Faculty members across campus are eager to liven up their classrooms in novel ways, and a University grant is making that possible.
The Center for Faculty Excellence, a professional development center at UNC, announced the recipients of its CFE 100+ Initiative grants on Tuesday. Since 2011, the CFE has received an annual allocation of $40,000 from the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, said Eric Muller, director of the CFE.
Each grant recipient — who must teach a course that enrolls over 100 students — receives up to $5,000 to fund his or her proposed redesign. This was the first year that the program allowed for courses with multiple sections that totaled 100 students to also be considered.
The grants are used to subsidize the instructor’s additional work over the summer, pay for interactive technologies or attend conferences.
“We can talk about the number of dollars or the number of students affected, but there is also something in this program that is a little bit harder to measure, and that’s the renewed sense of passion that the instructors have,” Muller said.
Ten of the 11 proposals received for the 2014-15 academic year were approved, said Bob Henshaw, Information and Technology Services liaison to the CFE.
When reviewing proposals, the center’s selection committee considers how the educator plans to improve student learning, feasibility of implementation and continuing the redesign in subsequent semesters and the number of students who would benefit.
“I think sometimes people think that they’re teaching fads, but the truth is that everything they teach is based on years of research,” Henshaw said in reference to the recipients.
The course redesigns are meant to create a more interactive classroom.
“One of the challenges of teaching a large lecture course is keeping everyone engaged,” said Layna Mosley, recipient of a grant for the 2014-15 academic year and a political science professor. “Even for the students who really want to pay attention, after 20 minutes their brains starts to wander. We understand this.”
In order to keep her International Relations and World Politics class involved, Mosley plans to develop directed reading questions to increase engagement with the text, create more interactive activities during lectures and implement Poll Everywhere technology so her students can receive real-time feedback on their understanding of the course.
Psychology professor and grant recipient Jeannie Loeb proposed creating a synopsis of each chapter in textbooks students use in her courses.
“Some of the changes that we’re making in our classroom have the potential to be used across the University,” Loeb said.
The CFE also provides its feedback on the redesigned courses to the instructors, as well as the chance to meet with and receive feedback from other faculty members across campus.
“Faculty rarely have the opportunity — or they don’t make the time — to discuss educational innovation, and this is what the CFE grant has allowed us to do,” said Sonda Oppewal, grant recipient for the 2013-14 academic year and a clinical professor in the School of Nursing.
Muller said that the these groups are imperative to the success of the program.
“It’s important to develop a community of support for each other because to make these changes takes a lot of effort and energy and, quite frankly, a lot of courage.”