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Teacher of the year: "It is a myth that you can’t keep people concentrated for more than 15 minutes”

Prizes — As lecturer in tort and contract law, professor Andreas Bloch Ehlers makes difficult legal issues relevant, and involves the students. He is so good at this that he has been named Teacher of the Year at UCPH.

If you as a motorist run down a cyclist and they lose their front teeth, you will normally be ordered to pay compensation for the dentist’s bill.

But what if the injured party rides out directly in front of you. Are you still liable?

It is questions like these, that are the focus of the course “Tort and contract” at the Faculty of Law. And professor Andreas Bloch Ehlers is so good a teacher that he has just received the award as Teacher of the Year at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) in connection with the university’s annual commemoration.

It is the students themselves that nominate their instructors for the award. The committee justified its choice stating that Andreas Bloch Ehlers gets the award for “his interactive and lively teaching and for creating a very unique learning environment.”

It is a great honour. This is a really cool prize

Andreas Bloch Ehlers, law professor and Teacher of the Year

“It is a great honour. This is a really cool prize And it is not so often that you are honoured for your teaching. As a teacher you are on for 2 hours at a time, and you try to do it as well as you can,” says Andreas Bloch Ehlers, who has been employed at the University since 2007 and defended his doctoral dissertation last year.

Focus on method

The aim of his teaching is to transform complex legal material into practical terms for the students.

“All law is based on a form of ethics and ideas about where we want to go with our society. My ambition is always to make the material relevant and to explain why my legal field is important. It is both about relevant abstract ideas and about bringing the material down to earth. I always begin by explaining the general rules and legal principles and afterwards go into detail with examples. I always involve cases and examples from case law, which are not included in the books.”

Enthusiasm is really important. If you don't think this topic is exciting, other people probably won’t either
Teacher of the Year Andreas Bloch Ehlers

For Andreas Bloch Ehlers it does matter whether the student is involved in class -and that they are properly equipped for the exam.

“It means a lot to me that they are do well. And I try to make it clear what is at stake. I do a lot of legal methodology – that is, how to set up legal arguments. I also draw up graphics when I need to explain complex issues or, say, who is suing who,” he says.

Årets Underviser fik mulighed for at møde HKH Dronning Magrethe til KU's årsfest.
image: Nikolai Linares
The Teacher of the Year was given the opportunity to meet HRH Queen Magrethe at the UCPH commemoration.
image: Nikolai Linares

Enthusiasm is important.

Andreas Bloch Ehlers teaches both small and larger class sizes at the Faculty of Law. But there is one thing that applies no matter whether you are standing in front of 28 students or in a lecture theatre with 140.

“Enthusiasm is really important. If you don’t find the topic exciting, other people probably won’t either. I actually start each teaching session with a problem statement and a plan showing what we are going to achieve. I always include cases in the teaching and recapitulate a lot along the way. Otherwise you will lose someone,” explains Andreas Bloch Ehlers.

He believes that the instructors have a responsibility to involve students in class.

“I think it is a myth that you can’t keep people concentrated for more than 15 minutes. If you can’t do that, it is because you are not doing well as a teacher. If you start by explaining to the students why a particular rule or principle of law is applicable, it is much easier to communicate.”