The contact model of teaching

_plutarch"The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting" 

The contact between educators and students and a stable educator-learner relationship supports the individual learning process among the students: By giving their face and voice to the teaching-subject and as humans between subject and students, they reinforce the learning effect (Hattie, 2008).

As soon as you enter the lecture hall you are in within the pedagogical triangle. The relationship between student, educator and thematic subject in a given environment. However, this is not just a theoretical information, but an analytical tool for improving teaching and learning.


The triangle visualizes Plutarch’s statement: The educator has no direct way of transfering knowledge. At the center of higher education teaching is less the presentation of content, but enabling and promoting self-responsible and independent learning (e.g. by constructive alignment).  In particular, educators should provide impulses to learn and create spaces that stimulate and promote learning. With this, Shift from Teaching to Learning is a change of roles of educators away from  knowledge-transfer to the learning companion. “From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side” (King, 1993).

 The educator:

  • Being open-minded: My goal is to invite to discussion. I’m trying to reply to questions with either the pure fact, but mostly by a qualified personal point of view or asking the students what they are thinking to start a discussion.
  • Personal behavior: Some areas of medical microbiology are so essential that the patients life may depend on it and here I deal severely with the students so that they understand the importance. In other cases I try to use humor as that’s in my opinion a way invite for learning.
  • Dress-code: Even not official existing at a university, I try to use it actively. Bringing in a private appearance contributes to  a comfortable learning environment.
  • Publishing: Preparing a lecture the first time opens often ideas for research,- something I am actively using.

The students:

As a human I am prejudging people and of course students – this depends mainly on experience. In this context it is crucial to understand that this “inner picture” is strongly influencing the educator-student axis in the the learning triangle.

Studiosus mysterius“: As university teacher it is crucial to understand that the reality of today’s students is different to the realty as oneself was student. Time and circumstances are changing. Today’s students are growing up in a world in which you can “google” any information ! However, common is the intention to learn something and to use this later in a job.

The subject:

Each subject has two access ways, the educators and the students. This results in a common development of the learning-process to a theme (which is however regulated by the learning outcomes of the study program).
The students need to understand the significance of the theme. Why is it important (Why does a nurse student need to understand what the human microbiome is ?).
Fundamental here is a continuous feedback for a mutual understanding. The educator main responsibility is the development of a common understanding of the theme.




Many ideas presented here are inspired from: Einführung in die Hochschul-Lehre, Böss-Ostendorf, Andreas ; Senft, Holger ; Mousli, Lillian (Click on the picture to get more information [in German])