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April 16, 2009

Provost's innovation awards announced

Eleven teaching proposals have been selected for funding under the 10th annual Provost’s Advisory Council on Instructional Excellence (ACIE) innovation in education awards program.

ACIE identifies proposals that show promise for introducing innovative approaches to teaching that can be adapted for use in other courses. Funding for this year’s awards totaled $182,113.

Winners of the 2009 awards along with titles and summaries of their proposals follow.

• Amy E. Aggelou, instructor and clinical coordinator in the undergraduate athletic training education program, and Kevin Conley, program director for the program, which is housed in the Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition, and assistant dean for undergraduate studies in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS), “Creating Clinical Competence Through Interactive Technology.”

This project’s goal is the creation of a computer program to help train athletic trainers and assess their competence.

The idea was prompted, in part, by the national certification test for athletic trainers, which has a multiple-choice section comprising an interactive looping of questions and information. Each student begins with the same question, but the remainder of the question sequence depends on how the student answers each subsequent question. The hybrid questions are visual and require students to use critical thinking by applying their knowledge in real-life clinical situations.

• Kevin D. Ashley, professor of law and intelligent systems and senior scientist in the Learning Research and Development Center, “A Peer-Review-Based Student Model for Ill-Defined Problem-solving.”

This project seeks to fine-tune and strengthen the peer-review process so that professors can better gauge how well students are understanding the course material. Specifically, the goal is to develop and evaluate methods to solicit peer-reviewer feedback in a structured way on assignments and to provide instructors with an in-depth report of how well students understood the assignments’ issues.

Ashley said this approach should be useful especially in any University course in which students learn to analyze ill-defined problems. The model will be available on the Internet and will be field-tested this fall in a law course’s peer-reviewed legal writing exercise.

• Jean Ferguson Carr, director of the women’s studies program and professor of English and women’s studies, and Frayda Cohen, visiting assistant professor of women’s studies with a joint appointment in the Department of Anthropology, “Theory and Practice: An Interactive Web Site.”

This project will create a web site to provide an interdisciplinary space where faculty and students can collaborate on webliographies (online bibliographies), personal and group blogs and wikis, which are server programs that allow users to collaborate in forming a web site’s content.

This collaboration is expected to lead to the creation of a reference database and links to key research sites. It also will serve as a way for students and faculty to better share their research and experiences within the women’s studies community.

• Berrylin Ferguson, professor and director of the Division of Sino-nasal Disorders and Allergy in the School of Medicine’s Department of Otolaryngology, “NASAL Project: Nasal Anatomy, Simulation and Learning.”

This project focuses on the development of a sino-nasal simulator device, or NASAL, that will be used to train nurses, nurse anesthetists and medical students on how to place feeding tubes and nose-to-stomach tubes in patients.

A laptop interface will allow for direct measurement of how the procedure was performed on the simulator and how well the students scored.

Ferguson estimates the system will help train 400 Pitt medical and nursing students annually.

• Margo B. Holm, professor in SHRS’s Department of Occupational Therapy, “How Reliable Am I?”

The goal of this project is to develop online inter-observer training modules for students who need to establish reliability in scoring and interpreting patient observational assessment tools. Inter-observer reliability is one of four types of reliability estimates, and it is used to assess the degree to which different raters give consistent estimates of the same phenomenon.

The project idea stemmed from the federal directive that hospitals and health care providers, to be reimbursed for Medicare outpatient services, must evaluate patients using valid and reliable tools and be reliable in scoring and interpreting them.

“How Reliable Am I?” will use online clinical video cases to teach students to score reliably and interpret observational screening and assessment tools. This approach allows individualized pacing and repeated practice and enables students to “pre-establish” screening/assessment tool reliability prior to clinical internships.

•Amy E. Landis, Melissa M. Bilec and Piervincenzo Rizzo, assistant professors in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, “Enhancing Crosscutting Sustainability Education in Civil Engineering.”

With the goal to infuse sustainability concepts into civil engineering courses, this project will use three active, team-based learning activities to link three classes: Design for the Environment, Introduction to Nondestructive Evaluation and Structural Health Monitoring, and Green Buildings: Design and Construction.

Students will work together on mapping energy losses in buildings around Pittsburgh and then will propose energy-efficient solutions, creating a case study to calculate a building’s energy using an infrared camera and comparing indoor environmental quality between green and regular buildings.

• Karen T. Lee and Bruce W. Robart, professors of biology at the Johnstown campus, and Frances M. Zauhar, professor of English and chair of UPJ’s Humanities Division, “Developing a Multidisciplinary Student-Faculty Learning Community at UPJ.”

Beginning in spring 2010, UPJ will enroll its first students in a course on natural resources that will be team-taught by faculty from the natural sciences, education, humanities and social sciences departments.

Students will engage in independent research, as well as scholarly and creative projects, and will have the opportunity to attend films, field trips, social activities and guest lectures.

The project’s goal is to create a multidisciplinary learning community comprising students and faculty and to introduce students to undergraduate research, and scholarly or creative collaborative experiences.

• G. Elisabeta Marai, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and founder and director of the Pitt Interdisciplinary Visualization Research Lab, “Immersive Software Engineering.”

This project will develop a new software engineering course that — along with teaching the techniques of project management, design, coding and other requirements — will offer a significant communications component.

The class will introduce project management skills, usability testing and customer interviewing — so-called soft skills aimed at making graduates more competitive in the global marketplace.

The new class also will establish a repository of software engineering code that can be reused and expanded in future editions of the course.

• Marlin H. Mickle, the Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the RFID Center of Excellence, “Remote Experiments for Wireless Computer Networks.”

This project involves the creation of a virtual laboratory to give students in the Introduction to Computer Networks course a concrete understanding of wireless computer networks. Unfortunately, the equipment necessary for students to be able to observe and manipulate data-transmission parameters is expensive, costing more than $100,000 per set.

Mickle will create a remote laboratory, which students can access via the Internet. The lab will enable a single set of equipment to be shared by an entire class. The remote lab also could be extended to other courses.

• Susan M. Meyer, associate dean for education in the School of Pharmacy; Helen K. Burns, associate dean for clinical education, School of Nursing, and Hollis D. Day, director of the Advanced Clinical Education Center, School of Medicine, “We Need to Talk: Facilitating Improved Interprofessional Communication Through the Use of Standardized Colleagues.”

This project is aimed at improving interprofessional communication between pharmacists, nurses and physicians. The approach will be based on the schools’ current use of a standardized-patient teaching strategy where health professions students learn patient-assessment and communication skills by working with an individual who is trained to act as a patient.

Meyer, Burns and Day will adapt that strategy to create what is known as standardized-colleague methodology. This process trains health professionals to portray a particular professional role, attitude and communication style in a teaching situation with a student.

• Sarah E. Scott and Linda Kucan, assistant professors of reading education in the School of Education, “Using Innovative Video Technology to Transform the Preparation of Literacy Teachers.”

Scott and Kucan will redesign the Reading and Language Arts in the Intermediate Grades course, seeking to optimize students’ opportunities to learn effective literacy teaching practices.

The project will video-record the Pitt students’ classroom sessions with their elementary students and also will employ Video Traces, a software program that will allow the Pitt students and their professors to better critique the classroom sessions.

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