Announcing the 2014 Teaching Innovation Grants

Innovation in teaching and learning continues to flourish at WPI, as demonstrated by this year’s Teaching Innovation Grant recipients. They showcase WPI’s strengths in interdisciplinary learning and collaboration, new applications of project-based education, and innovative use of academic technology and online learning.

Innovation in teaching and learning continues to flourish at WPI, as demonstrated by this year’s Teaching Innovation Grant recipients. They showcase WPI’s strengths in interdisciplinary learning and collaboration, new applications of project-based education, and innovative use of academic technology and online learning.

For the 2014 grants cycle, the Educational Development Council and Academic Technology Center received 22 proposals for close to $180,000 in funding for three categories of grants: Faculty Learning Community Grants for WPI Courses of the Future, Educational Development Grants, and Course Design Technology Grants. We awarded 13 grants totaling $86,000.

2014 Faculty Learning Community Grant Recipients for WPI Courses of the Future

These grant recipients become members of the Faculty Learning Community (FLC), a small group of transdisciplinary faculty engaged in inquiry and action around a central theme. This year’s theme, “WPI Courses of the Future,” aims to support novel ideas, bold experiments, and transformative models for future courses or learning experiences. Participants create, plan, implement, and assess their own initiatives and receive regular feedback from the group.

Martha Cyr, Executive Director, STEM Education Center and Teaching Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Martha will bring to the group her knowledge about STEM education reforms that are occurring in K-12 classrooms, which will soon impact how our students experience learning before arriving on campus. It may also be beneficial to implement some of these reforms at the college level. Martha’s particular interest is to figure out how to evaluate what students know in a more authentic manner, beyond homework problems, quizzes, and exams. She will use the science and engineering practices presented in the National Academy’s Framework for K-12 Science Education as a starting point and will experiment with alternative methods in her teaching of ES 3003 Heat Transfer.

Lauren Mathews, Associate Professor of Biology and Biotechnology

In recent years Lauren has been experimenting with inquiry-based curricula and collaborative and cyber-learning approaches. She is interested in how the “open data” philosophy, combined with increasing capacity for public data storage and access, may be leveraged in the classroom. Her project will focus on BB 4150 Environmental Change, previously offered in a traditional seminar format where students analyze published work that has already been vetted by scholars. Lauren will use feedback from the group as she transforms the course with projects that engage students in open data resources, thus broadening the skills in quantitative and analytical skills, critical evaluation of information, and community engagement and participatory citizenship.

Derren Rosbach, Assistant Teaching Professor of Undergraduate Studies, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Derren’s background is extraordinarily transdisciplinary, including work as a wildlife biologist, microbial ecologist, graphic artist, forester, musician, and carpenter. He brings considerable expertise in interdisciplinary collaboration, as his doctoral work focused on the ways in which scholars from various disciplines collectively share and generate knowledge across disciplinary and professional boundaries. During his work in the FLC he will explore ways of integrating the concept of sustainability across the curriculum through simulations, games, or cross-disciplinary classroom activities. He will likely begin by co-creating activities or modules with faculty members from multiple disciplines and testing them in one of his Great Problems Seminars.

Tricia Stapleton, Assistant Teaching Professor, Social Science and Policy Studies

Tricia brings varied teaching experiences from French language, literature, politics, and environmental studies. As the new Director of the Science, Technology, and Policy Program at WPI, she has overlapping interests in course, project, and learning experience development. During her work in the FLC she will further develop her experiment with “flipped” classroom models in Topics in International Politics, using a combination of role playing, simulations, and video games. These course designs intend not only to enhance student learning and engagement, but also to reconsider the role of the professor in the classroom and the learning experiences that colleges should provide.

2014 Educational Development Grant Recipients

Educational Development grants provide funding for projects that aim to enrich student learning in specific courses, project degree requirements, or other learning experiences. They fund innovative pilot projects that could strengthen proposals for external funding, support evaluation of ongoing or proposed innovations aimed at publication, and support professional development or external partnerships related to teaching and learning.

A Game-Based Approach to Information Literacy and Engineering in Context

Laura Hanlan (PI), Gordon Library; Kris Boudreau, HUA; Allen Hoffman, ME

This pedagogical role-playing game, “Worcester in 1899: The Sanitary Engineering Challenge,” will introduce students to the history of technology, offer introductory-level hands-on projects at the intersection of technology and human need, and give students meaningful and interesting ways to develop their information literacy.

We anticipate it as a first-year course to inspire students-to-student engineering within human contexts.

