Unconditional Teaching

a living manifesto for healthier relationships in education


Team UnTeach | 3 Oct 2019 |

Recent articles

Podcast 01: the Ph.D. as traumatic experience

Katharina Pietsch | 25 Mar 2020

In this episode of the Unconditional Teaching Podcast, Tyll and I talk to Jessica about her experience of writing and defending her Ph.D. thesis and the severe strain it put on her mental health.

Learning with the freedom to make mistakes

Katharina Pietsch, with contributions by Tyll Zybura | 3 Mar 2020

In higher education, mistakes are seen as something that needs to be punished. This article argues that ‘making mistakes’ is a vital part of learning and that learning needs the freedom to make mistakes to be healthy.

Showing vulnerability

Tyll Zybura | 17 Feb 2020 | 4 comments

Acknowledging our vulnerability as teachers by addressing difficulties in class openly is a powerful strategy for connection and learning.

About this project

This project emerged from our struggle with institutional power in relationships of learning, in the relationship between us as teachers and our students, and in the relationship between us as students and our teachers. It emerged from our attempts – some failed some successful – to make these relationships healthier.

We love teaching. And we hate it – or at least the parts of it that are damaged by the effects of institutional power. Which is all of it. But not quite all of it, not irrevocably. As university researchers and lecturers in the humanities, with backgrounds in the study of literature, culture, and philosophy, we spend all our waking lives immersed in theory and criticism which helps us to deconstruct the very systems and institutions we are operating in. We believe that most educational procedures, mechanisms, and beliefs as they are being employed and held at the moment are – at best – counterproductive to proclaimed didactic and philanthropic goals in education and – at worst – harmful to learners and teachers alike.

Unconditional Teaching is a project of healing and a contribution to a growing number of calls for a reform of teaching practices in all disciplines. The aim of our writing is the positive framing and chronicling of alternative practices of teaching and learning: Practices that we hope can mitigate, subvert, and maybe even heal the toxic and damaging effects of institutional power and instead make room for better, more wholesome teaching and learning environments and improved teacher-student relationships.

Where to start?

We suggest that you start with the essays that describe the MINDSET which underlies our approach. Here, we write on how we understand ‘unconditionality’, why it is important and what kind of thinking goes along with it.

The essays in the category ANALYSIS are critical reflections on education. Here, we try to disentangle the problems that we encountered in our teaching practice, and their systemic underpinnings.

In the essays on TEACHING PRACTICES, we present particular applications of our mindset, and solutions to some of the problems we identify.

Some of our concepts explicitly address issues of MENTAL HEALTH and self-care; or they reframe institutionalized discourses in more mindful, holistic ways.

About Us

Unconditional Teaching was launched in 2019 as a collaborative project by Jessica Koch, Katharina Pietsch and Tyll Zybura. We are researchers and lecturers at Bielefeld University, Germany. This project would never have happened without the support and feedback of our students, who have made it very clear to us that what we do in our seminars and what we have to say about education is meaningful to them!

Contact us at team@unconditional-teaching.com.



LiLiGoesMental is a student initiative at Bielefeld University that focuses on raising awareness of mental health issues in learning, teaching and at an institutional level. Their goal is to fight the stigma of mental illness at our university, to create platforms to talk openly about mental health (and about the institutional causes of stress and mental illness) and to provide students with information and resources.

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