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Engineering faculty among Provost’s Teaching Innovative Prizes

Faculty project takes innovative approach to improving student learning.| Short Read

This is an adaptation of an article in The Record.

A project developed at Michigan Engineering is one of five faculty projects being honored with the 12th annual Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prizes. The prizes are for projects that involve innovative approaches to improving student learning.

Tandem: Automating Tailored Guidance for Students Working in Teams

Laura Alford, lecturer IV in naval architecture and marine engineering; Robin Fowler, lecturer IV in technical communication; and Stephanie Sheffield, lecturer IV in technical communication

Tandem is a research-based tool that supports students working in teams and the faculty who teach and mentor student teams. It uses data gathered weekly to provide students with a graph that clearly shows how a team rates itself on key measures of team functioning. Students are able to recognize and begin to address any issues with the team as they arise.

The weekly data can be used to provide tailored lessons based on challenges a specific team is facing. Tandem rates each team and each student as “working well,” “approaching trouble” or “needing support.” Those assessments are displayed on Tandem’s faculty dashboard, enabling faculty to focus on those teams and individuals that need support, while teams that are “working well” can be left alone until they would benefit from intervention.

Student Francesca Duong said in her letter of support that she used Tandem in her ENGR 100: Underwater Vehicles class, where students learn the basics of engineering design by working in groups to build an underwater remotely operated vehicle.

“One of the things I appreciated about Tandem was that it made me feel like my voice was being heard,” Duong wrote. “Oftentimes, I think many students don’t believe that the instructors are aware of the issues within teamwork or how the work can be disproportionately distributed. Tandem was a great way for the instructors to identify that and provide us support.”


Selection criteria for the Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize:

  • Originality – new instructional approach/method or novel/creative application of a current instructional approach/method
  • Impact – demonstrated significant impact on teaching effectiveness, student learning and/or retention
  • Replicability – potential for use of this innovation by other instructors  
  • Scalability – potential for widespread use of this innovation

Honorees are normally awarded on the opening day of the Enriching Scholarship conference in May. However, with COVID-19 canceling or postponing most campus events, organizers are looking for another way to celebrate the winners at a future date. In keeping with current financial restrictions, distribution of the $5,000 TIP award money also will be delayed.

The Provost’s Teaching Innovative Prize is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching and the University Library.

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Zach Robertson
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Michigan Engineering

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