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November 21, 2018

Provost's seminar focuses on high-impact engaged learning

March 10, 2015

Provost's seminar focuses on high-impact engaged learning

Topic: Campus News

One student's engaged learning experience changed her career path.

Lello Guluma went from a pre-health focus to being a Program in the Environment student after working on two projects, one abroad and one in the United States.

She credits the Michigan Community Scholars Program, saying it "opened her eyes to the world of social justice."

A second student learned that she could be more helpful in an unfamiliar culture if she first spent some time really getting to know the people she was there to serve.

Keya Patel, a member of the BLUELab team working in Guatemala, spent her days talking with students and their parents prior to critical night meetings during which the students and community had to hash out details for a solar light project — one that would allow those children to study at night.

"I understand now how to prioritize the needs of others," Patel said.

Yet another student, by wandering around Zanzibar, found that in some countries the art of making beautiful and functional things is appreciated and a source of pride. Not so in this country, he said, where the abundance of things has caused us lose to our connection with them.

So Ian Klipa of the Stamps School of Art & Design is on a mission to change that, working with a few students at a time in Detroit's Brightmoor area, to turn found objects into useful items, and to impact the environment.

These students and three others offered small insights into their engaged learning experiences Tuesday during the biannual Provost's Seminar on Teaching, "Unscripted: Engaged Learning Experiences for U-M Students."

The student lightning talk session was titled, "Why We Do Engaged Learning."

The university conversation about engaged learning during the last couple of years has inspired many faculty members to find creative ways to approach teaching.

At Tuesday's event, university leaders encouraged attendees to embrace engaged learning, and participants heard new perspectives on what it takes to head down and stay on this path.

"Today we have an important opportunity to consider and to better understand some of the engaged learning experiences that our colleagues create for our students — experiences in which we purposefully place our students into ambiguous, unfamiliar contexts and afford them the opportunity to practice the theoretical tools that we give them in our other more formal structured classroom settings," said James Holloway, vice provost for global and engaged education.

"Engagement appears along a spectrum, from lower intensity activities that might occur in a large lecture hall to the highest impact practices that place students in truly foreign contexts beleaguered by uncertainty and ambiguity. It is these most challenging contexts, these unscripted contexts, that are the focus of today's provost seminar."

In addition to the students and university leaders, participants heard from experienced colleagues about effective practices, ranging from assessing the impact of engagement, to developing methods for student reflection and sustaining these initiatives.

David Santacroce, associate dean of experiential education at the Law School, said the school's focus on Reimagining Legal Education "blew things up a little bit."

Along with the traditional doctrinal courses focused on case law, the school now offers first-year students the opportunity to participate in a clinic that provides legal services to low-income clients. In the process, students gain practical experience with "what lawyers really do," said Santacroce.

The school has measured the success of its clinic program with students, and he encouraged participants to think about assessment early in the process of creating a new curriculum.

Joyojeet Pal, assistant professor in the School of Information, gleaned much from a session on "Client and Design Projects, Practica and Internships." His graduate students build innovative information tools here at Michigan and take them to India for implementation.

"I heard lots of ideas about how to navigate the issue of client management," Pal said. From the difference in times zones to dealing with group dynamics to confusion over whether students should be considered consultants or contractors, managing relationships on the global scene can be tough, he said.

Pal said the College of Engineering's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science had a good system for evaluating what students learn as they move along, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy had developed a solid client feedback system, and he liked that Women's Studies refers to clients as partners.

James Hilton, vice provost for digital educational initiatives, offered concluding remarks, noting U-M is a "community bound together by the love of discovery," and that "the extent to which engaged learning in a research institution is part of every conversation is really important."

Provost's Seminars on Teaching provide an opportunity for dialogue about teaching and learning issues campuswide, across disciplinary boundaries. Themes for the seminars are chosen by the Provost's Office and the programs are organized by the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching.