“The teacher identity developed beside the researcher identity” – The Coolest Teacher Ever 2022 Jukka-Pekka Ranta highlights the importance of motivation
Jukka-Pekka Ranta’s badminton games for the evening almost went off the rails when he heard of being chosen as The Coolest Teacher Ever. He was primarily grateful for students’ support which he also has earned previously via geosciences’ student organization as well as the An Apple for a Teacher -event.
“Geology is, all things considered, quite a small field of study in the university, but it is great that students are active on that level”, Ranta thanks.
Ranta’s career to become a researcher and a university lecturer was still hazy before he started his studies. First working as a bartender, he intended to study psychology but ended up studying geology in the end. Ranta started his studies in 2008 and graduated with a Master’s degree in geosciences in 2012.
“Since the first lecture, I realized that this was for me”, Ranta reflects.
After his university studies, Ranta worked in Lapland roughly for a year in ore excavation. Afterwards, he started his work on a doctoral thesis in 2014. Since that point, teaching has been a part of his career. The doctoral thesis was finished in 2018 after which various postdoctoral research work led him to become a university lecturer in 2021.
Even when working on the doctoral thesis, Ranta did not think of himself as a teacher. The teacher identity developed stronger only during the past few years on the university’s pedagogical studies. Ranta thinks that people come to work at the university primarily as a researcher.
“The development of the teacher identity in the university is a bit different compared to basic studies since most people do not work here primarily as a teacher. Teaching is the small print in the job agreement.”
Practicality and students' responsibility are vital
In teaching, Ranta highlights practicality and student’s own responsibility in how effectively a student learns something.
“New tools and more student-centered teaching and learning have just during the last few years emerged stronger.”
New teaching methods have helped Ranta to become more practical. For instance, digital workspaces, gamification and inspecting rocks via 3D models have provided new perspectives on standard lectures and study diaries. However, their use has to be relevant for learning.
“One must pay attention to not use them just for the sake of their tools. There must be a purpose for using a specific one.”
In his courses, Ranta emphasizes his background as a researcher and teacher as an influence on what courses he has enough substance knowledge to organize. While pondering their structure, Ranta especially wonders about the responsibility of the teacher.
“During the courses, I started to think about the responsibility that we teachers have. We train such people that have sufficient skills and expertise in work life.”
Nevertheless, the student’s own responsibility is an especially important aspect that the teacher can influence only by so much. Therefore, Ranta thinks it’s important to get the student excited early about their studies so that their hunger for knowledge stays in Master’s studies and long after that.
“I hope my own inner motivation and excitement also reaches the students. It is especially important to get the basic course students new to geology interested in it.”
Approachability and understandability benefit
The voters described Ranta as an easy person to approach and understand and for having great expertise. Ranta recalls his own studies when he felt tense to approach a professor’s or a teacher’s office.
Ranta thinks that his flexibility in courses is a reason for being seen as easy to understand. For example, he may spend some time revising basics if the students have forgotten something essential. Additionally, listening to the students and utilizing various education styles play an important part.
In addition to other researchers, Ranta has also embraced several traits from his own teachers and tutors in his teaching. Each of them have left their mark on Ranta.
“In my courses, I often exhibit similar traits, expressions or maneuvers from my old teachers which is amusing to notice.”
Regarding his expertise, Ranta deliberates whether he can evaluate it alone on a larger scale. He thinks that people in professional work often encounter an impostor syndrome: the difficulty to realize one’s own achievements to be fully earned. Despite this, Ranta’s motivation and passion differentiate him with his studying methods to be a unique teacher.
Students' realization rewards the most
The courses that combine practicality and theory are Ranta’s favourites. He mentions an example, Petrology, in which students explore the characteristics of stones and their formation processes on a macro- and microlevel. In these types of courses, Ranta finds the students’ realization of the discussed topic to provide the best feeling.
“The courses where one sees a lightbulb lit above the students’ heads are the best.”
Ranta faces many kinds of students in his courses. Some students are more motivated than others. Even in difficult cases, he strives to motivate the students’ course work via his own excitement. An important point is to find the core idea and to reflect the course work on geology and as training for the real world.
In the future, Ranta wants to continue his current work in the academic world as a researcher and a teacher as well as to develop his own substance knowledge in mineralogy and ore geology.
“Regarding the education and the development of geosciences, there is still a lot to be done.”
- Jukka-Pekka Ranta
- University lecturer since 2021
- Responsible for Oulu Mining School’s degree programme 2019-2022
- Doctor of Philosophy 2018
- The Coolest Teacher Ever 2022 was awarded in Annos 63 annual celebration 25.2.2023
- Any student at the University of Oulu was able to suggest any university teacher in any educational field to receive the award for The Coolest Teacher Ever.
- Selection criteria included the ability to inspire, professionality, being easy to understand, explanation of course goals, paying attention to students’ needs, flexibility and a versatile use of grading methods
- The award was given for the seventh time. Previously the award was given to Elina Niemitalo-Haapola, Katja Sutela, Vesa-Matti Pohjanen, Oliver Jarde, Matti Niemelä and Matti Kangaspuoskari
- The decision was done by the board of the Student Union of University of Oulu on 26.1.2023
Text: Jere Laitinen, Oulu Student Magazine