Great Teaching at University of Michigan

Megan Tompkins-Stange, Assistant Professor, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

Students engage in hands-on grantmaking in PUBPOL 495 “Philanthropic Foundations in the Public Arena.” This experiential learning initiative allows students from all backgrounds to critically reflect on the role money plays in social change as they analyze the historically controversial relationship between institutional philanthropy and public policy. Multiple, and often conflicting, disciplinary perspectives simultaneously challenge students and train them in constructive dialogue and deliberation in order to reconcile conflicting values. Working in teams, the students collectively determine their mission, the areas they seek to address, the grant recipients, the size and nature of gifts to be made, and how grants will be evaluated before awarding them to Detroit organizations that focus on poverty.

Colleen Seifert, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Professor of Psychology, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

At the heart of design problems in many domains lies human behavior. Although college students in the liberal arts are in the process of acquiring a great deal of knowledge about human behavior, they often fail to see the value and applicability of what they’re learning. They may limit their role to one of passive “intake,” or “What to I need to know for the exam?” However, pairing a course with a corresponding online design challenge can activate students’ enthusiasm and curiosity: they apply new concepts to current, real-world problems while a course is running, rather than postponing their sense of agency to someday after graduation. Responding to design challenges shifts their focus to “output,” or “What can I contribute that will help people actually solve this problem?”

Jesse E. Hoffnung-Garskof, Associate Professor, American Culture<br />
History, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

What do you do if the science of learning persuades you that students benefit hugely from project-based learning, but you teach a humanities subject that lacks the problem sets around which lectures can so productively be flipped in disciplines like engineering or dentistry? And how do you scale a newly flipped course to serve 60-70 students after pilot runs with 30-40?

HISTORY 335 “Immigration Law” created space for new activities by first adopting a familiar technique: clicker quizzes at the beginning of class encourage students to actually do the readings beforehand. This change freed time for students to work in small groups. Requiring the groups to sit together during lecture was a “eureka” moment because projects started in lecture can wrap up with report-outs during discussion section. The flexibility to plan group work spanning lecture and section was key to scaling up the model.

Shahnaz Broucek, Lecturer III, Business Administration, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Arranging some degree of peer support for first-year students is hardly uncommon, but much more unique is comprehensive integration of peer coaching into a signature learning experience -- with as much attention to the development of the peer coaches as to the first-year students. In effect, not just one, but two courses have been created in support of the revised curriculum for the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program.

BA 100 “Introduction to Ross, The Foundations for Learning Business” combines an orientation experience with mentoring from current BBAs and an overview of business basics. The year-long, one-credit course meets fourteen times over the fall and winter semesters. Each large section of 140 first-year students is subdivided so that every group of 6-7 students has a peer coach who is further along in the BBA program and who receives ongoing training in coaching. These paid coaches facilitate classroom discussions and activities and provide team and individual coaching sessions outside the classroom.

Barry Belmont, Lecturer III, Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering

Because much of the work of an engineer has to do with the rigorous application of scientific details, typical engineering curricula tend to focus on making sense of how all these details interrelate mathematically and conceptually. The innovation in ENG 100.500 “Biotechnology, Human Values, and the Engineer” is to couch information within engaging stories that focus on the people affected by engineers. Through in-class dialogue, peer-to-peer interactions, written assignments, and classroom activities, students reflect on the relevance and consequences of engineering topics from the perspectives of patients, poets, singers, students, corporations, Congress, and the body politic. Beyond conveying engineering principles, the personal accounts help students situate technical information within broader communities and begin considering how they, as principled engineers, aspire to effect change in the wider world. Memorable stories also motivate students to digest a full slate of important technical content, including advanced vocabulary, contemporary statistics, and current trends.