but inspire them to aspire,” she said.

The nominees for the award included

  • in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities: Pire Teras, Associate Professor of Estonian Phonetics, Institute of Estonian and General Linguistics; Antonina Kostina, Assistant in Norwegian Language, and Anu Treikelder, Lecturer in French Language and Linguistics, College of Foreign Languages and Cultures; and Anneli Saro, Professor on Theatre Research, Institute of Cultural Research;
  • in the Faculty of Social Sciences: Lauri Mälksoo, Professor of International Law, School of Law; Kariina Laas, Lecturer of Clinical and Health Psychology and Neuropsychopharmacology, Institute of Psychology; Thomas Linsenmaier, Junior Research Fellow in International Relations, and Andres Võrk, Analyst, Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies;
  • in the Faculty of Medicine: Kersti Teder, Assistant in Biopharmacy, Institute of Pharmacy; Peeter Saadla, Assistant in Propaedeutics of Internal Medicine; Liivi Maddison, Assistant in Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, and Kadri Kõivumägi, Assistant in Infectious Diseases, Institute of Clinical Medicine;
  • in the Faculty of Science and Technology: Toomas Esperk, Associate Professor in Zoology of Invertebrates, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences; Marco Kirm, Professor in Experimental Physics, Institute of Physics; Riho Teras, Associate Professor in Genetics, and Priit Jõers, Associate Professor in General and Microbial Biochemistry, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology.

Programme Director of the Year

The title Programme Director of the Year is awarded to programme directors who continuously and systematically develop their curriculum in accordance with the university’s quality requirements. They involve employers, students, teaching staff and alumni in the development of the curriculum and are successful in their development activities. The candidates to the Programme Director of the Year award are nominated by the deans, and the recipients are chosen by the Academic Affairs Committee.

Programme Directors of the Year 2020 are

  • Ene Kõresaar, Programme Director of the master’s curriculum “Ethnology, Folkloristics and Applied Anthropology”, Associate Professor Ethnology, Institute of Cultural Research, Faculty of Arts and Humanities;
  • Triin Vihalemm, Programme Director of the master’s curriculum “Change Management in Society”, Professor of Communication Studies, Institute of Social Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences;
  • Oivi Uibo, Programme Director of the English-taught integrated bachelor's and master’s curriculum “Medicine”, Associate Professor of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine;
  • Indrek Zolk, Programme Director of the bachelor’s curriculum “Mathematics”, Lecturer in Mathematical Analysis, Institute of Mathematics and Statistics, Faculty of Science and Technology.

According to Vice Rector for Academic Affairs Aune Valk, what best characterises the programme directors of the year 2020, besides their consistent work, is innovation: they have developed a new field of study in the curriculum, a new type of master’s exam, added the possibility for different paths of learning, initiated new modules, created systematic Moodle support for the entire curriculum, and added new video lectures. “These achievements definitely require good cooperation and motivation skills from the programme directors to involve their colleagues in implementing the changes,” Valk said.

Teaching quality enhancement award

Teaching quality enhancement award is granted to recognise an institute, college or faculty of the university for successfully designed, implemented and effective activity that supports teaching quality. The recognition is given to a structural unit that has cooperatively, systematically and effectively enhanced teaching quality over the last three years. It is important that the changes are planned and implemented in the cooperation of staff and students. The proposals for the teaching quality enhancement award are evaluated and the recipient is selected by the Academic Affairs Committee. The award includes a monetary prize of 30,000 euros.

The recipient of the teaching quality enhancement award 2020 is the Institute of Social Studies of the Faculty of Social Sciences.

In the development of studies, the Institute of Social Studies strives for every graduate to acquire, besides professional knowledge and skills, also general and specialised digital skills during their studies. The goal is to integrate different skills and integrate the teaching of digital skills into courses and various activities. Teaching staff and programme directors have identified the important general and specialised digital competencies for students of social studies, created digital skills courses, materials, infrastructure, and developed the digital skills of the teaching staff and research oriented at the development of digital skills. In addition, the aim is to effectively combine teaching and studies, research, traineeship and activities for serving society with digital competencies. Through individual and teamwork in different subject courses, students are encouraged to find practical applications to digital skills that may otherwise often remain abstract, and plan activities that would enable broader scope and impact.

Similarly to other events of recognition that were scheduled to be held during the anniversary events of Estonia’s national university, also the presentation of the teaching quality awards will be postponed to spring 2021.