Five faculty projects awarded Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize


For their creative and innovative approaches to improving student learning, five faculty projects led by Barry Belmont, Shahnaz Broucek, Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof, Colleen Seifert and Megan Tompkins-Stange will be awarded the 10th annual Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize.

The university community is invited to meet the recipients at a poster fair and breakfast beginning at 9 a.m. May 7 at Palmer Commons. The awards will be presented during the keynote event at 10 a.m.

“We are celebrating not just five winning faculty projects, but the fact that the competition drew 48 nominations from 14 schools and colleges,” said James Hilton, vice provost for academic innovation. “Clearly, faculty commitment to rich student engagement with challenging material is widespread.

“It will be exciting to get a peek inside these creative learning environments at the poster fair and to discuss with the innovators how to take these examples as jumping off points for pedagogical inspirations within our own classrooms and departments.”

The annual recognition is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching and the University Library.

Each honoree will receive $5,000.

The following project descriptions were compiled from applications:

Telling Human Stories, Creating Human Engineers

Barry Belmont, lecturer III in biomedical engineering, College of Engineering

Barry Belmont

In engineering education, the power of narratives is infrequently used, with curricula often centering on the scientific details underlying the field, Belmont wrote in an application.

To create more well-rounded engineers, he instead set out to “speak of people for whom the material has relevance and consequences,” in his course, “Biotechnology, Human Values and the Engineer.”

Touching on a “larger, more kaleidoscopic take on the human subjects of engineering,” lessons focused on a variety of subjects, including patients whose biological materials were taken without their knowledge, patients with reconstructed faces, forgotten scientists and science fiction writers.

Central to these stories, Belmont wrote, were the people affected by engineers.

“The students were thereby able to become principled engineers themselves in both senses of the word,” he wrote. “By recognizing the larger community and the wider world in which the context of our own narrow subdiscipline is found, my students could both identify how the world is and investigate how to go about changing it.”

One of Belmont’s former Engineering 100 students Brianna Giese wrote that Belmont’s teaching style is “beyond innovative” and that during the course he would use quotes to “break down the walls most people subconsciously close themselves in, academically and in everyday life.”

“He has influenced me to expand my horizon of knowledge and pursue the acquisition of more than just a specified college degree,” Giese wrote. “This influence helped drive me to change my major to gain an interdisciplinary education concentrating on the human experience as a whole.”

Peer Coaching of Freshmen At Scale

Shahnaz Broucek, lecturer III in business, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Shahnaz Broucek

To make a large business course more intimate, foster relationship development and inclusion, and increase student engagement in the classroom, Broucek chose a peer-coaching approach when designing the first introductory course that students take at Ross.

Peer coaches participate in each class, with an assigned team of six first-year students, and the coaches facilitate engagement through small group discussions. The coaches also serve as advisers to their teams, both inside and outside the classroom.

Outside of class time, the coaches meet with their students for individual coaching sessions on a monthly basis, which are “designed to support student reflection and broaden perspectives on personal challenges and opportunities, enhance thinking and decision-making skills, interpersonal effectiveness and confidence,” according to the application.

Sarah Wood, a Ross student and section lead in Broucek’s program, wrote the program creates social integration between grade levels and makes the school more “human.” Since the peer coaches receive training on appreciative inquiry, empathetic listening and overall social intelligence, this structure equips the coaches “to empower and support the freshmen like no program I have been involved in previously.”

“The Ross Peer Coaching Program makes first-year students feel seen and heard, and reminds them that they belong,” Wood wrote.

Project-Based Learning in Humanities Lecture Halls

Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof, associate professor of history and of American culture, and associate chair, Department of American Culture, LSA

Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof

Participating in the CRLT seminar on the science of learning piqued Hoffnung-Garskof’s interest in incorporating project-based learning into lectures in the humanities, where that strategy has been less common.

For his lecture course on immigration law, he implemented i-clicker quizzes to gauge if students understood basic points from the readings and to understand which learning gaps he needed to fill.

