Five faculty projects honored for innovative teaching methods


Five University of Michigan faculty projects that demonstrate fresh approaches to advance student learning will be recognized May 2 as winners of the eighth annual Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize.

The U-M community is invited to meet the innovators at a 9-10 a.m. poster fair (including a light breakfast) in the Michigan League Ballroom.

The award is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, and the U-M Library.

“This year’s Teaching Innovation Prize highlights the broad range of educational innovations at U-M, from easily adoptable course interventions, to collaborative models for curriculum reform, to creative uses of technology to solve real-world problems,” says James Hilton, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, professor of information, dean of libraries and vice provost.

“The TIP poster session provides a wonderful opportunity for these campus innovators to share their creative approaches with colleagues from across campus. I congratulate all of the faculty, students and staff involved in these exciting projects.”

The TIP awards will be presented at 10 a.m. in the Michigan League Ballroom, on the opening day of Enriching Scholarship 2016, a series of free seminars and workshops on integrating technology into teaching, learning and research.

In addition to TIP posters, the fair will feature projects by teams who received CRLT Investigating Student Learning grants and technology projects from Teaching and Technology Collaborative members.

A faculty committee selected the winning TIP projects from 45 nominated by students, staff and faculty peers. The winners, listed below, will receive $5,000.

Making Every Second Count With Spaced Questioning Technology

Sapan Ambani, clinical lecturer in urology, Medical School

Sapan Ambani

Every physician knows the feeling of learning something before a standardized exam, and forgetting the concept a few days later. Repeating questions or other educational encounters over spaced time intervals can, however, result in more efficient learning and greater learning retention.

In 2015, the urologic surgery resident curriculum transitioned to a two-year cycle. In order to improve knowledge retention for topics covered only once every two years, a spaced education curriculum was developed as an adjunct to the standard didactic curriculum.

Since urology residents reported using questions as their primary mode of studying, Urostream, the Department of Urology’s own learning platform, delivers two questions per weekday via email or app. Incorrectly answered questions re-appear after two weeks. A correctly answered question returns after six weeks and, if answered correctly a second time, is withdrawn from the pool of questions.

This spacing protocol has elsewhere shown improvement in long-term retention of up to two years. Residents report that they are very satisfied with the format.

“We are fortunate to have the Urostream Learning Platform. I believe I speak for all residents when I say this has truly made studying more efficient, easier and more fun,” wrote Amy Luckenbaugh, a post-graduate urology resident.

Developing Software Systems for Children With Disabilities

David R. Chesney, lecturer IV in electrical engineering and computer science, College of Engineering

David Chesney

The idea for a unique, senior-level capstone course was born as a method to attract more students, and particularly women, to computer science by working on assistive technology projects to help children with disabilities as identified by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Students take the course hoping to learn about the fundamentals of software engineering and to gain hands-on experience with cutting edge technologies. By the end of the semester, they are also motivated by the unique needs of the special population of children and the possibility of helping them.

Students graduate with a real understanding of the concept of universal design, the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, and this expertise is beneficial to students and society. Chesney says they work closely with the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Office of Technology Transfer to identify potential high-impact ideas that might be commercialized, with the goal of using any revenue to further support the project.

“I learned the entire software engineering process: pitch, design, build, test, including all the documentation along the way and many different ways to make sure I design for the user. I also learned how to work with a team of my peers where we must self-regulate and determine our own success. … I will take many lessons from here into the workforce next year,” wrote Jessi Beck, former student and current instructional aide with the class.

Improving Instruction and Nurturing Future Science Educators 

Brian Coppola, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor; associate chair, Department of Chemistry; and professor of chemistry, LSA (on behalf of the department)

On behalf of the Department of Chemistry, Brian Coppola and the Chemical Sciences at the Interface of Education group won a Teaching Innovation Prize for their project Improving Instruction and Nurturing Future Science Educators. Coppola, second row, third from right, is pictured with recent CSIE|UM participants. (Photo by Jeri Hollister)

In 2014, the Department of Chemistry launched Chemical Sciences at the Interface of Education (CSIE|UM). It is an internally funded, institutionalized program that creates a sustainable model for engaging faculty in instructional development.

