Great Teaching at University of Michigan

Photo of professor George HoffmanA short video describing this teaching strategy.

George Hoffmann, Romance Languages and Literatures, teaches a course that explores the controversial literature on the Algerian War. Thirty-two undergraduate students are each required to deliver a PowerPoint presentation on a capstone analytical project. In-class presentations are dynamic, but ephemeral, and their engaging material is lost to students in following course iterations. Therefore, Hoffmann uses Google Sites to create a collaborative course website to document and extend the highly visual capstone projects across courses.

Based on his or her PowerPoint presentation, each student creates a media-rich web page, exclusively in French, without having to learn HTML. Hoffmann pairs students to peer review web pages using the commenting feature in Google Sites. Students’ grades reflect both the content of their own web page, and the quality of their peer critiques. Through the combined use of PowerPoint and Google Sites, students not only learn valuable communication skills, but also practice disciplinary skills of close reading and critical evaluation. 

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Professor Alford Young, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in Sociology and the Department for Afroamerican and African Studies (DAAS), discusses strategies for helping students develop the complex thinking skills central to learning in the social sciences. Using a variety of course materials and teaching strategies, Professor Young helps students develop their ability to ask good questions, examine their own assumptions, analyze course materials and social structures, and construct well-supported arguments.

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Thad Polk, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Psychology, offers practical advice for promoting student engagement in a large gateway courses. He also discusses research findings on student learning that have led him to adopt these innovative teaching strategies.

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In October 2015, CRLT hosted a U-M faculty panel that addressed challenges and strategies for teaching about difference and privilege. In this post, we spotlight some key moments when faculty described tensions or difficulties, and we suggest strategies for leveraging these for student learning.

The panel featured four LSA faculty members:

(Click on a panelist name to see a video of their talk, or see the embedded videos at the end of this post. Each video runs 8-9 minutes.)

"Several years ago, I was teaching a class on social identity and we were talking about whiteness. Actually, we weren't talking about whiteness. That was the problem." (Al Young)

What happens when discussions about race and privilege turn silent? Faced with the dynamic described above, Young asked students to turn their lens to analyzing the silence they were experiencing by writing a minute paper on the stalled conversation: "What's the problem right now with the conversation on white identity?" After writing for 3-5 minutes, he finds students are more likely to voice their thoughts out loud. For silent or superficial discussions, Helen Fox (2009) also recommends having students write on an index card, "One thing I've been reluctant to say....," which serves as a prompt for follow-up discussion.

“We’re teaching about privilege because privilege is pervasive but knowledge about it is not….Your students, they don’t come in getting it.” (Ruby Tapia) Read more »

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In Part 1 of this 2 Part series, Noel Perkins, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan, discusses why professors should consider incorporating more active learning into their classrooms.

 

Click here to watch part two in this series

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