Foto: Trine Berg, Berg Film

“You need to show that you’re human”

Thursday 29 Apr 21
by Marianne Vang Ryde


Henrik Bechmann
Head of Studies Healthcare Technology, Associate Professor, PhD
DTU Engineering Technology
+45 93 51 10 61


Each year, Polyteknisk Forening (PF student association) names two Lecturers of the Year, based on nominations submitted by DTU students. The awards are presented at the DTU Commemoration Day.

Henrik Bechmann was named Lecturer of the Year 2021 for his extraordinary ability to teach varied and exciting classes—and for his willingness to go far beyond the call of duty to help his students. He himself believes that personal relationships are of the essence.

“Why me? There are so many competent lecturers at DTU.”

Henrik Bechmann is mildly surprised at having been named Lecturer of the Year 2021. It’s unfair to all the others, he finds. But he is then reminded of a story about a golfer who, after he has sunk a putt, gets the following comment from a reporter: “What a lucky shot”, to which he drily observes: “I’ve learned that the more I play, the luckier I get”.

Henrik Bechmann is an experienced lecturer and head of studies for the BEng programme in Health Technology. He was employed at the Copenhagen University College of Engineering in 2010 and followed along when the college merged with DTU. And he has taught the course Medico-technology 1 using roughly the same methods throughout all the years.

But then came 2020, everyone was sent home because of the coronavirus pandemic, and suddenly the classroom routines were not good enough. Henrik realized that among the things needed were more explanatory videos that the students could watch before classes.

“I was a little worried about whether I could do it well enough. I’m not exactly qualified to produce videos, and I usually make quite high demands of myself. But I gradually realized that it shouldn’t necessarily be perfect,” he says.

Questions rather than lectures

In the videos, Henrik obviously presents the theory as concisely and clearly as possible. But he otherwise prefers teaching by means of questions. The students have to think about a problem themselves before they are given the answer. The more you have thought about something yourself, the better you remember it afterwards, is his experience. Therefore, he also favours that they must practice explaining things to each other.

“When—in my day—I attended DTU and took the corresponding courses, I experienced that you could pass them simply by being able to calculate the assignments at the exam; you didn’t have to understand them. Therefore, I now focus on the students getting a basic understanding of the principles, including by having them explain the principles to each other. And I practice oral rather than written exams,” he says.

Variety and relations

One of the things that the students highlight is Henrik Bechmann’s ability to vary his teaching.

“Henrik is one of the lecturers who manage to make the classes more exciting by using several different types of materials in his teaching. He used everything from a normal chalk-and-talk approach and PowerPoint presentations to the Socrative quiz program, YouTube videos, and his own videos,” one of them writes.

He himself finds it hard to see anything special about his teaching. “In fact, I have my inspiration for the different tools from others,” he says modestly.

However, he acknowledges that he has the willingness to go beyond the expected. Two days before an exam, some students wrote to him that they had difficulty understanding a specific topic. And he immediately set about producing a video that made everything fall in place for them.

“The students are the most important thing to me. It’s my primary task to make sure that they have a good time at DTU and that they are capable of performing tasks once they’ve graduated. If one of them has a problem, I will always prioritize this over other assignments,” he says and continues:

“My preparation for my classes also takes priority over meetings and other activities. Where I learned the most myself during my studies was with the lecturers with whom I established a closer relationship. It mattered that you knew them, and they knew you. The personal relationship is of great importance. You need to show that you’re human. The students benefit from seeing that the lecturer can also make mistakes and dare to admit it.”

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