Published: Fri 06 Dec 2013.

Pedagogical Prize to Dina Petranovic Nielsen

Dina Petranovic Nielsen is awarded the pedagogical prize 2013 for her encouraging teaching methods and course development in molecular biology. She treats her students as equal participants in the process of learning, using the metaphor of a ship with herself as the captain and the students as her crew undertaking a group effort.

Dina Petranovic Nielsen, associate professor in systems biology, receives the pedagogical prize for her methods of encouraging her students to ask questions. She does this with the purpose of stimulating their learning and getting them to believe in themselves.
Please describe your methods!
 I want my students to feel confident about asking questions, so I encourage dialogue in general. For example, on the first day of the course, I bring a question basket to the class room. The students can slip their anonymous question in the basket, and I will address the questions when it’s suitable. I also stay in the class room during the break to be available for questions. After a couple of weeks the basket disappears, because they don’t need it anymore. Another tool that we use is an anonymous online message board where the students interact by posting questions and answering them. I correct the answers if I see a fault, but I want them in the first place to answer, because that is also a good way to learn.
Why is this important?
 I want to minimize the distance between teacher and students, and obtain a mutual trust. I try to think back to when I was in their place, to get their perspective. You can compare it to a ship, where I’m captain and the students are my crew. I see it as a group effort to have my team with me all along, and successfully get them from A to B.

The other factor that awards her with the pedagogical price is Dina’s development of the course molecular biology. She came to Chalmers in 2008 and started to teach molecular biology the following year. She redesigned the course, starting out with knowledge that‘s easy to learn and is easily applied in reality. Then she moves on to the more abstract parts. She describes that in order to be a good teacher you have to be willing to work hard, and take time for structure and preparations. She continues:
 You also need to keep your passion for it, and to me it is truly rewarding work. I think of the students as possible future colleagues, and by that I want them to become good ambassadors for the science.
What future challenges do you see, what would you want to develop further in teaching?
If I had more money I would get more equipment  and space for the labs, and develop Labster (interactive lab) to give the students even better tools, tailormade for our program. I would also like to have a network of local companies that can give students relevant summer jobs, where they can implement their new knowledge. Both parties could definitely benefit from that!

Text: Carolina Eek Jaworski
Photo: Jan-Olof Yxell

Published: Fri 06 Dec 2013.