To Tell or Not to Tell and the Title “Excellent Teacher”

I participated in the Uppsala University’s Academic Senate retreat the other week. Several very important areas were discussed related to teaching and research. One are that was discussed was the “Excellent Teacher” reform launched in Uppsala in 2011. First Maja Elmgren presented the background to the reform, and this was followed by Jan Lindwall who talked about his experiences being an Excellent Teacher.

Maja Elmgren described that Uppsala University has around 80 Excellent Teachers, most of whom come from the faculty of Science and Technology. I also know that a large part of those teachers are from my department, and that I am one out of many colleagues who have the title.

Maja Elmgren also described this faculty’s work with creating a community of practice with the people who has the title Excellent Teacher, and there were lots of discussions about possible future directions related to the title. Two of the questions that were discussed were:

  1. How can we take advantage of the excellent teachers to strengthen the link between research and education?
    2. If we think that the excellent teacher reform has passed its first phase, how can the excellent teacher role be designed in the future – in phase 2.0 – to strengthen the university as a whole?

Jan Lindwall presented his experience from being promoted to excellent teacher, which was really interesting and his talk resulted in a discussion around telling or not telling people that you have the title Excellent Teacher. It became obvious from the discussion that many of the people in the room who had the title seldom told anyone about it. Their experience was that:

  1. saying that you are an excellent teacher would raise people’s expectations of you as a teacher and they don’t want that
  2. It is not worth anything to say that you have the title since people are unaware that it exists
  3. It feels awkward for many to use the word “EXCELLENT” about themselves.
  4. Perhaps it should be possible to nominate others to become Excellent Teachers. There are too few who dare to apply.

I have a very different feeling about this and I have Excellent Teacher in the footer of my mail for example. I also celebrated being awarded this title in the same way as when I was awarded my more research oriented titles. My feeling about this is that of course we should tell that we have been awarded the title Excellent Teacher:

  1. I think that the Excellent Teacher reform is super important, and one step in the right direction for universities to focus on creating good learning environments for students.
  2. We should be promoting the fact that we have the title at our university, and help colleagues to be awarded the title too.
  3. We should aim at having many Excellent Teachers, and we should be proud of them.