Faculty who wish to pursue education projects can form teaching groups of collaborators. And as in research, these partnerships include participants from all levels: undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral associates. 

The CSIE|UM structure has expanded dramatically the number and kind of instructional innovations taking place in the department, resulting also in presentations, publications, thesis chapters, Masters in Education degrees, and demonstrated hiring advantages for participants.

From a department with 38 full-time equivalent faculty (34 tenure track and four non-tenure track), there were 17 project solicitations posted at the CSIE|UM website for the fall 2015 term, and 22 for the winter 2016 term.

“CSIE|UM is a truly innovative program that has changed the way our department thinks about teaching and training talented individuals to become future leaders in both education and research. It has provided pathways and tools to facilitate other curricular innovations in our department, and is highly deserving of recognition through this prestigious award,” wrote John P. Wolfe, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemistry and associate chair for undergraduate education.

Debriefing Students’ Clinical Skills With the Minute Feedback System

Dr. David Hughes, clinical assistant professor; Rishindra Reddy, assistant professor; Gurjit Sandhu, assistant professor; Susan Ryszawa, surgical clerkship coordinator; Department of Surgery; and Lisa Leininger, administrative assistant; Medical School.

From left are: Rishindra Reddy, Lisa Leininger, Gurjit Sandhu and David Hughes. Group member Susan Ryszawa is not pictured. (Photo courtesy of the Medical School)

Traditional methods of assigning grades work well for the didactic component of medical teaching, but not as well for the clinical teaching component. In fact, medical students often cite a lack of timely, relevant feedback about their performance in clinical care.

The idea for the Minute Feedback System began as a way for students to more easily ask for and receive feedback about their clinical skills, i.e., how well they provided care for their patients.

The time required for completion of Web-based surveys by the students, residents and faculty is less than 1 minute each. This allows for succinct, specific and direct feedback comments.

In addition to providing nearly instantaneous communication of feedback, the Qualtrics-based system is logistically simple to implement, and it facilitates tracking feedback throughout a two-month surgical clerkship in order to provide a summative review by the student, faculty and clinical clerkship directors at the end of a rotation.

Hughes seeks to grow the system within the U-M Health System and distribute it to other medical schools and post-graduate training programs.

“The feedback app is unique in that it allowed me to request feedback on a specific aspect of my performance in an easy way. … I was able to get more concise and valuable feedback in a shorter amount of time,” wrote Elizabeth Andraska, third-year medical student at the Medical School.

Identify-Solve-Broadcast Students’ Own Mass and Heat Transfer Phenomena

Fei Wen, Dow Corning assistant professor of chemical engineering and assistant professor of chemical engineering, College of Engineering

Fei Wen

To rise to the challenge of engaging students in a large engineering class, Wen acted on a colleague’s suggestion and showed students a MythBusters video, “Dip your hand in molten lead without being burned,” to demonstrate different regimes of boiling. This sparked spirited student discussions, and the realization that multimedia content could clarify concepts for the digital-native student generation.

The realization was reinforced when two students in her lab made a video of three lab members acting as protein molecules to illustrate a complex engineering idea. The resulting 3.5-minute video was informative, clear and engaging for a ninth-grade target audience.

In time, this led to the creation of a YouTube channel. Titled “The Fun of Mass and Heat Transfer” — a concept many chemical engineering undergraduate students struggle with — it presents ChE342 students’ multimedia projects and doubles as a global outreach platform for high school students.

As of Feb. 29, there have been 1,140 views from 68 countries, and STEM educators interested in replicating the video contents in their high school classrooms now subscribe to the YouTube channel.

“I found that the project tested my ability to develop experimental designs, apply my understanding of heat transfer principles to model the results, and most importantly to comprehensibly describe my thought process to others,” wrote undergraduate engineering student Sindhu Madhavan.


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