Took a new approach to teaching – received award
NHH lecturers and statisticians Geir Drage Berentsen and Håkon Otneim employed a new approach to teaching during the pandemic. They’ve now received the Inspirational Teaching Award and the sum of NOK 250,000 to share between them.
‘We were very surprised!’ This is a great honour,’ exclaim Geir Drage Berentsen and Håkon Otneim backstage at Grieghallen. The two associate professors in statistics at the Norwegian School of Economics were the first ever to receive the Inspirational Teaching Award. Both are researchers at the Department of Business and Management Science.
Rector Øystein Thøgersen awarded them the prize during the graduation ceremony for NHH students at Grieghallen in Bergen on Friday. The award is for outstanding dissemination of knowledge and research. Along with the recognition of their efforts, they also received NOK 250,000. There were 34 nominations for this year’s award.
Isabella and Henrik Müller-Hansen donated the NOK 1.25 million in funding for an annual prize of NOK 250,000 kroner to be awarded to NHH researchers who make extraordinary teaching efforts.
When the pandemic led to the campus being closed, Drage Berentsen and Otneim used the flipped classroom to teach their courses.
Why did you change your teaching methods?
‘We sought to handle the coronavirus period by employing some new methods. We had to make sure that it wasn’t just a poorer version of our teaching before the pandemic,’ says Otneim, and continues:
‘Flipped classroom is a method where the students are much more involved in the teaching and have to take active responsibility for their own learning.’
During the pandemic, lectures on the statistics course at bachelor’s level were dropped.
‘None of us thought the lectures were any good – neither us nor the students. We chose to digitalise much of the teaching. Instead of having to explain lots of technical things non-stop for two hours, we divided the statistics subject into smaller modules where the students worked on assignments and real-life cases related to theory.
Theory and practice
‘We’ve wanted to improve the teaching for a long time. And when the coronavirus came along, the closed campus legitimised a bit more experimentation than we would normally have allowed ourselves. I think the digital changes we’ve made in the teaching has made the subject even more interesting for the students.’
Will you continue along the same track after the pandemic?
‘We will probably build on our good experience in one way or another. We’ve also received positive feedback from the students. They’ve been given more responsibility for their own learning, and we’ve related the subject to real-life contexts. Statistics doesn’t have to be an abstract subject that you just have to do to get through the programme. We think it’s interesting in itself, particularly for economists.’
In the grounds for its decision, the jury writes that the two winners: ‘...have managed to turn a traditional methodology course into a brilliant example of modern education. In the process, they have managed to strengthen NHH’s strategic focus on technology and make the link between theory and practice explicit.’
What does this award mean for the statistics discipline?
‘It of course means a lot. Statistics is both interesting and applicable in many contexts.’
A private gift
Isabella and Henrik Müller-Hansen, both economists from the Stockholm School of Economics, are passionate about entrepreneurship, sustainability and internationalisation. In their time, they sold everything they owned to establish and build the technology company Gelato. Today, the company is what is known as a ‘unicorn’, i.e. a company worth more than one million dollars.
‘The best gift we can give to the next generation is outstanding communication of new knowledge and research,’ says Henrik Müller-Hansen.
‘The researchers who receive the award will be outstanding at teaching. I’m sure that their academic engagement and enthusiasm for teaching will make a difference to young students about to enter working life, whether they are going to work as economists, entrepreneurs or managers,’ says Isabella Müller-Hansen.
NHH Rector Øystein Thøgersen believes the award will make a big difference.
‘The generous donation from Isabella and Henrik Müller-Hansen cuts to the core of NHH’s ambitions. We constantly endeavour to ensure that the teaching at NHH is relevant, of high academic quality and engages our students,’ says Thøgersen.