Nominations for Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prizes due Feb. 3


Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prizes of $5,000 will be presented to up to five faculty projects this spring, with the current call for nominations closing on Feb. 3. This is the sixth year the prizes will be awarded.

This prize differs from other teaching awards because it honors specific innovations that improve student learning, rather than an instructor’s overall teaching excellence. Examples include new ways to engage students in the learning process, new approaches to student collaboration or new uses of instructional technology.

In addition to encouraging creativity in the classroom, the awards also further the dissemination of outstanding innovations by sharing them more broadly with faculty colleagues.

“Our faculty are innovators, willing to take risks and try fresh approaches as teachers,” says Provost Martha Pollack. “They take advantage of new technologies to develop pedagogies that are expansive and inclusive and that help new generations to become lifelong learners. We are proud to honor the exemplars among us.”

Students, faculty, graduate student instructors, department chairs, directors, deans and staff members are invited to submit nominations. Faculty self-nominations also are welcome, as are resubmitted nominations.

In the past, many projects have won after resubmission, as evidence mounts regarding a project’s fulfillment of award criteria, such as significant impact on teaching effectiveness, student learning and/or retention, scalability, or widespread use within or across disciplines.

For example, Joanna Mirecki Millunchick’s screencasting project won on the third try. Having initially turned to screencasting as a quick way to create short tutorials on the hardest to understand points from lectures, Millunchick, professor of materials science and engineering, began formally investigating screencasts’ effects on students’ learning in 2008.

The results have helped numerous cohorts of U-M engineering students, and have been featured in publications with a national audience, such as the Journal of Engineering Education and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Millunchick says she particularly appreciates the fact that U-M has created a mechanism for recognizing and encouraging “really beautiful work in education” by people who “don’t do research in education as their main thing.”

Honored faculty members say receiving the prize has a positive effect on their future teaching and on their respective departments and schools.

Brad Orr, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, professor of physics and chair of the Department of Physics, LSA, saw an opportunity in the availability of laptops and free programming languages. Allowing computers to crunch numbers enables undergraduate students to tackle challenging physics problems much earlier in their college careers, instead of being held back by the pace of their development of high-level mathematical skills.

“The positive effects of introducing numerical computation permeate the entire department,” Orr says. “Enrollment in my class has more than doubled from 35 to 80, and we’re ready to bring these techniques to large classes of 270 students.” Even non-majors in the Physics for Architects class find computation “both the hardest and the most rewarding part of the course.”

That students are rising to the challenge is borne out by increases in the department’s share of concentrators and honors students.

“TIP had a tremendous impact on what I’m doing as a teacher, what our department is doing in teaching and is going to have lasting impact on how we’re doing things,” Orr says.

A faculty committee will judge the nominations and recommend winners to the provost. The awards will be announced May 5, at the annual campuswide technology conference, Enriching Scholarship.


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