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Friday Profile: Theresa Tinkle, Winner of 2012 Provost's Teaching Innovation Prize
How can a lecturer engage an auditorium full of undergraduates in analyzing the subtleties of a poem written more than 400 years ago? That was one of the questions motivating Theresa Tinkle's teaching innovations in English 350, a course surveying literature written before 1660.
Along with her team of GSIs, the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of English Language and Literature set the goal of improving students' skills at literary analysis, and then they focused their teaching efforts on replicating the advantages of a small course in a large lecture setting. The group creatively deployed technologies like iClickers and CTools online quizzes to ensure students completed readings and engaged actively with lectures. And they created assignment sequences that allowed students intensive writing practice and provided individualized feedback (without significantly increasing anyone's grading load). This combination of strategies resulted in significantly improved student skill with the complex task of close reading.
Professor Tinkle can confidently point to such increased learning because she studied the results. With the support of an Investigating Student Learning grant from CRLT, Tinkle and three GSIs comparatively analyzed student performance in versions of the course before and after several key innovations. They found that, from the very first essay, the second group wrote stronger essays than the first. The team discuss their innovations and research findings in a forthcoming article in the top-tier journal Pedagogy.
While that article provides the data demonstrating the innovations' impact on student learning, the students' own words also attest to the power of the teaching strategies Tinkle developed for this course:
- "By the end of the first class, she had all 80 students—half of whom who got up thinking they didn’t want to be there—performing impassioned close readings of Chaucer and roaring with laughter at the meatier bits of wit that she pointed out on the prompter. "
- "The hall was filled with students and every single one showed complete engagement in material that was truly difficult, but was made amazingly accessible."
- "Through the deliberate and organized use of lecture slides and iClicker polls, Professor Tinkle drew in all of her students by asking for interpretations of lines, words, and entire text themes. She then immediately pushed us to find evidence for our poll responses by turning to the books in our laps."
- "Lecture was constantly a place where we as students were given a genuine role in the learning process."
For more information about the Provost's Teaching Innovation Prize (TIP), click here. To learn about other outstanding teachers at U-M, click on the "Friday Profile" tag below.