Mills Kelly Receives Gutenberg Teaching Award

by Anne Reynolds

Mills Kelly Receives Gutenberg Teaching Award

Mills Kelly, history professor and interim executive director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, has been a leader in the scholarship of teaching and learning since the late 1990s. For his body of work, he was nominated this spring for the Gutenberg Teaching Award.

The award has been conferred annually since 2014 by the Gutenberg Teaching Council of the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. It recognizes academics, artists, or others who have significantly contributed to the development and growth of academic teaching and the improvement of teaching quality.

The award is a recognition of lifetime achievement, said Kelly. “I started on this research in 1998 [while a Fellow at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching] when nobody had heard of the scholarship for teaching and learning. It’s just been an essential part of my work as a scholar ever since.”

Kelly explained that the field goes beyond the promotion of good teaching. “It’s a research field that studies how students learn in the disciplines of higher education. It’s heavily research-based scholarship, but it’s in the disciplines: historians study the way that history students learn, chemists study the way the chemistry students learn. Then we share across those disciplines. I’ve learned more, in many ways, from chemists and what they write about teaching, than I have from historians.”

The Gutenberg awardees are notable in the diversity of their respective disciplines. Kelly’s field is history and digital humanities; previous winners have included a scholar in the field of philosophy, political science, and economics (PPE); a researcher into AIDS/HIV and African Bible study; a Nobel Prize laureate in physics; the founder and musical director of the Bach Collegium Japan; and a professor of German studies and literature who helped advance the internationalization of university teaching.

Representing universities from Europe, Africa, the United States, and Asia, the winners of the Gutenberg Prize “are diverse in every way that you can think of,” said Kelly.

Kelly was nominated for the award by the Department of History at the University of Mainz to recognize his twenty-plus years of work in the scholarship of teaching and learning, which included a three-year commitment as president of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL), as well as his pioneering work in digital history and his extensive advocacy for transforming history education in North America and Europe.

“What matters is that those of us that are doing this work are pushing the conversation so that people are, in fact, being more and more thoughtful about, how do we know that it’s working? How do we know that our students are actually learning something?” said Kelly.

“And that’s the question that every scholar asks: how do you know?”