Teaching Innovation Prizes honor five faculty projects


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

The winning projects were chosen from 40 nominations from students, faculty and staff. Innovations were encouraged from two focus areas: anti-racist teaching and innovations to disrupt patterns of educational disenfranchisement, and strategies that help students understand the potential uses and limitations of generative artificial intelligence tools.

The honorees will talk about their projects during a virtual discussion from 11 a.m.-noon May 6 as part of U-M’s annual Enriching Scholarship conference. Angela Dillard, vice provost for undergraduate education, will moderate the session. Register here for the discussion.

The Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching and the University Library. The winners receive $5,000.

These summaries of the 2024 TIP honorees were submitted by CRLT.

Closing the Loop: Positioning Formerly-Incarcerated Students as Co-Instructors in Equity-Focused, Community-Engaged Decarceration Courses on Campus

Becca Pickus, lecturer III, Residential College, Social Theory & Practice Program, LSA

A photo of Becca Pickus
Becca Pickus

Multiple U-M courses allow students to learn alongside incarcerated individuals. These classes embody an equity-focused pedagogical commitment to learning with and from communities, rather than learning about communities from afar. Peers engage in mutually beneficial, reciprocal learning relationships where scholarly texts and lived expertise are equally valued sources of knowledge.

However, prison-based classes are inaccessible for some students, and students who do take prison-based classes often express uncertainty about how to bridge these experiences with ongoing decarceral work.

A newly developed course — Restorative Justice, Decarceration, Abolition: From Theory to Practice — addresses access and serves students who want support in bridging their prison-based learning with their academic, professional and activist goals. Pickus co-teaches the course with formerly incarcerated students, and she features four to six guest speakers who were formerly in or affected by the carceral system.

Pickus deploys the same equity-focused, community-engaged, dialogic pedagogy that she uses in prison classes. The course highlights decarceral, restorative or abolitionist values, and diverse paths. Some students plan to become decarceration-focused lawyers, social workers or policy advocates, while others explore topics associated with their fields of study.

The class thus provides an on-campus opportunity for students to learn about decarceration with and from those most impacted by the carceral state. It also supports students as they connect this learning with their future goals.

Digital Sandbox for Experiential Model-Based Engineering Education

Vineet Kamat, John L. Tishman Family Professor of Construction Management and Sustainability and professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Carol Menassa, John L. Tishman Construction Management Faculty Scholar and professor of civil and environmental engineering, College of Engineering

A construction engineering and management professional’s success depends on their sound understanding of engineering principles, as well as their ability to visualize, understand, analyze and communicate intricate interdependencies among disciplines involved in the design and construction of civil infrastructure.

Such complexity is hard to replicate in classrooms, making construction engineering and management — or CEM — a field where true learning allegedly only takes place “on the job” through years of field experience.

The faculty team of Kamat and Menassa, intent on challenging this perceived notion, developed a scalable and reconfigurable Digital Sandbox, a toolkit of 3D visualization software. The toolkit employs model-based engineering concepts that enable instructors to replicate CEM field experiences in classroom settings.

The sandbox leverages technologies rooted in building information modeling to create Digital Twins that simulate real-world situations encountered in engineering projects. This allows instructors to create teaching content and assessments of varying complexity that are suitable for students of all levels and backgrounds. In effect, the Digital Sandbox represents a “theater” within which instructors can stage any “play.”

The sandbox and its experiential learning pedagogy were first introduced in two Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering construction classes (CEE 331 and CEE 435). Next, they were extended to other engineering courses at U-M (CEE 402, CEE 530) and Texas A&M University. The sandbox has also been used in an experiential teaching laboratory at U-M’s School of Nursing.

Feedback from students and employers has consistently lauded the originality of the Digital Sandbox and its impact, both for leveling the classroom playing field and for endowing students with skills desired in professional practice.

Equity Analytics: A new course for addressing societal inequality

Chris Rider, Thomas C. Kinnear Professor and associate professor of entrepreneurial studies, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

A photo of Chris Rider
Chris Rider

Growing sensitivity to societal inequality has led many to ask if their organizations create disparities in opportunity or outcomes for employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Rider’s course provides students with the analytical skills to identify and to address such disparities.

