Hans Löfgren awarded the University’s Teaching and Learning Prize 2021

With the students’ individual differences in focus, Hans Löfgren, Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, is constantly trying to find new ways to inspire students to learn. For this commitment, he receives this year’s Teaching and Learning Prize at Halmstad University.

“It feels fantastic! I cannot imagine a finer prize. I guess the students who have nominated me feel that I care about them understanding. Maybe they’re also inspired by my quest to help them become Sweden’s best engineers”, says Hans Löfgren.

Portrait photo of a man wearing a blue shirt. Photo.

“I love problem-solving”

Hans Löfgren teaches future engineers in the basics of engineering such as mechanics and thermodynamics.

“Mechanical engineering is one of the oldest engineering educations in Sweden and is currently undergoing dramatic changes. Therefore, to be able to help move this engineering discipline into the smart and sustainable age is extremely privileged”, says Hans Löfgren and continues:

“I love problem-solving, and my students have to be good at it if they are to become successful engineers one fine day.”

”It’s about awakening the joy of seeing that you can actually learn something difficult. It’s wonderful to have truly understood something.”

Hans Löfgren, the recipient of Halmstad University’s Teaching and Learning Prize 2021

A happy brain thinks better

Hans Löfgren thinks that a teacher needs to be able to describe things from different angles and points of view, so that the difficult becomes easy to understand. He is humble about this mission and does his utmost to help the students understand and keep up with the teaching content.

“It’s about awakening the joy of seeing that you can actually learn something difficult. It’s wonderful to have truly understood something. However, you must be extra vigilant as a teacher so that the students don’t fall behind and start to feel inadequate. An unhappy and confused brain doesn’t think well at all, but a happy brain does!” says Hans Löfgren and continues:

“I try to reward each attempt in the right direction. A little ‘I like!’ in the seriousness of the moment hopefully blows away the students' worry and gives them a little extra strength to keep going.”

Developed method that promotes creativity

Hans Löfgren believes that the high demands on mathematical skills can hamper the creativity of engineering students.

“This is a well-known problem that to some extent can be overcome if you become a skilled and experienced mathematician. But that an engineer needs to become a skilled mathematician to be able to solve engineering problems is not sustainable. Especially not today when the need for more trained engineers is great.”

To help and support his students, Hans Löfgren has developed various methods related to digital tools. One of them is ’CBM First Principles’, which is an educational concept where students get help with mathematical calculations and instead can focus more on problem-solving.

Sketch of a mathematical model.

CBM First Principles is a research project between Halmstad University (via the Rydberg Laboratory) and Karlstad University (via the Department of Engineering Science and Physics). The project was the start of the development of CBM, which stands for Concept-Based Modelling.

“As soon as the left hemisphere is invited into the game, it unconditionally takes over and the helicopter view disappears in favour of the detail-oriented view. It’s a bit like not seeing the forest for all the trees. We wanted to remedy this by developing a problem-solving method where the right hemisphere with all its creativity and ability to innovate must dominate and where the mathematical finishing work is transferred to modern systems for computer algebra”, says Hans Löfgren and continues:

“Our whole world is based on conceptual understanding. Without a well-stocked register of understood concepts, then what is knowledge? This is exactly what CBM puts its finger on.”

Wants to inspire more people to become engineers

In addition to CBM, Hans Löfgren is involved in running the Formula Infinity education project, which includes 12 higher education institutions. They want to see if ’gaming’ and e-sports can increase young people’s interest in engineering and technology.

“Imagine a car game where you can build your own cars and compete against others. Maybe we’ll be able to play realistic engineering games within five years!”

Inspiring educators are highlighted

The Teaching and Learning Prize is awarded annually at Halmstad University. It highlights a teacher who has been particularly successful in developing both students’ learning and the national development of higher education.

“The idea of the University’s Teaching and Learning Prize is to highlight good higher education pedagogy and at the same time it’s an opportunity to draw attention to a teacher who is particularly good at inspiring students, arousing their curiosity and stimulating learning and critical thinking”, says Pernilla Nilsson, University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor with specific responsibility for education.

Text and photo: Anna-Frida Agardson
Illustration: Hans Löfgren

Citation for the award

Hans Löfgren, Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, is described as a highly committed teacher with the ability to inspire learning. A much-liked teacher who is passionate about his subject and always makes sure that the students understand the teaching content. He encourages curiosity and asking questions.

As a teacher, Hans Löfgren has a pedagogical fingertip feeling for students' differences in absorbing knowledge. He offers individual solutions that guide them to understand and solve a task. To focus on the conditions of individual students as a teacher shows the ability to meet the students on their level and start from there.

Hans Löfgren has developed his teaching with the help of various digital tools. Among other things, he has used recorded lectures in an excellent way, and further developed a teaching concept, ’CBM First Principles’, where students can use computerised calculation tools. The purpose is to focus on conceptual understanding, modelling and interpretation of results, rather than performing calculations by hand.

Hans Löfgren’s teaching career is of great importance to Halmstad University. Therefore, it is with pride and joy that this year’s Teaching and Learning Prize is awarded to him.

The Teaching and Learning Prize

The Teacher and Learning Prize was instituted in 2007. Every year, the award is given to a teacher who is considered particularly successful in developing student learning. The winner may participate in a European conference on teaching and learning in higher education.

The award is presented by the Research and Education Board at Halmstad University. Staff and students are invited to nominate one or more candidates, and this year there were 18 nominees. A working group consisting of accomplished/excellent teaching staff members is assigned with the task of proposing a winner. The group also includes one external member who is informed about teaching and learning in higher education