Teaching Innovation Grants Lead to Publications in Education Journals

September 17, 2018

Two recent articles in the Journal of Chemical Education and Physics Education, authored by WPI faculty, students, and staff, got their start as Teaching Innovation Grants, an annual internal grants competition at WPI.

In 2011 Nancy Burnham, Associate Professor of Physics, was one of the earliest adopters of “clickers” in large enrollment first year courses at WPI. Her original goal was to provide students with a change of pace during lectures. Over the next several years, she received a grant from the Educational Development Council and Academic Technology Center to implement and assess new pedagogical uses for clickers: to aid with laboratory preparation and to improve testing. The efficiency gains from automated grading served the pedagogical functions of enabling instant feedback and making retesting feasible in a large enrollment course. Together with Physics colleague Snehalata Kadam and former instructional technology specialist Erin DeSilva, Burnham recently published an article in Physics Education titled: “In-class use of clickers and clicker tests improve learning and enable instant feedback and retests via automated grading.” The authors identified benefits including improved exam grades, higher student satisfaction with labs, fewer hours of administration and grading for instructors, and student reports of more engaging lectures and greater ease of learning physics.

The cross-disciplinary faculty team of Robert Dempski (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Lane Harrison (Computer Science), and Jeffrey Kesselman (Interactive Media and Game Development) received a grant in 2017 to create, implement, and assess an augmented-reality (AR) laboratory safety program as an alternative to traditional safety instruction that uses lectures, tours, and videos. The program uses Microsoft HoloLens to create an interactive learning environment where students explore the laboratory space as they learn about safety, with images, sounds, and other sensations that replicate a real lab. They found that students who took the AR safety program gave higher user-experience ratings than those who took the lecture-based control program. In addition, those using the HoloLens remembered the locations of more safety items within the laboratory. Their article, “Increasing Enthusiasm and Enhancing Learning for Biochemistry-Laboratory Safety with an Augmented-Reality Program,” co-authored by undergraduate and graduate student Bolin Zhu, Mi Feng, and Hannah Lowe, recently appeared in the Journal of Chemical Education.

The Teaching Innovation Grants program is administered by the Educational Development Council, the Morgan Teaching and Learning Center, and the Academic Technology Center. Learn more about recent grantees here.