Latest Third Century Initiative projects further collaboration


Beginning this summer, students in the schools of Education and Social Work will collaborate on a project to improve the high school experience for area teens impacted by trauma.

By fall, students in the College of Pharmacy will be able to use an interactive tool that simulates real patient experiences with medications, allowing future pharmacy professionals to immediately see the impact of their decisions.

Both of these curricular changes represent two of the latest projects to receive Third Century Initiative funding. The Office of the Vice Provost for Global and Engaged Education has awarded a fifth round of Quick Wins grants, and a third round of Discovery funds as part of the Transforming Learning for the Third Century initiative.

The provost has dedicated $25 million over five years to encourage faculty to develop innovative, engaged, multidisciplinary approaches to teaching.

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The education and social work collaboration was awarded a Discovery grant, which provides up to $50,000 for projects that allow a general education hypothesis to be explored and planned or piloted.

In this case, faculty and students from the two schools will develop a new initiative, in collaboration with a southeast Michigan alternative school, to prepare young teachers and social workers to work with adolescents who have experienced violence, instability or other traumatic events.

 “Our hope is that we can come up with a practice model for how to work with kids that have been traumatized,” said Beth Sherman, clinical assistant professor of social work, SSW.

Although the U-M faculty and students will work with Tri-County Educational Center alternative school in Southfield — a system that provides education for students who either have dropped out or been pushed out of other school settings — Sherman said traumatized students can be found in all schools.

“Instead of just seeing these as troubled kids, maybe there is a more helpful framing,” Sherman said.

In their proposal, the faculty cite research showing that young people exposed to abuse, neglect, household dysfunction, substance abuse, mental illness, parental death, parental incarceration, abandonment or neighborhood violence, often suffer academically. They are more likely to fail a grade, perform poorly on standardized tests, have language and expression difficulties, be suspended or expelled, and may be designated unnecessarily as special education students.

“In education we do a lot of work around improving the academic piece. We need to do more work on the social-emotional piece,” said Shari Saunders, clinical associate professor in the School of Education, adding that bringing together education and social work students “is such a natural pairing.”

The project will expand on existing work being done through the Algebra Project, founded by Civil Rights organizer and Mathematics Professor Bob Moses, and the National Writing Project, both of which are active in southeast Michigan and involve U-M.

In addition to Sherman and Saunders, the faculty team includes Laura Roop, coordinator of school-research relations in the School of Education; Robert Ortega, associate professor of social work; and Kathleen Faller, Marion Elizabeth Blue Professor of Children and Families and professor of social work.

During the summer, involved faculty and students from the two U-M schools will team up with Tri-County Education Center leaders and some of the high school students to shape the program, with a goal to implement aspects of it this fall.

The fall also is when the College of Pharmacy will expand on the work it has done moving toward team-based learning, after receiving a Quick Wins grant in the latest round of Third Century funding. Quick Wins provides funding for educational experiences that are ready for immediate, quick impact, and are eligible for funding up to $25,000.

Beginning in 2010, Pharmacy began to transform its approach to teaching for the therapeutic problem-solving curriculum, moving toward more self-guided study that would encourage critical thinking and problem solving.

The addition of a new software program called Decision Simulation will allow doctoral students to interact with the case studies of actual patients, and see immediate feedback regarding their decisions. To date, case studies have been created by faculty on paper and students have only been able to work through them in the classroom setting, with the faculty member on hand to answer questions.         

“What is written on a piece of paper and what you experience in real life can be vastly different. Using simulated patient cases in the classroom can be a game changer as to how we educate students,” said Vicki Ellingrod, John Gideon Searle Professor of Clinical and Translational Pharmacy.

“They may, for example, be given a patient with 26 meds, and asked from a list of questions how they would treat that patient. The program has logic that will allow the students to go back and make different choices, if they aren’t immediately successful.”

An added bonus to the software, Ellingrod said, is students can work through additional simulations and get feedback outside of class, which also is consistent with the college’s move toward a flipped classroom model that encourages students to engage with material in the unstructured setting outside of formal class time, and bring questions and problems to the classroom for further discussion and exploration.

The Pharmacy faculty team also includes Barry Bleske, associate professor of pharmacy; and Tami Remington, clinical associate professor of pharmacy.


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