Hibaq Yussuf – nurse turned teacher awarded Halmstad University’s Teaching and Learning Prize

Hibaq Yussuf, Lecturer in Nursing, is awarded Halmstad University’s Teaching and Learning Prize 2020 due to, inter alia, her great commitment to and passion for teaching. She teaches in the Nursing Programme and says that nursing is all about pedagogy.

“Pedagogy is about getting through to another person. If you cannot do that well, you will not succeed as a teacher.”

Hibaq Yussuf, the recipient of Halmstad University’s Teaching and Learning Prize 2020

After graduating as a nurse in 2007, Hibaq Yussuf started working at the surgical clinic at Halland Hospital Varberg. When she began feeling under-stimulated in her job, she asked her supervisor if there was anything she could do in addition to working as a nurse.

Portrait photo of woman weariing a yellow hijab smiling and looking into the camera. Photo.

Hibaq Yussuf. Photo: Magnus Karlsson

“I then became the main tutor for nursing students from Halmstad University who were completing their placement (teaching practice placement, VFU) at the hospital. This gave me new insight into the world of academia”, says Hibaq Yussuf.

A bridge between organisations

One thing led to another. Hibaq Yussuf began working in the hospital’s research and development department as a so-called combination nurse and acted as a bridge between Halmstad University and the hospital, dividing her time between the two.

“I got to participate in skills training and technical elements and, after a while, I applied for a temporary position as lecturer at the University and got the job. In order to assess the students, I needed to complete higher education teaching courses. I already had a Master’s in Nursing. I gained permanent employment this past summer.”

Being a teacher is about seeing where each student is in their study and learning situation and try to adapt to a level that will stimulate the whole class, according to Hibaq Yussuf. She believes that one reason why she was awarded this year’s Teaching and Learning Prize is that she truly tries to understand the needs of the students and help them. Not unlike the work method of a professional nurse.

A nurse needs to be instructive

“As a nurse, you do a lot of instructing. You inform and teach both patients and colleagues. A good nurse is instructive. No amount of knowledge you have as a nurse matters if you do not have the ability to communicate it on a level that the person you are speaking with can understand.”

Hibaq Yussuf states that as a teacher, you need to be very attentive and inclusive to create a safe learning environment. If you succeed in doing so, you can continue pushing the students a bit further. The best teaching setting is interaction.

“At the same time, I believe it should be a bit uncomfortable. We learn the most during medium levels of stress and anxiety, triggered when we are challenged or slightly provoked. When you feel that you have created an open environment where students dare to test their thoughts – it can get a bit crazy sometimes, bringing down the house with laughter – in those situations, you can almost touch the learning process itself. You can actually see it in the eyes of the students as they reflect and think. They make sense of a theory they could not quite grasp moments ago. That’s magical to me as a teacher!”

At the Clinical Training Centre (KTC) at the University, the nursing students are undergoing skills training. This is laboratory work that must be performed on-site at the University; it cannot be performed remotely. Otherwise, most of the instruction this year has been in the form of distance learning, something that places especially high demands on both teachers and students. Pedagogy is important, that much is clear.

Distance learning imposes other demands

“I teach theoretical courses and distance teaching has required a different way of thinking. It is difficult to know if you are reaching the students through a screen; the interactions are not the same as in a physical classroom.”

Hibaq Yussuf works a lot with questions, both asking them herself and encouraging students to ask. She tells her students to interrupt her and ask questions, and she also formulates questions that she believes her students might have. In a physical classroom, she can tell if the students have questions, something much more difficult to accomplish via a computer screen. For especially important elements, Hibaq Yussuf slows down the tempo to make sure that everyone is caught up and have the opportunity to ask questions.

“I also always stay in the Zoom chatroom until all students have logged off, and I tell them I will. That gives those who are afraid to ask their question in front of the whole class the opportunity to do so afterwards, instead. Some students stay behind even if they do not have questions of their own just so they can hear what questions are asked.”

Want to highlight skilled educators

Halmstad University annually awards the Teaching and Learning Prize to a successful teacher who has had a determining impact on the students’ academic performances and contributed to developing applied pedagogies for higher education. With the Teaching and Learning Prize, the University wishes to stimulate and highlight good higher education pedagogy while contributing to the national development of higher education.

“We get the chance to honour a successful colleague who, with her knowledge and enthusiasm, is especially proficient in encouraging student learning and inspiring creativity, reflection, and critical thinking, something especially important this year considering the current pandemic”, says Pernilla Nilsson, the University’s Pro-Vice Chancellor responsible for education.

A record number of nominations

Both students and teachers can nominate candidates for the Teaching and Learning Prize and this year’s round of nominations broke dual records in the number of nominations. Both the number of nominations and the number of teachers nominated surpassed those from all previous years since the Teaching and Learning Prize was instituted in 2007. In total, 249 nominations were submitted, of which 244 by students. As many as 82 different teachers were nominated, approximately 20 per institution.

“We are especially delighted to see so many students get involved in the Teaching and Learning Prize this year. It is a sign that the students overall are happy with their teachers and their education, which feels like an especially positive assessment of the University considering this past year and the difficult and very special time we are now living in. The nomination record is also high praise for the entire teaching staff at the University”, says Jeanette Sjöberg, head of the Centre for Educational Development (HPC).

Hibaq Yussuf was mightily surprised and very happy when Jeanette Sjöberg called and told her that she had won the award this year.

“It is wonderful! You want to be good at what you do, especially when it comes to pedagogy. Pedagogy is about getting through to another person. If you cannot do that well, you will not succeed as a teacher. In this line of work, I meet so many different types of people starting at different levels. This requires me as a teacher to try to reach and stimulate them all, despite the differences. This award is a sign that I have succeeded in doing so”, says Hibaq Yussuf.

Text: Lena Lundén and Hilda Liberg
Translation: Space 360



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