Six faculty projects that involve innovative approaches to improving student learning will be honored next month with Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prizes.

In this extraordinary year there were two focus areas: anti-racist and inclusive teaching, and remote and hybrid teaching developed in response to the pandemic.

The honorees will discuss their projects at a panel of the Enriching Scholarship Conference at 3 p.m. May 4.

Winners of the Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize receive $5,000. However, the distribution of the funding is currently delayed due to financial constraints on discretionary expenditures put in place because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Provost’s Teaching Innovative Prize is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching and the University Library.

The following project descriptions were compiled from the application materials:

Improving Our City: The Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission Project

Ayesha Ghazi Edwin, ENGAGE program manager and adjunct lecturer, School of Social Work

Ayesha Ghazi Edwin
Ayesha Ghazi Edwin

Edwin, a member of the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission, came up with the idea to create the project after hearing a fellow commissioner say it would be easier to write ordinances if commissioners understood more of the history around certain issues. She saw an opportunity to engage her students and help the commission at the same time.

The project involved students assessing local equity issues and providing the commission with information and recommendations that could help inform the creation of ordinances and other citywide initiatives.

Students tackled a variety of topics, including racial disparities in sentencing, mental health and policing, and homelessness and housing insecurity. They worked in groups, exploring the historical and current contexts of the issues and interviewing community stakeholders.

“Students’ research on these various equity issues has led to three ordinance changes so far,” wrote School of Social Work Dean Lynn Videka, Carol T. Mowbray Collegiate Professor; and Trina Shanks, Harold R. Johnson Collegiate Professor of Social Work, director of community engagement and founding director of the Center for Equitable Family & Community Well-Being, in a letter recommending Ghazi Edwin for the prize.  

“Students have attended and testified at commission meetings since the class ended and joined city task forces. This has enabled our students to be directly involved in city government, and has given them an opportunity to see firsthand how community activism and research can inform local policy.”

Mixed Reality in Medical Education and Practice

Mark Cohen, professor of surgery and of pharmacology, Medical School; and professor of biomedical engineering, Medical School and College of Engineering

Mark Cohen
Mark Cohen

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing mandates, a traditional model of medical education that hinged on face-to-face patient contact was no longer possible. Cohen overcame this challenge by pioneering a novel tele-rounding experience using the Microsoft HoloLens2 device. It leverages augmented reality technology to bring students back to patients’ bedsides.

Cohen conducted rounds with patients while wearing the HoloLens2 and also brought learners into other environments, such as the operating room. Thanks to the headset, streaming students can participate in patient care while receiving a valuable perspective on the medical implications of the cases.

For example, when a student had a patient-specific question, Cohen could supplement his answer by overlaying a unique window on the holographic visual field. Streamers were then able to see through Cohen’s eyes and the supplemental material in tandem.

This unique experience gave medical students the opportunity to advance their education during the pandemic, and it helped address issues around personal protective equipment scarcity and cost.  

In addition, Cohen partnered with the Imperial College of London to create the first international grand rounds experience. Learners of all levels were able to consult with and listen to the conversations of medical experts from around the world in real-time.

Clifford L. Craig, associate professor of orthopedic surgery, called Cohen’s work groundbreaking.  

“The possibilities of using this to expand medical student learning are ‘virtually’ limitless,” Craig wrote in a recommendation letter.   

African-Centered Practices in the Community and in the Classroom

Daicia Price, clinical assistant professor of social work, School of Social Work

Daicia Price
Daicia Price

African-centered practice methods is a theoretical approach that treats African values, perspectives and worldviews as guiding principles for engaging with individuals, families, organizations and communities.

In her teaching, Price engages the seven core principles of Kwanzaa: unity (academic belonging), self-determination (critical engagement of difference), collective work and responsibility (academic belonging), cooperative economics (structured interactions), purpose (academic belonging), creativity (flexibility) and faith (transparency).

Mary C. Ruffolo, Rosemary C. Sarri Collegiate Professor of Social Work, said in a nomination letter that Price challenges her students to center their work on social justice, dismantling systemic racism and building individual, family and community assets.  

“Professor Price uses inclusive teaching practices to design learning experiences that help students to connect, engage and intervene with diverse populations in real world practice,” Ruffolo wrote.

One of Price’s students, Fatu Kamara, said Price equips students for success in the field by using her extensive knowledge of social work theories as a foundation for learning. Kamara also said Price inspires and empowers her students.

“She encourages students to create spaces for people to share their lived experiences, which serves to empower the speaker,” Kamara wrote. “I have never felt more visible than in her classroom.

“Simultaneously, she provides students with the skills to think critically about the injustices in our world. Professor Price facilitates dialogue about the issues in our society to challenge us to be the change we want to see.”