Development of Vertically Integrated Minilabs

Allen Hoffman (PI), ME

This project will pilot a new model for laboratory learning in the mechanical engineering curriculum. Four minilabs that are vertically integrated across four introductory Engineering Science and Mechanical Engineering courses will be developed. These minilabs will support the existing course material and add valuable hands-on and realization components to each of the courses. Each minilab will be introduced by written material and an associated video.

Creating Online Training Modules for Peer Mentors with Disabilities

Eleanor Loiacono (PI), School of Business; Aaron Ferguson, Office of Disability Services

Peer mentors can have a significant positive impact on students with disabilities who are struggling to adapt to college life. This project aims to improve peer mentoring effectiveness between upperclassmen with identified disabilities and other WPI students with disabilities.

The project will develop online mentor training modules and generate baseline data for future research to validate a scalable action plan and investigate pathways for module commercialization.

Development of a Course on Utilizing a Systems Approach to Civil & Environmental Science & Engineering

Rajib Mallick (PI), CE; Michael Radzicki, SSPS

Faculty members in civil and environmental engineering and social science and policy studies will partner to develop, assess, and improve an appropriate systems dynamics course for civil and environmental science and engineering and environmental policy students.

The course will help students develop the ability to create rich, feedback-oriented mental models and develop holistic and dynamic views of complex systems. The course will be assessed and modified during the summer of 2014 and presented and evaluated by August 2015.

Reactor Music: Data Sonification and Music to Teaching Reactor Design Theory

Michael Timko (PI), CHE; V. J. Manzo, HUA

Two faculty members will integrate their talents in chemical reactor design and algorithm music to develop an educational tool that sonifies chemical reactor operation data to improve student education outcomes in CHE 3301: Introduction to Biological Engineering.

Specifically, they will convert temperature and outlet concentration data from a simulation of a standard chemical reactor into sounds in real time and study the use of sounds to augment learning outcomes.

2014 Course Design Technology Grants

Course Design Technology grants assist faculty in designing or redesigning their instructional approaches using technology to achieve enhanced learning, take advantage of efficiencies that can be realized through the use of technology for teaching, and evaluate the impact of new instructional technology approaches.

Flipping the Classroom for Music Appreciation

Eunmi Shim (PI), HUA

Based on the flipped classroom model, this project involves creating videos of micro-lectures for music appreciation courses and aims to enhance students’ learning processes and allow self-pacing. Each video will explain important elements of individual pieces of music using piano demonstrations, audio recordings, and music scores. By integrating technology into the classroom, the project will accommodate students of diverse backgrounds and learning styles, and as a result, will help them gain a deep understanding of music

Engaging GPS Students with Investigative Reporting and Multimedia Projects

Geoff Pfeifer (PI), HUA; Marja Bakermans, BBT

Two faculty members from different disciplines will partner with the New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR) and WPI’s Academic Technology Center to improve student learning in a Great Problems Seminar (Biosphere, Atmosphere, and Human Fears) by using video production as an engaging and creative means for students to tackle complex problems.

An investigative reporter from NECIR will teach students skills in researching and reporting complex environmental issues, and student teams will employ these methods to produce a multimedia report on regional environmental problems that incorporates scientific, social, and technological aspects of these issues while facilitating peer education.

Unifying the Human Biology Curriculum with 3D Anatomy Software

Natalie Farny (PI), BBT; JoAnn Whitefleet-Smith, BBT; Michael Buckholt, BBT

This project will redesign how human biology is taught at WPI. The 3D anatomy software will allow students to fully explore and dissect all of the structures in the human body and will be integrated across six different lecture and laboratory courses, thereby enhancing connections between lecture and lab coursework.

In the lecture courses, the software will be used to “flip” the class such that students learn the details of the anatomy of the organ systems on their own time, while class time is reserved for active learning exercises.

In the labs, students will use the software to compare anatomy across species and to generate testable hypotheses about the function of anatomical structures.

Teaching Construction Methods and Virtual Construction

Guillermo Salazar (PI), CEE; Sergio Alvarez, CEE; Maria Gomez, CEE

This project will develop virtual prototypes for the simulation of construction methods in order to supplement class teachings in the context of a term-project. These prototypes will be developed using building information modeling software tools and time-lapse photographic videos captured via webcams during construction. Technology will be used in an innovative fashion, enabling 3D visualization and efficient exchange of information to support student hands-on experience in technical and managerial decision-making.

April 4, 2014

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