Dialogue with the students is the secret of successful teaching, according to Tina Karrbom Gustavsson and Patric Jensfelt. (Photo: Marc Femenia)

Lecturers who listen

Published Nov 28, 2017

One is being recognised for her inspiring teaching and the other for his ability to create a wonderfully positive climate for study. Tina Karrbom Gustavsson and Patric Jensfelt are this year’s recipients of the KTH Pedagogical Prize.

Unexpectedly strong November sun streams in through the windows on the sixth floor of the new building at Teknikringen 10B. The light and airy lunch room is where Tina Karrbom Gustavsson and Patric Jensfelt meet for the first time. They have been awarded the KTH Pedagogical Prize and are here to be photographed together.

Tina Karrbom Gustavsson is a university lecturer and Associate Professor of Project Communication, while Patric Jensfelt is a Professor of Computer Science specialising in Robotics. Both do a great deal of teaching – and really enjoy it.

“If you want the students to be engaged, you have to show an interest in what you teach, it has to be obvious that you have a passion for your subject,” says Patric Jensfelt, and Tina Karrbom Gustavsson agrees.

Questions and counter-questions

Tina is being recognised for the inspiring and engaging nature of her teaching. The jury citation also states that she perfectly tailors her teaching to the abilities of her audience.

“I think this is because I have frequent interaction with the students during and after their studies at KTH and through my blogging and op-ed articles. I always try to adapt what I say to the interests of the students or audience, so they feel that I’m speaking directly to them,” she explains.

Teaching qualifications should carry more weight in academia, according to Tina Karrbom Gustavsson and Patric Jensfelt.

“But generally, my teaching is based on asking open questions and counter-questions. My students study urban planning, and it’s important to prepare them for a challenging career. My job is to train people to formulate problems, and as such you have to be able to ask questions.”

Patric Jensfelt also cites the importance of dialogue:

“When teaching the course, I encourage questions and dialogue. This works best on my robotics course, where I can speak with the confidence of an expert.”

The jury citation highlights his ability to create a wonderfully positive climate that stimulates the students’ interest and engagement.

“I try to be accessible and show interest in the students as people. It’s important to see the course from their perspective, show an understanding of their problems and be a good listener,” says Patric.

Environment and housing segregation

Both have several tips for other educators, including aiming the teaching at all the students, not just the narrow band at the top.

“The top band will do well in any case. The vast majority appreciate recaps and revision,” states Patric.

“Another tip is to place the subject in a particular context by raising current social challenges that have a bearing on the subject. Both Swedish and international students like it when we examine global issues such as the environment or housing segregation,” says Tina.

Towards the end of the interview, Patric Jensfelt and Tina Karrbom Gustavsson consider the significance of the pedagogical prize in an environment where research qualifications are usually what count.

“It’s rare for anyone to ask a new KTH lecturer about their educational ambitions. The main focus is on recruiting a research director – that’s how the system is designed,” says Patric.

“It’s great that the prize exists, but this should really have a natural place in the qualifications system,” asserts Tina Karrbom Gustavsson.

Text: Karin Strand

Tina Karrbom Gustavsson

  • Job: University lecturer and Head of the Division of Project Communication at the School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE).
  • Background: MSc in Mechanical Engineering, PhD in Industrial Economics and Organisation, Associate Professor of Project Communication, has worked as Director of Development at Huddinge Municipality.
  • Main fields of research: Project management, construction project management and project communication.
  • Best feedback: When former students invite me to give a lecture or serve as a moderator. I’ve also received several e-mails from female international students saying that I’m a role model for them. That naturally makes me happy and proud.
  • Previous awards in a pedagogical context: ‘Woman of the Year in Real Estate’ 2014.
  • Where I’m going with my prize money: I’m thinking about Denmark. I’d like to visit a Danish school of architecture. I’m inspired by the way architects tend to work interactively and creatively.

Patric Jensfelt

  • Job: Professor and Deputy Head of the Department of Robotics, Perception and Learning at the School of Computer Science and Communication (CSC)
  • Background: MSc in Engineering Physics, Ph.D. in Automatic Control and Robotics, Professor of Computer Science.
  • Main fields of research: Robotics and system integration.
  • Best feedback: When I stood down as Programme Director, all the students thanked me in such a warm way that made me feel so appreciated.
  • Previous awards in a pedagogical context: Nominated for the School of Computer Science and Communication’s ‘Slipspris’ pedagogical award three times.
  • Where I’m going with my prize money: I’ve given it some thought, but I haven’t quite decided yet.

Jury citation:

Tina Karrbom Gustavsson won the award for “her inspiring, enthusing and engaging teaching on the subject of construction project management.

“Tina Karrbom Gustavsson is actively involved in teaching at many different levels and like Erik Axel Karlfeldt’s Fridolin, she ‘with farmers speaks plainly the language they know, but with learned folk Latin’s routine’, i.e. she is outstanding at pitching her teaching at the level of her students or audience.”

“Tina Karrbom Gustavsson works as a lecturer, course director and examiner for a number of courses in project management, project communication, construction project management and for degree projects at first and second cycle level, as well as post-graduate thesis work.”

Patric Jensfelt won the award for “his work as Programme Director of the Master’s programme ‘Systems, Control and Robotics’, where he has created a wonderfully positive climate that stimulates the students’ engagement and interest and thus promotes learning”. Patric Jensfelt makes sure that new students are welcomed in a way that puts them at ease and makes them feel comfortable in the department, and he has introduced new ideas with regard to teaching and learning.

“Programme-wide courses have brought first- and second-year students into contact with each other. In addition to creating a meeting place for the students, students are stimulated to explore their own capacity to build and program systems. For many of the students, these courses are the first time they have worked on a real-life system.”

KTH’s annual Pedagogical Prize  is a travel grant awarded to lecturers at KTH who have exhibited outstanding work in first cycle education. The prize is a travel grant of SEK 20,000 per person. The idea is for the trip to advance the prize winners’ pedagogical development. This year’s prize will be awarded during the graduation ceremony at Stockholm City Hall on 13 December.