Aarhus University Anniversary Foundation Prize of Honour for Pedagogics

The Aarhus University Anniversary Foundation Prize of Honour for Pedagogics is awarded in recognition of outstanding and groundbreaking teaching at Aarhus University and is accompanied by a DKK 100,000 monetary award.

Professor Bjørk Hammer

A dedicated and digitally savvy educational innovator

Bjørk Hammer’s nomination was unusual. No fewer than three heads of department and centre directors at the Faculty of Science and Technology nominated the same person for the  Anniversary Foundation Prize of Honour for Pedagogics this year – independently of one another. As far as anyone knows, this has never happened before.

Hammer has been at the Department of Physics and Astronomy since April 2000, and is extremely popular and respected by both colleagues and students. He is frequently referred to as an example of best practice at events on educational practice.

For many years, he has demonstrated a strong engagement in the students’ transition from upper secondary school to university. On the background of his experiences teaching 1st and 2nd year students on the Bachelor’s degree programme in physics, and through systematic observation with repeated tests, he put a great deal of effort into developing the online learning tool Sci2u.dk, entirely on his own initiative.

The purpose of the tool is to train the student’s technical and conceptual skills in maths, programming, mechanics and quantum mechanics. Sci2u addresses student’s maths skills, a central and much debated issue in relation to STEM degree programmes, in an exemplary way.

“The philosophy behind the tool is that practice makes perfect ,so that the students are given minor variations on a particular type of problem, and are given instant feedback on whether they’re on the right track. The results of the project are very promising; students improve their skills and exam results in maths through continual proficiency training. The future perspectives are also promising: a higher academic level and lower drop-out rates,” explains Hammer.

Sci2u was tested on over 1000 new students on a calculus course starting in the 2015 autumn semester. Hammer was the driving force behind the project, and with the help of students, designed learning paths in SCi2u for each fourteen-week course in Calculus 1 and 2. Significantly positive effects were observed in the Calculus 1 course after the final exam in autumn 2015. The program has since been further refined.

Hammer’s approach to education reflects his belief that the university must demand that students improve their academic skills – and make it possible for them to do so. In this way, he has made an important contribution to shifting the debate on the students’ mathematics skills to a focus on the university’s possibilities for action.

Sci2u and Hammer’s other teaching activities are founded in the belief that the student who learns is the student who works at it. Even students who begin their university educations with a low level of achievement can develop themselves and achieve a solid skill level if the university makes the right demands and provides the right tools.