Faculty develop innovative teaching projects for U-M’s third century


The university has awarded three faculty groups funding under the first round of Transformation grants of the university’s Transforming Learning for a Third Century program.

Two years ago, the president and provost announced the Third Century Initiative that challenged faculty to develop innovative, multi-disciplinary teaching and scholarship approaches as U-M prepares to celebrate its bicentennial in 2017.

Nearly 100 smaller projects have been funded out of the $25 million earmarked for TLTC, but the three announced Monday are the first grants for which faculty were eligible to receive up to $3 million.

“Our faculty are incredibly passionate about our students and the ways in which we teach them. They are excited about developing and testing new approaches that have the potential to transform our students’ educational experiences,” said Provost Martha Pollack.  “These grants will enable faculty to bring some important new approaches to scale.”

“These projects represent a range of activities, from the high-intensity engagement of the master class model, to the interdisciplinary transformation of health care education in integrated curricular that better mirror practice, to the large scale, digitally mediated, personalization of student advising that will allow students to be better directed towards high-impact engaged learning practices tailored to their needs,” said James Holloway, vice provost for global and engaged education.

“Each of these projects will create long-term change in the way we educate students here at Michigan.”

The projects include:

• Interprofessional Health Education and Collaborative Care — A $3 million TLTC grant has been matched by the deans from the seven health sciences schools, College of Pharmacy, School of Dentistry, Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Social Work, School of Nursing and School of Kinesiology.

The five-year, $6 million program will work to transform the way faculty teach more than 4,000 health professional students, with an ultimate goal to impact the patient experience, population health and the cost of health care.

Personalizing at Scale: Engaging Every Student as an Individual — A $1.4 million TLTC grant involving faculty and staff from LSA, the College of Engineering, the Office of Digital Education and Innovation and the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching.

This grant will allow the team to create a Digital Innovation Greenhouse, which will build on existing personalized education technology to ensure that tailored advising of students in all U-M 19 schools and colleges will be possible by the end of the three-year project.

Master Class — A $285,000 project the developers call a “new model of intensive collaborative learning” for architecture students in the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

The plan calls for three master classes to be conducted in each of the project’s five years. Students will spend two to three days working almost continuously with visiting experts selected for their expertise, ability to inspire students, and the contemporary issue in architecture they represent.

The Interprofessional Health Education and Collaborative Care project seeks to break down existing silos of learning within the seven schools, project leaders said.

“Current practice is that we train our students within our own school’s walls, and then after graduation we tell them to work with other health care professionals as a team without them ever having interacted with those professionals as students,” said Bruce Mueller, associate dean for academic affairs, Pharmacy.

The proposal calls for faculty development to allow them to transform the culture of health education into one in which interprofessional course work is seen as a commonplace.

“Our students’ learning will be enriched by the diversity of perspectives they will experience as part of interprofessional teams of students being taught by interprofessional teams of faculty,” said Carol Anne Murdoch-Kinch, associate dean for academic affairs, Dentistry. 

Organizers said the plan would change the culture of health education and practice at U-M, and create a different kind of health care professional.

“The students will have a greater opportunity to interact with each other and learn their strengths. Not only will this result in a broader perspective for caring for patients, but it will make them better members of the collaborative care teams of the future,” said Frank Ascione, former dean of Pharmacy who will direct the program.

Faculty in addition to Mueller, Murdoch-Kinch and Ascione include: Jane Banaszak-Holl, associate dean for academic affairs, SPH; Melissa Gross, associate professor of movement science, Kinesiology; Bonnie Hagerty, associate dean for undergraduate studies, Nursing; Edith Kieffer, associate professor of social work, SSW; and Rajesh Mangrulkar, associate dean for medical school education, Medical School.

While six faculty and staff members serve as leads for Personalizing at Scale: Engaging Every Student as an Individual, Timothy McKay, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics, said it represents the work of more than 50 faculty, staff and administrators. This includes those who developed the first individualized education tools, some who adapted them for their courses, and others who have a desire to see more use of technology to tailor the educational experience. 

“The Digital Innovation Greenhouse is a team of developers, educators and managers located in the Office of Digital Education and Innovation. The DIG team will transplant digital engagement tools developed by research groups, grow them to scale in the greenhouse, then pass them on to campus IT when they’re ready to become infrastructure,” he said.

The team will begin with Student Explorer and E2Coach, two tools designed to personalize education at scale. These tools have the potential to direct students toward the engaged, high-impact educational opportunities that are best suited to their own intellectual aspirations, leaders said.

“Education in Michigan’s third century will be much more personal,” McKay said. “When students feel their education is personalized — when it’s right for them, aware of and sensitive to their background, interests, and goals — they respond with engagement; engagement which emerges naturally as a result of relevance, attention, and a sense of belonging.”

“It allows us to tailor our communications with students, coaching them toward success in ways which are aware of their current state, sensitive to their goals and identity, and delivered in the voices of faculty, staff, and prior students. Eventually, it will allow us to adapt the work we ask students to do, recognizing individual strengths and weaknesses focusing effort on areas in need of growth.”

In addition to McKay, faculty and staff include: Steven Lonn, library learning analytics specialist, Perry Samson, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences; August Evrard, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics; James DeVaney, assistant vice provost for digital education; and Matt Kaplan, director of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. 

Master Class will allow students to work with experts on a pressing topic in the field of architecture, through short-term, intensive learning experiences that the project leaders say will foster the creation of public intellectuals and encourage communal entrepreneurship.

“Master Class is transformational because it makes the practice of architecture real and accessible in an extremely compressed time frame,” said Ellie Abrons, assistant professor of architecture.  

“Architecture, like other fields, has been built on the idea that education is a long preparatory period, after which students will be qualified to participate in the work of the field itself. Master Class is based on the idea that students can be valuable collaborators alongside the best practitioners in the field if the working relationship between student and expert is designed in the right way.”

 The faculty said the intensity is akin to the growing hackathon culture, with groups of students working with the visiting expert almost continuously over a 48- to 72-hour period on a major issue facing those in the profession.  

“For example, one topic might be abandoned or decommissioned infrastructure and the potential to revitalize neighborhoods and cities through the reinvigoration of those systems,” Abrons said. “Our university is an apt location for this type of inquiry because it has particular relevance for Rust Belt cities like Detroit.

“We think it’s important for students to engage these types of issues because it forces them to work within the complex political, economic, and geographic circumstances that are so prevalent and to speculate on architecture’s agency as a public, cultural practice.”

The project takes advantage of a planned reconstruction project in the college’s building to specially outfit a space that will be a hybrid of studio, gallery, and classroom space.

Other faculty members include Andrew Holder and Adam Fure, both assistant professors at Taubman.


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