Great Teaching at University of Michigan

A web-based simulator, EMG Whiz challenges medical residents and fellows to plan efficient sequences of electromyography tests in order to diagnose nerve and muscle disorders. Training recommendations call for neurologists and physiatrists to perform and interpret 200 complete electrodiagnostic evaluations during their residencies or fellowships. Although hands-on, clinical experience enables trainees to become adept at making common diagnoses, trainees are unlikely to get enough practice with less commonly seen diseases to be able to identify them with confidence, let alone to do so efficiently.

Click here to see more TIP award winning projects.

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The research is clear that peer cooperation promotes learning and can foster students' appreciation of diverse perspectives. But how to get students on board to realize the full benefits of working with their peers?

In other blog posts, CRLT has featured some effective strategies for structuring group work and guiding student pairs. Here, we highlight one U-M instructor who is applying those strategies to foster group work that has won high praise from her students and, by their account, facilitated their success with the most challenging aspects of the course.

Cynthia (Cindee) Giffen, who teaches Biology 171 in the Comprehensive Studies Program, assigns her students to in-class working groups that change several times a semester. The class includes students with a diverse range of background preparation, and the groups are designed to provide a safe space for students to work through complex activities, ask questions, and make mistakes in a low-risk environment as they prepare for individual assessments. Giffen requires students to work on complex tasks in groups during class. Students receive a participation grade for their engagement in the group activities, but all written work they submit for a grade is completed individually, using their own words. Students are motivated to work in these groups, then, in part because these low-stakes interactions prepare them to submit their best work when it's time to earn a grade. Read more »

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Photo of Jill Halpern TIP winner 2015
When students can make meaningful connections to abstract material, they learn more. In Jill Halpern’s project-based sections of U-M’s introductory math sequence, students trek to the Nichols Arboretum to see Fibonacci’s sequence at work in nature. Or they explore the meaning of a difficult concept like halflife through the radiometric dating of dinosaurs in the Museum of Natural History. Beyond providing a realistic context for computations, venturing out of the classroom can engage students both intellectually and emotionally by:
  • increasing understanding, retention, and motivation,
  • stimulating curiosity and the appetite for learning,
  • transcending cultural and socio-economic boundaries through shared spirit of adventure and joy of learning, and
  • cultivating feelings of home and belonging through interactions with campus public goods.

 

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Professor Pamela Davis-Kean, Associate Professor of Psychology, discusses her use of Google Forms to clarify difficult concepts in her Social Development course (Psych 353), a 150-student course for upper-level psychology majors.  In class, Professor Davis-Kean used Google Forms to engage students in the actual work of developmental psychologists.  For example, she had students practice coding videos of parent-child interactions, submitting their initial codes anonymously via Google Forms. Using the results from this coding activity, Professor Davis-Kean was able to engage the students in a more nuanced discussion of interrater reliability.   Read more »

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Steven Skerlos, Thurnau Professor of Mechanical Engineering, has become so well known among his colleagues as a deeply engaged and innovative teacher that his name has become for many of them a synonym for pedagogical success. His department has developed their own playful terminology: a “Skerlosian Effort” indicates a high score on the “Skerlosian Scale” of teaching effectiveness.

This video highlights Professor Skerlos discussing teams in a Sustainable Design course.  Hi explains using student teams and engaging each student in designing a sustainable system.  In teams, students bring complementary skills and multiple viewpoints into the design process.   Assigning students to teams and managing teams are also discussed in the video.

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