Funded Projects
Gilbert Whitaker Fund for the Improvement of Teaching
Project Title Overview of the Project
Improving Chemistry Teaching Through Instructional Coaching


Science faculty typically begin teaching with minimal experience and limited opportunity for professional development, while at the same time meeting high expectations for research excellence. This tension makes learning to teach challenging for all faculty, but in particular women and people of color who are additionally challenged with developing teaching identities in classrooms where their authority is more likely to be questioned. The proposed project will address these challenges by initiating an instructional coaching community that empowers new chemistry graduate students, postdoctoral teaching fellows, and faculty to reflect and improve on their teaching practice while honoring their individual beliefs about teaching.
A holistic approach to calibrating clinical dental faculty for assessments that support a “growth mind-set”


Standardization of faculty, which occurs as a result of calibration activities, is a particular challenge across all of dental education. Dental students must learn and be assessed on literally hundreds of procedures, techniques and clinical activities. At the UMSD as in other dental schools, dental faculty are diverse, graduating from clinical training programs around the world, with variations in clinical philosophies of care. The UMSD employs hundreds of full-time and adjunct-faculty often teaching in different clinical disciplines and in multiple locations, who must be calibrated on teaching and assessment; these factors create barriers to successful and sustainable calibration programs using traditional approaches. Calibration activities seek to achieve “consistent application of protocols, techniques, and philosophies, so the student experience is as consistent as possible.” (McAndrew, 2016). In this proposal, we present a much broader approach to calibration that supports and broadens faculty members’ knowledge of educational principles and their ability to facilitate a growth mind-set culture and humanistic learning environment within the UMSD learning environment. This program will utilize a variety of technology-based solutions to make learning opportunities more accessible to faculty and provide innovative ways to track and communicate the outcomes of calibration activities. Program goals will include increasing faculty intra and inter-rater reliability for selected student assessments and increasing faculty participation and collaboration in calibration activities. Study design and analysis will include a needs assessment, preliminary assessment of current systems using mixed methods, a calibration training intervention and a program outcomes assessment.
Acquisition of remote access technologies to advance student learning in Wildlife Ecology
Johannes Foufopoulos
Environment and Sustainability


One of the key challenges that faculty in the field of environmental studies face today, is a fundamental lack of real-life experience and practical training among the incoming cohorts of ecology students. Substantial first-hand experience with natural organisms is the well-spring of understanding for anyone hoping to be a successful ecologist or natural resource manager. However, students today hail increasingly from urban settings and often have had very little exposure to nature. This lack of previous exposure to nature has strong repercussions on the knowledge, abilities and training of professional ecologists at the University of Michigan. Increasingly classes are taught without student exposure to the outdoors. However, the gold standard for the discipline is direct interaction and training on live wild animals and plants, and this standard is becoming increasingly hard to maintain.
The University of Michigan lags sorely behind peer institutions when it comes to the introduction and adoption of new wildlife technologies (radiotelemetry and remote observation) in teaching and in training our students. To my knowledge no course on campus utilizes or teaches about the use of these technologies, creating a significant disadvantage for our students. What is urgently needed is an initial investment into the purchase of wildlife radiotelemetry equipment, which can then be used long-term within the framework of existing courses. I would therefore like to request funds that will be used to purchase radiotelemetry, remote monitoring and related field equipment for wildlife study.
Design-Specific Leadership in Architecture
Irene Hwang
Architecture and Urban Planning
Reetha Raveendran
Architecture and Urban Planning
McLain Clutter
Architecture and Urban Planning


Our team’s objective is to develop and introduce design-specific leadership models and concepts to the architecture curriculum (graduate and undergraduate) and pedagogy at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. The goal is to shift the culture of architectural education and practice from one that is more individualistic and authoritarian, to one more collaborative and inclusive.