The core of the course is a novel “equity analytics” framework, which is based on extensive social science research and methods. Organizations use processes to allocate opportunities such as jobs or projects to people, and organizations value people’s contributions through such methods as performance evaluations.

Disparities can result either from organizations treating people differently or from treating people equivalently but with differing outcomes. Equity analytics entails attributing observed disparities to one or more of the cells in a 2×2 matrix defined by the intersection of organizational processes with the two forms of treatment.

This innovative framework helps organizational leaders achieve three objectives. First, data and analysis helps leaders frame productive dialogue among people with diverse notions of fairness. Second, people can find common ground in one or some of the four cells even if their definitions of equity differ. Third, identifying specific disparity-generating processes informs the matching of effective solutions to specific problems.

Using real-world data and custom cases situated in various contexts — such as Airbnb, Hollywood, the NFL or organizational pay records — students learn to analyze inequity in organizations, markets and industries; infer plausible determinants of such inequities; and design interventions to reduce documented inequities.

Stacked Mentorship Model, A New Model of Mentorship for Equity in Architectural Education

Irene Hwang, lecturer IV in architecture, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, and director of the Equity in Architectural Education Consortium

A photo of Irene Hwang
Irene Hwang

Since its founding in 2018, the Equity in Architectural Education Consortium has conceived, initiated and developed a consortium alliance among Florida A&M University, Florida International University, Hampton University, Howard University, Morgan State University, Tuskegee University, the University of Oklahoma and U-M.

The central activity of the EAEC has been the Stacked Mentorship Program, a new model of mentorship that has included approximately 650 participants from nearly 20 institutions.

The outcome of the EAEC’s SMP has been a meta-mentorship community composed of institutions that vary with respect to size, location, populations served and public/private status. In addition to five core “stacks” of mentorship activities, the EAEC includes several co-curricular events: two student-led speaker series, Under Consideration and Inspired By; two discussion series, the EAEC Spotlight Series and EAEC Focus Group Conversation; and one symposium. Combined they have hosted 57 guest speakers at approximately 30 separate events.

The EAEC’s principal innovation, the SMP, is a new model of mentorship that supports and creates a framework for increased access, representation and self-efficacy, as well as exposure to diverse teaching and learning contexts, new remote teaching and learning methods, advances in inclusive pedagogy, and the development and implementation of co-curricular learning activities.

It also includes the establishment of a meta-mentorship, education-focused community consisting of current students, faculty and alumni of color and other underrepresented groups from all levels of education and experience and institutional types (predominantly white, minority- and Hispanic-serving institutions, historically Black colleges and universities, public, private, small and large, urban, suburban and rural institutions of teaching and learning).

Supporting anti-racist teaching through the Health Equity via Anti-Racist Teaching (HEART) free online training course

Melissa Creary, assistant professor of health management and policy, and of global public health; Paul Fleming, associate professor of health behavior and health education; and Whitney Peoples, director of diversity, equity and inclusion, School of Public Health

The HEART (Health Equity via Anti-Racist Teaching) online training is a free, five-module course focused on the process of actively building anti-racist teaching approaches in public health.

It is designed for public health teachers, educators, leaders, faculty, trainers and managers who are responsible for training of any kind, and may also be useful for teachers of all kinds, especially those in health-related fields.

The course begins with foundational understandings of racism, and anti-racism, and how they relate to public health and teaching. It then focuses on building an anti-racist mindset for teaching within public health and allied fields. A key goal of the training is to narrow the space between claiming to value anti-racism and putting it into practice in the classroom.

Course participants are invited to learn how to articulate their personal commitment to implementing anti-racist teaching practices, assess current teaching practices with an anti-racist lens, and apply the principles of anti-racist pedagogy to teaching practices, such as classroom management, classroom content and beyond the classroom.

The online training is highly engaging and includes about 20 hours of total content, including approximately 10 hours of original recorded video with lectures and interviews with anti-racist teaching experts, animations of case studies, recommended readings and application activities.

This resource is both original and highly scalable to help spread anti-racist teaching practices across the field of public health and allied health sciences.


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