Ars Docendi recognition award for teaching on microbial ecology

picture of Alexander Loy, Holger Daims and Matthias Horn standing next to each other in front of the CMESS entrance sign

In the context of the “Ars Docendi State Prize for Excellent Teaching”, DOME members Holger Daims, Matthias Horn and Alexander Loy received a recognition award for their teaching concept on microbial ecology. The jury of the award praised the close interdisciplinary cooperation and the problem- and research-oriented approach of the concept and described it as “groundbreaking” for teaching. The Ars Docendi 2022 awardees have been honoured on 22 September 2022 in the Aula der Wissenschaften in Vienna. The teaching project “Diversity, Function and Molecular Ecology of Microorganisms” by the three microbiologists reached the shortlist in the category “Learning Outcome-Oriented Teaching and Examination Culture” and thus received a recognition award. The project is now included as a teaching example in the “Atlas of Good Teaching" (Atlas der guten Lehre). This atlas collects best practice examples from teaching and makes them accessible to other educators as an online reference work.

The teaching project of the three CMESS researchers consists of two lectures, a laboratory exercise and a seminar with excursions. The combination of these four courses is dedicated to the challenge of making microbial ecology understandable and at the same time exciting for students. Microbes usually elude direct observation and often appear unspectacular even under the microscope. Yet, they are omnipresent and essential for the health of humans and the planet. However, their important functions result from complex biochemical processes that can only be studied if students acquire insights into complicated lab and computational techniques. By means of extensive interaction and hands-on research, the three microbiologists aim at facilitating these insights. The dialogue with the students, varied didactic elements such as quizzes, reflection on methods based on real studies, exercises, and insights into practical applications of microbial ecology are described by them as core building blocks of their teaching.

The “Ars Docendi State Prize for Excellent Teaching” was announced for the tenth time by the Universities Conference, the Universities of Applied Sciences Conference, the Austrian Conference of Private Universities, the Rectors’ Conference of the Austrian Universities of Teacher Education and the Austrian Students’ Union. The prize aims at highlighting the great importance of teaching in the science system and at supporting cooperation in the education sector. This year, a total of almost 350 teachers from Austrian universities submitted 164 teaching concepts.