We plan to begin this project on design-specific leadership through the continued evolution of the required, graduate-level course, Arch 583 Professional Practice. Arch 583 is considered the primary academic course where students learn about the profession of architecture. In spite of this course’s core position in the design curriculum, its format, concepts, and pedagogy have not changed in many decades. Evolving demands placed on the discipline of architecture, where projects are far more complex and require a higher level of collaboration and communication across diverse perspectives and concerns, require that our graduates possess an understanding of updated leadership principles and frameworks. Working with experts from our field and other fields, with our students and our faculty, our project team will learn how leadership impacts our design profession. To improve the effectiveness of Arch 583, as well as to evolve the entirety of the architecture curriculum, this project aims to first understand and discern those concerns and priorities of leadership in architecture and then to create a path to make the teaching of leadership concepts a standard component of architectural education.
Lessons from the Front Lines: Piloting an Online Platform for Strengthening Community Organization Courses in the School of Social Work Via a Michigan Organizers Video Archive
Barry Checkoway
Social Work
Larry Gant
Social Work
Joseph Galura
Social Work
Shanna Kattari
Social Work
Beth Reed
Social Work
Amber Williams
Social Work


The proposed project aims to create an online platform through which community organizers’ experiences and stories can be captured, taped, and archived in a curated video format and used across multiple classrooms in and outside of the School of Social Work. As an innovative and sustainable teaching model, the project would enhance student learning by integrating Michigan’s community organizers into classrooms using a dynamic digital platform. Lessons from the Front Lines: Community Organizing Archives will feature 15 to 20 organizers in 20-minute videos, sharing their own experiences and their practice, key skills and strategies, lessons from the field, and other information in an interview style setting. These videos will be coupled with short biographies, photos, information about communities/issues, suggested readings, and links to additional resources. For more robust access, the information will be searchable by “type” of practice, and will also have keywords connected to organizers’ profiles. We anticipate partnering with Academic Innovations to create the most user friendly and dynamic online experience while also leveraging the A/V, communications, and technology resources already available to us at the School of Social Work. The videos will be used within multiples community organization social work courses at the undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels, to supplement and enhance current course content. We intend to reach approximately 100 undergraduates and over 200 graduate students annually. This project supports the School’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion goals to bring diverse voices and experiences into the classroom in new and meaningful ways.
e-Book Widgets for Experimenting with Materials Processes, Functionality, and Fundamental Concepts
John Kieffer


The principal objective of this project is to create the next-generation study resources for Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) students and professionals. MSE is a very diverse and rapidly evolving field of study, and requires its practitioners to be educated in a broad spectrum of knowledge and skills. For the last two years, I have been working to develop a framework for the rapid preparation, testing, and implementation of effective instructional content. This framework consists of e-books authoring software, a JavaScript (JS) programming environment, and a web server. The products we generate are a series of tablet-based interactive knowledge exploration modules and accompanying web content. The key innovation of these e-books is that they have apps embedded, designed to simulate processes and phenomena that are at the heart of materials behaviors, properties, and processing techniques. These apps are essentially virtual experiments that allow the reader to interactively explore materials behaviors at the atomistic level and fundamental concepts that form the basis for materials theory. Learning takes place by swiping a finger on a tablet to manipulate parameters settings via slider positions or by dragging a curve to change its shape, and then observe the effect that these actions have on the depicted phenomenon or materials response. The interactivity with the learning resource provides a fully immersive and unconventional learning experience. With this request we seek funds to support for student programmers to help develop these apps.
Integration of a Virtual Reality Curriculum for Medical Students, Pediatric Residents, and Pediatric Cardiology Fellows for Cardiac Anatomy and Congenital Heart Defects
Sonal Owens
Medical School
James Cooke
Medical School


Virtual reality involves the use of headsets containing dual display screens to mimic binocular vision. An immersive 3D environment is then rendered from a host computer, allowing the user to explore and interact with the 3D world. A virtual reality software package called "Stanford Virtual Heart" (SVH), developed by a team at Stanford University utilizes this technology to allow users to place themselves "inside the heart," trace the flow of blood throughout the heart, as well as explore different and nontraditional views of the heart, providing a unique learning experience. The software currently includes the normal heart and several common congenital cardiac defects (atrial septal defect, ventricular septal defect, aortic stenosis, pulmonic stenosis, coarctation of the aorta, and patent ductus arteriosus). The UM team will also collaborate with the Stanford team to add several complex cardiac lesions that are critical to understanding cardiac physiology and benefit from early identification and intervention. We plan to introduce this novel educational tool to pediatric residents, pediatric cardiology fellows, and medical students at the University of Michigan to improve upon content delivery and provide a more robust assessment of learner understanding of cardiac structure and physiology. Efficacy will be measured using pre- and post-intervention assessments. Our overall goal is to improve content delivery, learner engagement, visuospatial understanding for these complex congenital heart defects, provide a model for other similar visuospatial-intensive subjects, and provide a scalable model for broader dissemination.
Reproductive justice education: collaborating with reproductive justice advocates to create a video-based teaching.
Charisse Loder
Medical School
Joanne Bailey
Medical School
Chris Chapman
Medical School