He then focused on applying the lessons in class, giving students research tasks or interpretive challenges modeled on historical practice, cultural studies and what it would be like to be law students or lawyers.

In a nomination letter, U-M students Sophia Sproul and Telana Kabisch wrote they took Hoffnung-Garskof’s History 335 Immigration Law course this semester and noted several key components that enhanced learning.

Students are assigned a reasonable amount of readings each week that are relevant to that week’s topic, and the weekly i-clicker quizzes keep students accountable.

Each class contains group work activities, such as research workshops and role-playing activities where students take on the role of immigration officers and decide who is admissible and who is not. Students also got the opportunity to work on group presentations, where they completed research on topics and answered research questions.

“In this class, as students, we are forced out of the generally accepted passive role in which we blindly take notes and skim hundreds of pages,” Sproul and Kabisch wrote. “Rather, we are active learners.”

Creative Challenges: Contributing Real-World Solutions from Classroom Learning

Colleen Seifert, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, professor of psychology, LSA; faculty associate, Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research

Colleen Seifert

The central component of the Creative Challenge innovation is directing student learning within the classroom toward solving a real-world problem outside classroom walls.

“External design challenges hosted by organizations such as OpenIdeo, Innocentive and provide a platform for creative contributions,” according to the application. “These challenges ‘crowdsource’ ideas to innovate much faster by building on the ideas of many.

“Their competitions provide real-time access to and interaction with professional designers and students from other institutions and programs, along with models for how ideas are presented, adapted, and developed in their fields.”

In Seifert’s Creative Challenges project, these competitions are combined with instruction and skill building in the classroom.

Innovative use of design challenges guides students through creative problem-solving stages, working individually and in teams to address a single challenge centering on human behavior. The in-class learning supports students as they undergo this process and allows them to give and receive feedback.

Faith Horbatch, who took Seifert’s “Creativity” course as a senior at U-M, wrote in her nomination letter that it was one of the most unique, enriching and supportive courses she took while in college.

She said Seifert also created an inclusive environment for students to participate in class.

“I actually ended up eagerly calling my mom, who used to study psychology at U-M, after each class to detail the topics we covered in Creativity that day,” Horbatch wrote. “I’ve never experienced such joy from a class in this way.”

Bringing Philanthropy to Life through Critical Pedagogy: Philanthropic Foundations in the Public Arena and Poverty Solutions

Megan Tompkins-Stange, assistant professor of public policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

Megan Tompkins-Stange

In Tompkins-Stange’s “Philanthropic Foundations in the Public Arena” course, students participate in a hands-on process of making actual grants to nonprofit organizations.

According to the application, “this course is notable for the deliberative dialogue it creates around key issues such as power, privilege, race, class and social welfare, through the intentional cultivation of a learning community where students are empowered to examine, interrogate and refine their core personal values.”

“Using a pedagogical approach drawn from political philosophy, the course presents the practice of philanthropic giving not as a technical or managerial enterprise, but as an expression of moral values.”

By gaining a better understanding of multiple perspectives, students “learn how to humanize one another and to work together to develop collective values as a class, and to engage in conversations about difficult topics in a respectful manner.”

In a nomination letter, U-M alum Laurel Ruza said Tompkins-Stange’s course was the most transformative class she participated in during her undergraduate career.

Because the class was expected to set up the rules and guidelines for giving out grants, this pushed students to have thoughtful discussions and practice empathy and active listening.

“Because of this teaching methodology, I was able to, in the words of Professor Tompkins-Stange, let the dilemmas of the class grip me,” Ruza wrote. “I was able to practically learn how to productively grapple with tough issues and decisions. I learned how to empathize and listen to others, not simply push my own narrative but let others’ narratives and experiences shine through as well.”



  1. Samuel Burns
    on May 3, 2018 at 11:44 am

    2 of the 5 are lecturers. This administration is a complete disgrace. #respectthelecs

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