In spring 2020, Mills Kelly, history professor and interim director, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, received word from the Gutenberg Teaching Council of the Johannes Gutenberg University (JGU) in Mainz, Germany, that he had been selected to receive the 2019 Gutenberg Teaching Award.
The award has been made annually since 2014 to scientists, artists, educators, and others who have made a significant contribution to the discipline of teaching. The winners have traditionally spent a period of time working on the Gutenberg University campus in Mainz, exchanging ideas with the faculty there and presenting an address to the school.
In the face of the worldwide pandemic, however, this year’s ceremony was held virtually in mid-October. Georg Karush, the president of JGU, opened the ceremony with a description of the university’s long history of teaching, reaching back to its opening in 1477. It now serves over 31,000 students from 120 countries.
Kelly was introduced by Professor Meike Hensel-Grobe, Professor of Didactics of History, who noted his important contributions to the development of academic teaching. Remarking on his presidency of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Hensel-Grobe discussed Kelly’s creative and innovative approaches to teaching and their impact on students. She added that Kelly’s nomination stemmed from his extensive body of work in higher education, combining public history and historical pedagogy, and his teaching methods that foster digital literacy and combine community engagement with historical research.
In accepting the award, Kelly described the scholarship of teaching and learning as understanding how students in post-secondary education learn particular disciplinary knowledge, by finding common ground between diverse disciplines to attack common teaching obstacles. He discussed the importance of community-engaged learning, noting that few students will go on to become experts in the discipline they are learning, but all of them will go on to become active citizens in society. He noted the importance of technology in research that includes datasets, allowing enhanced understanding from distant reading of information, which, in turn, changes the way that scholars approach archives.
Asked about what he would tell future teachers of history, Kelly stressed creativity, particularly in allowing students to be innovative and imaginative in the ways they think about the past.
“History education is about teaching our students what it is to be human, and how they’re situated in space and time in their society and in a global society,” he added.
JGU President Karush closed the event by emphasizing that the university’s invitation for Kelly to travel to Mainz remains open to when international travel again becomes possible.
November 11, 2020