Reproductive justice is defined as “the human right to maintain bodily autonomy, have children, not have children and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities”. In the United States, there is a history of reproductive injustices in which health professionals were complicit in coercive sterilization, experimentation with sexually transmitted diseases and new contraceptive technologies on women of color. Currently, there is no formal reproductive justice education for health professionals, however, reproductive justice advocates are interested in designing education in cultural humility, reproductive rights and social determinants of health to train providers.Women's studies undergraduates learn about reproductive justice, however, experts in this topic area are often outside of the academic realm. We propose to create video-based education through collaboration with a diverse group of reproductive justice advocates to educate undergraduates in Women’s Studies, graduate nursing students and medical students. These 5-8 minute videos will introduce key reproductive justice topics and can be used in conjunction with lectures, small group discussion and written case discussions. We will assess student and facilitator satisfaction with the video learning tool, student attitudes and confidence with applying reproductive justice skills. Additionally, we will use qualitative methods to determine if learners incorporate key reproductive justice knowledge and skills into coursework.

Improvement of Teaching: Fostering Graduate and Faculty Development Through an Instructional Incubator and Teaching Apprenticeship Model


Our project proposes to develop an iterative model for graduate and faculty development which engages the entire Biomedical Engineering (BME) Department in sustainably transforming BME education at the University of Michigan. Our model is a 2-semester Incubator/Apprenticeship sequence. During the first semester (Incubator), graduate students and post docs work with BME faculty to research rapidly changing BME workforce trends, while learning about evidence-based best teaching practices, to conceptualize 1-credit undergraduate BME courses. During the second semester (Apprenticeship), graduate students are mentored in executing their 1-credit courses. The 1-credit courses were designed in response to BME student demand for more early stage BME classes that address industry needs while the graduate student engagement was designed in response to increasing demands to expose graduate students to alternative postgraduate opportunities. Immersing faculty and graduate students in creating courses informed by evidence-based teaching practices will transform how BME is taught in higher education. Finally, cross-departmental involvement will address the department-wide call for a more integrated community. Development of the model is informed by social constructivist theory and situated learning theories, instructional beliefs, and organizational change theory. Monitoring of the progress of the course design will be done through qualitative analysis of pre- and post-course surveys, end of course University evaluations, and focus groups conducted at various points in the sequence. Dissemination will focus on academic research and practitioners with plans to report to appropriate academic communities and utilize social media and the laboratory web page (Transforming Engineering Education co-Laboratory) to reach practitioners.
Understanding student learning in introductory astronomy classes


More than 2500 students per year fulfill at least in part their natural science and quantitative reasoning requirements with an intro astronomy class for non-science majors. To make this learning experience as impactful as possible, we should understand what our students are learning (facts, concepts, skills or attitudes) and how instructors shape that learning. Accordingly, the astronomy department has been assessing the learning of ~1000 students/year in some large enrollment 3 and 4 credit classes. This effort has provided an understanding of typical learning gains, how these gains vary between students with different backgrounds and characteristics and gives a rich dataset for both more nuanced analysis and as a baseline for assessing the impact of interventions.
This effort allows us to frame some urgent, important and as-yet-unanswered questions.
a) Has learning actually improved over the last four years, and if so, has that affected students from diverse academic and social backgrounds? Or, have we instead been monitoring but not improving?
b) What, if any, is the measurable impact of particular interventions?
c) How are students learning in our other large-enrollment classes?
The goal of this proposal is to provide the funds to support the effort an astronomy education researcher to continue our assessment effort and answer these questions. This proposal strongly aligns with the Whitaker Fund goal of ‘assessing courses and/or curricula’, and supports our assessment and prioritization of ‘innovations in teaching methods or approaches’ and ‘inclusive teaching practices that foster success for students of all academic and social backgrounds.’