Provost Awards Funding To 8 Projects Promoting Innovation in Education

Issue Date: 
May 12, 2008

The Office of the Provost’s Advisory Council on Instructional Excellence (ACIE) has selected eight teaching proposals to fund under the 2008 Innovation in Education Awards Program.

This year’s projects range from expanding teaching opportunities for doctoral students to integrating nanoscience across the natural sciences curricula at the University of Pittsburgh-Titusville.

The awards, begun in 2000 by University of Pittsburgh Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor James V. Maher, encourage instructional innovation and teaching excellence. The ACIE seeks to identify high-quality proposals that show promise for introducing innovative, creative approaches to teaching that can be adapted for use in other courses.

“The council continues to be impressed with the quality and creativity of the proposals submitted each year,” said ACIE Chair and Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Andrew Blair. “Those recommended for funding this year represented the best of a fine set of submissions from academic units across the entire University. While Pitt is a comprehensive research institution, it is clear that this awards program supporting innovative teaching strikes a responsive chord among our faculty.”

Funding for this year’s awards totaled $127,000.

Winners of this year’s awards and summaries of their proposals follow.

Heiko Spallek, an assistant professor in the Center for Dental Informatics in Pitt’s School of Dental Medicine, and professor Mark P. Mooney, who holds joint appointments in the Departments of Oral Medicine and Pathology, Anthropology, Surgery-Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, and Othodontics in Pitt’s Schools of Dental Medicine and Medicine, “Quantitative Image Analysis Using Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended.”

This project will develop two Web-based modules to instruct researchers on how to use the new Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended software (Photoshop). The goal is to give biomedical researchers the ability to analyze quantitatively an array of images, such as histological samples, radiological images, and other imaging artifacts derived from diverse lab equipment. The two courses, Quantitative Image Analysis Using Photoshop and Best Practices Using Photoshop in Image Analysis, will be interactive and cut across various disciplines and cater to different learning levels.

Amy Seybert, a professor of pharmacy and therapeutics, “Simulation-Based Learning and Online Learning to Enhance Problem Solving Skills in Acute Care Pharmacotherapy.”

The project’s goal is to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills in Doctor of Pharmacy candidates by utilizing human patient simulation. The Acute Care Pharmacotherapy course will allow students to apply clinical knowledge and skills gained in previous courses to care for patients with acute illness. It will be the first immersive dual technology course within pharmacy education at Pitt. Combining online and simulation-based assessments, the course will provide an objective assessment of a student’s knowledge and performance.

Ronald Zboray, a communication professor, Joseph Grabowski, a chemistry professor, and Barbara Kucinski, a lecturer in the Department of Psychology, all in the School of Arts and Sciences, “Improving Undergraduate Education: Instructional Resources for Teaching Assistants (A Multimedia Web site and DVD).”

In 2006-07, there were approximately 1,000 graduate students employed as teaching assistants or teaching fellows at the University of Pittsburgh. This project will develop several short instructional videos of two to five minutes each that model the fundamental strategies and elements of classroom teaching. The videos could be accessed individually on a centralized Web site as a resource for improving teaching skills. Pitt’s Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education will provide instructional design, graphics, and video production services.

Nuno Themudo, a professor of international affairs in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA), “Community Teaching Lab.”

The Community Teaching Lab will seek to address the lack of teaching opportunities for many Pitt doctoral students, a situation that can inhibit competitiveness in the job market. The lab will allow PhD students to develop teaching skills by creating and delivering community outreach courses. In addition to being taught in Pitt’s classrooms, the courses will be available online and free to the public, modeling the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s OpenCourseware program. Themudo will offer the teaching lab as a three-credit-hours doctoral course.

Bonnie A. Falcione, a professor in the Department of Pharmacy and Therapeutics, “Development and Systematic Evaluation of Rubrics to Assess Value of Student Wiki Contributions in Collaborative Case-Based Learning.”

This project seeks to develop a method to identify the value of individual student contributions when using Wiki technology for collaborative patient-care-based activities. A Wiki is a computer server program that allows users to collaborate in forming the content of a Web site. With a Wiki, any user can edit the site’s content, including other users’ contributions. The technology will be introduced in the second year of the Doctor of Pharmacy professional program in a two-semester course sequence, Pharmacotherapy of Infectious Diseases 1 and 2.

Christian Shunn, a psychology professor, “A Case Library of Authentic, Effective Writing Assignments for Peer-Based Learning.”

This project seeks to broaden the diversity of writing skills learned by undergraduate students in Pitt’s Department of Psychology. An assessment of writing activities required by the department’s curriculum revealed an overemphasis on report writing at the expense of other writing skills required in the workplace. This project will build on the success of Shunn’s SWoRD project, a Web-based system that allows faculty to integrate significant writing-with-revision assignments into courses without a large number of significant instructors or teaching-assistant grading resources. The project will build a case library of complete materials required for easy but high-quality implementation of a writing task into a course.

George W. Dougherty, a professor of public and urban affairs in GSPIA, “The Student Philanthropy Project.”

A significant number of undergraduate and graduate students at Pitt in general and in GSPIA in particular want to make a difference in society through careers in the private nonprofit sector. This project aims to transform the way students learn about philanthropy by adding a real-life experiential learning component to the curriculum. During the pilot phase, certain GSPIA graduate and undergraduate courses will make multiple grants of at least $2,500 to participating nonprofits during the semester. It is believed that providing experience with grant-making processes and techniques will help students seeking careers in both the not-for-profit and for-profit sectors.

Ping Y. Furlan, a chemistry professor at Pitt-Titusville, “Nanoscience and Technology Across the Natural Sciences Curricula.”

Expanding the current nanoscience program at the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville will enhance the educational and professional advancement opportunities for students. This project seeks to implement nanothemed activities in different classrooms across the natural sciences curricula and to upgrade the EasyScan2 Scanning Tunneling Microscope to include an Atomic Force Microscope. Broadening the curriculum will impact Pitt-Titusville students majoring in the natural sciences, who comprise 20 percent of the student body. And because 28 percent of the student body come from underrepresented groups, the project is expected to benefit a large number of these students and greatly enhance their scientific capabilities.