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Teaching Award of Freie Universität for Two Projects

Two outstanding proposals for courses on diversity during 2018 summer semester – one in the humanities and one in natural sciences

№ 013/2018 from Jan 23, 2018

To what extent do the university's habitus and centuries-old rhetorical forms prevent more diversity at universities? How does the paradigm of pure substance in chemistry prevent scientists from seeing reaction networks consisting of diverse molecules? Two courses planned for the summer semester deal with the subject of diversity in surprising ways and have won the 2017 Teaching Award of Freie Universität Berlin. Both projects – one at the Institute of Romance Languages and Literatures proposed by Prof. Dr. Anita Traninger and one at the Institute of Chemistry proposed by Prof. Dr. Beate Koksch and Prof. Dr. Christoph Schalley – will receive 5,000 euros for implementation during the 2018 summer semester. For the first time the Teaching Award has been presented to two projects because both of them show exceedingly great promise. The awards will be presented on February 13, 2018, at Freie Universität Berlin.

The project "Understanding University: The Rhetoric(s) of German Academia" will focus on the history of the European university and in particular on the rhetorical practices it has cultivated, which, according to the project leaders, continue to have an impact and still shape debate conventions in seminar discussions and inform the stylistic norms of scholarly writing. At the same time, the German university does not systematically disclose or teach these conventions – unlike, for example, its counterparts in the Anglo-Saxon world. Addressing the “academic habitus” from the point of view of rhetoric is intended to disenchant the widespread idea of a seemingly natural talent as a prerequisite for participation in academic discourse. The project, which was conceived by Anita Traninger, a professor of Romance languages and literatures at Freie Universität Berlin, together with Isabelle Fellner, Oliver Gent, and Angie Martiens, emerged from the group's work in the Collaborative Research Center 980 “Episteme in Motion.” Taking their work on the history of knowledge as a starting point, they developed a teaching project to contribute to a critical reflection on the university's structural resistance to diversity. The teaching project combines an analysis of the historical reasons for this situation with a practical component. To allow international students to participate, the course will be taught both in German and English.

In the winning project proposed by Professor Beate Koksch and Professor Christoph Schalley from the Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Freie Universität Berlin, the students will deal with the diversity of molecules and the way they cooperate in chemical reaction networks. The course "Molecular Diversity – Emergent Properties in Chemical Reactivity Networks" will not only cover chemical processes in diverse molecular settings, but also draw parallels with other complex systems such as insect colonies, the global climate, or social phenomena from traffic jams to mass panic. The organizing team, which in addition to Beate Koksch and Christoph Schalley includes two chemistry students, Elena Petersen and Anthony Krause, and two doctoral researchers, Hendrik Schröder and Dorian Mikolajczak, pursue the goal of contributing to a “differentiated scientific world view.” They invited lecturers from the fields of biology, climate research, and sociology. Teaching the students how to successfully carry out research is another goal of the course: The students taking the class will design experiments that will be used as public presentations at the Long Night of Science at Freie Universität Berlin on June 9. They will also produce educational films that are understandable for a diverse public audience and that will be made widely accessible.

The Teaching Award of Freie Universität Berlin is part of the university’s concept for research-oriented teaching (FoL). The award recognizes outstanding teaching concepts and projects that integrate the findings of cutting-edge research in teaching at the university. Unlike the teaching awards that various academic departments at Freie Universität Berlin award to individuals, the Teaching Award of Freie Universität is given to innovative teaching projects for implementation during the following academic year. It is presented annually with a different thematic focus each year. For the 2017/18 academic year, the fifth time the award is being presented, proposals were requested for courses that are research-oriented and diverse.

The Teaching Award and the concept “research-oriented teaching” are key components of the university’s development concept Veritas – Justitia – Libertas. International Network University, with which Freie Universität Berlin won excellence status in the German government’s Excellence Initiative both in 2007 and again in 2012. The first Teaching Award in 2013 went to a German-Israeli exchange project for history students training to become teachers. It was carried out by Martin Lücke, a professor of history education at Freie Universität. The 2014 Teaching Award was presented for a project by Professor Rainer Haag from the Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry, in which students were given an opportunity to submit application-oriented projects to a practical test. In 2015 it was awarded for a course to give students an introduction to using computer-based proof-assistant systems in logic. It was taught by computer scientist PD Dr. Christoph Benzmüller. Last year’s Teaching Award was presented to teach an interdisciplinary introduction to the principles of open science, which was proposed by two neuroscientists Dr. Ulf Tölch and Prof. Dr. Dirk Ostwald.


  • Dr. Nina Diezemann, Office of News and Public Affairs, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel. +49 30 838-73190, Email: nina.diezemann@fu-berlin.de

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