Arthur F. Thurnau Professors/ Engaging Students in the Classroom and Beyond

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Arthur F. Thurnau Professors/ Engaging Students in the Classroom and Beyond
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Arthur F. Thurnau Professorships are awarded annually to tenured faculty who have made outstanding contributions to undergraduate education at the University of Michigan and who have had a demonstrable impact on the intellectual development and lives of their students. For more information about the Thurnau Professorship please see

This series of videos demonstrates how these outstanding faculty stimulate student engagement in their courses. Research in a number of fields has shown that engaging students in the learning process is an important step in promoting deep and lasting learning.

Thurnau Professors and Student Engagement

Video Thurnau Professor and Student Engagement

Thad Polk : Promoting Learning and Engagement in Large Gateway Courses

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.

Summary of the main points of Thad Polk's video (PDF)

Alford Young : Engaging Students in Critical Thinking

Professor Alford Young, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in Sociology and the Department of 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.

Summary of the main points of Alford Young's videos (PDF)

Alford Young : Discussing Challenging Issues

Professor Young discusses how he deals with difficult issues in the classroom. His approach includes cultivating a non-confrontational environment, encouraging students to share their perspectives and their questions in a professional manner, and using strategies such as in-class writing and group activities to help students learn from each other.

Deborah Ball: Engaging Students in Large Classes

Deborah Ball, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Education, is skilled at engaging students in large classes. This video shows her working with students in a large, introductory, team-taught course (Public Policy 201) and discussing her approach to active engagement.

Summary of the main points of Deborah Ball's video (PDF)

Arthur F. Thurnau Professorships

Thurnau Professor and former Provost, Paul Courant, describes the Arthur F. Thurnau Professorships and highlights six faculty who have received the award:

  • Lorraine Gutierrez (Psychology and Social Work)
  • Freda Herseth (Voice)
  • Buzz Alexander (English)
  • Alec Gallimore (Aerospace Engineering)
  • Timothy McKay (Physics)
  • Elizabeth Moje (Education)

Each Thurnau Professor explains his or her approach to teaching and learning with a particular focus on student engagement.

For a list of all Thurnau Professors please see