Creative Contracts: Incentivizing Engagement With Process and Other “Writerly Behaviors” in a First-Year Writing Requirement Course for Art & Design Students

Ali Shapiro, lecturer III, Stamps School of Art & Design

Ali Shapiro
Ali Shapiro

Shapiro designed a grading contract with a “Writerly Behaviors” framework that bolsters inclusivity in her writing classes and has contributed to creating a stable, supportive remote-learning environment during the pandemic. The framework incentivizes students to expand their notions of what writing can look like, and to connect writing to other creative practices.

In nominating Shapiro for the prize, Jim Cogswell, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and professor of art and design, wrote that Shapiro designed a rigorous and creative grading contract that includes hand-illustrated diagrams and a menu of fun activities students can complete to improve their essays.

“It is thoroughly integrated with her course theme, ‘Matters of Taste,’ prompting students’ critical engagement with difference and promoting academic belonging by interrogating traditional understandings of ‘good writing,’” Cogswell wrote.

Amanda Webster, one of Shapiro’s students, wrote that Shapiro helped her grow as a writer.       

“Ali’s use of a grading contract was a major reason that I felt safe to explore writing in meaningful ways, as well as take risks,” she said in a nomination letter. “The contract changes the traditional way of grading writing, by allowing students to elect the amount of work they want to put into achieving their chosen grade.

“For me, the grading contract completely changed the way I operated in class and it opened up opportunities for me to explore new kinds of writing, and even what I could write about.”

Inclusive Teaching in Research Methods Courses: Remote Human Data Collection with UMTurk

Julie Boland, professor of psychology and professor of linguistics, LSA; Joshua Rabinowitz, lecturer IV, psychology, LSA; and Colleen Seifert, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and professor of psychology, LSA

UMTurk is designed to engage students in collecting real data from research volunteers. It allows students to collect data online through Amazon’s crowdsourcing platform called Mechanical Turk, or MTurk.

Beginning in 2018, Boland envisioned a teaching innovation for remote data collection in the Psych 303 Research Methods course. With funding from LSA, she led a team to create UMTurk for live data explorations in lectures and student-designed studies. With two additional faculty, a graduate coordinator, 20 GSIs and two LSA IT programmers, Boland created a software interface, accounts for shared use, procedures to organize, launch and retrieve studies, and instructional materials for students. UMTurk allows instructors to walk students through online data collection live during lectures, followed by students’ UMTurk studies in small groups.

UMTurk has had a positive impact on student learning. Many student projects now include more diverse samples, including people who identify as LGBT, Latinx, African American, Asian American and bilingual, along with targeted samples of people aged 18 to 65, siblings, varied educational backgrounds or romantic partners.

“UMTurk is (an) innovative, groundbreaking, scalable and adaptable innovation that fits a wide range of learning environments and topics (e.g., diversity, sustainability, elections) and is a powerful pedagogical tool to foster transformative learning,” William J. Gehring, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and professor of psychology, wrote in a letter supporting Boland’s nomination for the prize.

Designing for Inclusivity Means Breaking the AP Calculus Stranglehold on Engineering (and maybe STEM in general)

Jessy Grizzle, Elmer G. Gilbert Distinguished University Professor of Engineering, Jerry W. and Carol L. Levin Professor of Engineering, professor of electrical engineering and computer science and of mechanical engineering, director of the Robotics Institute, College of Engineering; Chad Jenkins, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, CoE; Maani Ghaffari Jadidi, assistant professor of naval architecture and marine engineering, CoE; and Dwayne Joseph, assistant professor of mathematics and computational sciences, Morehouse College

This team reimagined the way mathematics is introduced to first-semester engineering undergraduate students by creating ROB 101: Computational Linear Algebra.

Engineering students’ high school ZIP codes can be a predictor of their success because where they attend school can determine their access to Advanced Placement calculus courses. Driven by the belief that a person’s intellectual ability and drive should dictate success rather than where they attended high school, the team designed the new course with equity in mind.   

The team assumed students had a background in algebra and none in programming, thereby opening up linear algebra and programming to almost everyone in a STEM field at U-M. Through a partnership, 20 percent of the fall 2020 pilot class was made up of students participating remotely from Morehouse and Spelman colleges.

Realizing that not all students have access to powerful home computers that can run MATLAB, the course instead used Julia, a browser-based language deliverable through Canvas. Anyone who could browse from home or the library could complete the programming assignments with the speed of cloud computing.

By the end of the course, students had a working knowledge of matrix mathematics comparable to MATH 214, with superior computational skills. Students used this new knowledge for a greater understanding of how linear algebra powers modern engineering.

“ROB 101 was a great class, unlike any other I’ve taken so far,” wrote engineering student Katelyn King in a letter recommending the project for award. “The course broadened my potential paths in engineering, enabled me to begin working in a lab, and strengthened my connection with math.”

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