The University Record, January 23, 1996

Gilbert R. Whitaker Jr. Fund awards 10 grants to faculty for improvement of teaching

By Jared Blank 

Provost J. Bernard Machen recently announced the faculty recipients of 10 grants of $5,000 each from the Gilbert R. Whitaker Fund for the Improvement of Teaching. Up to three proposals will be awarded $25,000 grants to continue the projects next year.

"The Gilbert R. Whitaker Fund for the Improvement of Teaching is an outgrowth of the Seminar on Teaching, a seminar made up of 35 faculty drawn from across the University and begun in 1994," Machen explains. "The seminar recommended that additional funding be made available for innovative teaching ideas, and this fund is the result. The fund is named after then-provost Gilbert R. Whitaker Jr. because of his leadership of the seminar, and I am delighted to help launch it."

Whitaker is proud of the innovative ideas that have been presented by faculty in their proposals. "I'm very pleased that my name is associated with these awards," he says. "I believe the thinking and work done by the faculty groups who have received the awards will not only lead to improvement in teaching, but also in the sense of the importance of teaching in our University.

"An important ancillary benefit," he adds, "will be the improvement in collegial relations among faculty as they work together to improve teaching. Since research has shown that collegial faculty relationships in a department lead to improved departmental performance in both scholarship and teaching, I am hopeful that these awards will be a useful small step toward these worthy goals."

The fund has been extended, allowing for 10 additional $5,000 awards to be made next fall.

Grant recipients and their proposals are:

Patricia Y. Gurin, chair of the Department of Psychology, will conduct a Multicultural Faculty Institute for faculty who work with undergraduates and TAs in psychology. "The institute aims to help faculty revise syllabi and other course materials, and explore new pedagogy that will make classrooms, and the broader climate in the department, more positively multicultural." One workshop will feature panelists who have done multicultural teaching and another will focus on pedagogy exercises.

Marita R. Inglehart, associate professor of dentistry, will "examine and design ways in which cross-cultural communication issues can become part of a patient-centered approach in dental hygiene education. The project will develop and conduct workshops to raise the level of awareness about cross-cultural communication issues among faculty, and design segments of instruction for behavioral science and introduction to patient care courses. It was found that cross-cultural communication breakdowns are a major source of diversity-related problems in providing care."

Martha Vicinus, chair of the Department of English, proposed "Computer Assisted Learning in English Literature and Composition." The project will "educate our faculty in the uses of the computer for teaching both composition and literature courses. It is easy for the humanities to fall behind in the use of computer technology; efforts have already been initiated by the department to develop the computer skills of faculty and TAs." Possible uses of the technology include encouraging students to produce multimedia term projects and allowing visual/aural imagery to accompany class discussion.

J. Wayne Jones, professor of materials science and engineering, and Susan Montgomery, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, will present a two-day workshop on the teaching of introductory materials science and engineering (MSE). "This project," they wrote, "has the objective of providing a mechanism to involve the faculty of MSE, faculty collaborators from other departments and experts from around the nation in an intensive an focused effort to improve the teaching of MSE 250, Principles of Engineering Materials." The authors propose to bring six experts in the area of classroom pedagogy and MSE to the conference.

The "American Cultures Electronic Resources Project" was proposed by George J. Sanchez, associate professor of American culture. The project "will begin the process of integration of electronic resources into the core course offerings of the Program in American Culture by utilizing the wealth of materials available on the Internet and other technologies." Sanchez suggests that a new "culture of instruction" be created in American studies.

History Prof. Raymond Grew received a grant for his project, "Development of New Instructional Materials for Undergraduate Introductory Studies of European History (History 110 and 111)." Grew proposes "a variety of instructional materials to enhance undergraduate teaching of European history." Among the technologies he suggests examining are computer-based databases and historical games, and videos and compact disks.

Saul Hymans, professor of economics, and Roger Gordon, professor of economics, received $5,000 for their proposal, "Improving the Training of New TAs in Economics." The two wrote that they found, onaverage, that new TAs perform significantly worse than experienced TAs. They propose to "develop a three-week intensive training course for new TAs to be taught by the best of our experienced TAs each summer. We intend to develop a library of videotapes and written material to help in the training program."

Restructuring German 103 (Review of Elementary German) is Monika R. Dressler's goal. A lecturer in German language and literature, she wrote in her proposal that it has become clear that "the course in its current form no longer meets the needs of incoming students, nor the needs of the newly revamped second-year curriculum, which includes more rigorous special topics courses." Dressler suggests surveying high schools' German curricula, holding a workshop with U-M faculty and 25 high school teachers, and implementing recommendations made at the workshop.

Linda Groat, associate professor of architecture and urban planning, and Sharon Sutton, professor of architecture and urban planning, received a grant for "Improving the Teaching and Learning Environment for a More Diverse Future." The proposal suggests "laying groundwork for developing architecture curricula for a changing society" that would help students better understand diverse populations and how to work with them. The authors propose a symposium on how to make curricula more adaptive to the changing society.

"Understanding Literacy through Interactive Multimedia Cases" was proposed by Elizabeth Sulzby, professor of education. Sulzby's proposal "provides for the design of interactive software to provide undergraduate and graduate students with a shared longitudinal knowledge base of the development of young children from emergent literacy through the transition into conventional reading and writing." Education students would be able to learn different teaching techniques that work best with a variety of students.