Great Teaching at University of Michigan

Theresa Tinkle

Three innovations stand out in this re-invention of  English 350, a survey of literature before 1660. First, instead of prioritizing highly specialized knowledge of cultural contexts, the instructional team prioritized undergraduates’ development of close reading skills. Second, the usual order of things in a large lecture course was reversed in that students spent more time performing close readings themselves, and less time merely observing instructors’ demonstrations of the skills. Third, the introduction of technologies less commonly used in the humanities made it possible for students to receive meaningful feedback on varied forms of practice without increasing grading time.
 
In the 2010 course, multiple-choice quizzes in CTools spurred engagement with the material and mastery of the shared language needed for literary analysis. Professor and GSIs alike wrote economical comments in response to essays, targeting just one or two areas for each student’s future attention.
 
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Kathleen Sienko
Challenging undergraduates to design medical equipment for use in limited-resource settings requires long-range vision and significant scaffolding. The innovativeness of this initiative is not tied to a specific class but rather lies in a sequence of experiences that has yielded a remarkable payoff. High quality design projects have led to conference presentations, an article in the Journal of Medical Devices, patent applications, and a spin-off social venture.
 
Initially, U-M’s Global Intercultural Experience for Undergraduates (GIEU) program provided a framework for developing community partnerships in Ghana, where undergraduates spent four summer weeks in 2008 and 2009 observing obstetric and gynecological practices in multiple settings. These teams “proved the concept” by generating design topics deemed important by the Ghanaian Health System and suitable for U-M senior design coursework.
 
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Joanna Mirecki Millunchick
Screencasting has previously been featured in projects receiving the Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize. The innovativeness of this particular project lies in its integration of sound research on learning outcomes from the very outset.
 
Students from different engineering majors have comparable academic indicators upon entering MSE 220, a large introductory materials science and engineering course. However, their prior exposure to the course material varies widely. Whereas the core curricula for aerospace and chemical engineering majors include MSE-related topics, there is little such overlap in the industrial and operations engineering (IOE) curriculum.
 
Careful statistical analysis reveals that students perceive screencasts to be helpful and tend to use them as a study supplement. Overall, usage of screencasting in its various forms is positively and significantly correlated with course performance as indicated by the final grade. The most substantial gains were made by students with the least familiarity with course material. Specifically, IOE students enter with the least preparation in materials science, but they do not receive the lowest grades in the course, due to their comparatively heavy use of the screencasts.
 
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August EvrardDavid Gerdes
Tim McKay
E²Coach takes the form of a highly personalized website that delivers complex feedback and encouragement. Advice is tailored to the student’s background, current standing, and progress over the course of the semester, and is also sensitive to the student’s ambitions and identity (elicited by survey at the course’s outset). 
 
Final grades can be predicted quite well for students embarking upon introductory physics courses due to a 2008 learning analytics project with data on nearly 50,000 U-M students. Of course, some students do better than expected, others worse. Knowing what leads to better- and worse-than-expected outcomes makes it possible, in principle, to individually coach every student toward better-than-expected performance.
 
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Lola Eniola-Adefeso
Inviting Ypsilanti 10th graders to serve as an audience for “science fair-style” presentations by undergraduate engineering teams is a multi-faceted innovation. Beyond motivating individual undergraduates to learn concepts more thoroughly as they figure out how to teach them, the format supports STEM retention in several ways. 
 
First, putting the onus on undergraduates to creatively link real-world applications to chemical engineering principles increases interest and excitement. This matters because STEM attrition increases when students feel bored or don’t see the relevance of abstract theory. Second, encouraging collaboration and teamwork over individual competition improves the climate of the learning environment, particularly for women and members of historically underrepresented groups. Third, when undergraduates design high quality, inexpensive demonstrations that can be used by high school teachers, science learning is improved and students are better prepared for college. Finally, getting kids excited about what chemical engineers are able to achieve, from manufacturing candy to purifying water, helps attract diverse students to the STEM pipeline.
 
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