TIP winner

Photo of TIP 2015 winner Zachary London
A web-based simulator, EMG Whiz challenges medical residents and fellows to plan efficient sequences of electromyography tests in order to diagnose nerve and muscle disorders. Training recommendations call for neurologists and physiatrists to perform and interpret 200 complete electrodiagnostic evaluations during their residencies or fellowships. Although hands-on, clinical experience enables trainees to become adept at making common diagnoses, trainees are unlikely to get enough practice with less commonly seen diseases to be able to identify them with confidence, let alone to do so efficiently.


Photo of Jill Halpern TIP winner 2015
When students can make meaningful connections to abstract material, they learn more. In Jill Halpern’s project-based sections of U-M’s introductory math sequence, students trek to the Nichols Arboretum to see Fibonacci’s sequence at work in nature. Or they explore the meaning of a difficult concept like halflife through the radiometric dating of dinosaurs in the Museum of Natural History. Beyond providing a realistic context for computations, venturing out of the classroom can engage students both intellectually and emotionally by:
  • increasing understanding, retention, and motivation,
  • stimulating curiosity and the appetite for learning,
  • transcending cultural and socio-economic boundaries through shared spirit of adventure and joy of learning, and
  • cultivating feelings of home and belonging through interactions with campus public goods.



Steve Yalosove (Materials Science and Engineering)
Picture a section of 60 engineering students working in 12 groups, each with its own whiteboard. Prior to class, everyone has carefully read the assigned text and marked it up with social annotation software developed at MIT. After individuals bring homework solutions to class, each group strives for up to 90 minutes to create a superior, collective response. Almost as much time is then spent analyzing differences between the best solution and one’s initial effort: distinguishing conceptual from procedural errors, rating overall understanding, listing areas that need review, and assessing other group members. Grades reflect working really hard and being honest about effort, rather than punishing mistakes.
No one is checking Facebook, and the room is buzzing with energy. When groups hit a roadblock, they appreciate quick and direct access to an instructional aide (an undergraduate who recently took the course), a graduate student instructor, or the professor.
This course, MSE 220, Introduction to Materials and Manufacturing, is open for any U-M faculty to visit, just as Yalisove was able to learn about these pedagogies through multiple visits to the Harvard physics classroom of Eric Mazur, the founder of Peer Instruction.
Mark Moldwin (Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences)
Identifying students’ most common misconceptions is a strategy for focusing interventions that can yield tremendous payoffs in student learning. Dorm-room labs offer a method for moving difficult concepts off the “wrong answer” list. They are particularly valuable in large, introductory science and engineering courses whereby non-majors can fulfill a breadth requirement, yet lack access to fully equipped lab classrooms.
Dorm-room labs consist of short activities followed by a few questions and a highly structured lab report. They cover abstract concepts that are less familiar to students. For example, inexpensive UV Color-Changing Beads enable students to conduct experiments in almost any setting, including their dorm rooms. As they have fun determining which materials block ultraviolet light most effectively, students are practicing valuable skills, such as plotting data.
Anne McNeil (Chemistry and Macromolecular Science and Engineering)
Editing Wikipedia allows students to transmit the knowledge they are gaining to real-world audiences beyond U-M. However, crafting assignments that promote effective student learning and meaningful collaboration, while also respecting Wikipedia’s rules and style conventions, can present a daunting challenge.
Fortunately, instructors no longer have to “go it alone” or “reinvent the wheel,” thanks to the pioneering efforts of Prof. McNeil and her GSIs, who began creating Wikipedia class projects in two graduate level-courses (CHEM 538 and 540) in 2008. After further course iterations, their body of experience was parlayed into national and local structures that facilitate other instructors’ effective use of this teaching strategy.
At the national level, the Wikipedia Education Program is home to a vigorous online community eager to help instructors incorporate Wikipedia assignments into their teaching. The website also serves as a storehouse of instructional videos and sample syllabi, including materials from McNeil.