The Active Learning Initiative (ALI) awarded a new round of grants, helping 5 departments redesign courses to implement research-based active learning strategies and create lasting improvements to undergraduate teaching at Cornell.

ALI is a collaborative effort: faculty work closely with ALI postdocs and Center for Teaching Innovation (CTI) experts, and departments are increasingly collaborating with each other. This will result in the new grants supporting the improvement of 24 classrooms, facilitating new learning experiences for students across campus.

The 2022 grant recipients are Classics, History, Government, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and Biomedical Engineering.

“What struck the selection committee about all of the winning proposals is that the faculty is deeply committed to enhancing undergraduate learning experiences through innovative strategies to teach complex analytical skills, problem-solving and design,” said Julia Thom-Levy, vice-president for academic studies. innovation.

With its new grant, Classics will continue the transformation of its undergraduate program in English. The department will implement active learning strategies to make the curriculum more inclusive in four courses that address issues relevant to both the classics and the modern world. These courses, dealing with the treatment of race and ethnicity, gender, human rights, social justice and climate change in the ancient world, will engage students from across the university.

The Department of History will use its grant to develop one new course and redesign five others with the help of two postdoctoral fellows. The courses will respond to the current and urgent need to train students in media literacy and factual knowledge. The new course The deep fake: Conspiracies throughout historywill teach undergraduate students sophisticated techniques for interpreting evidence and sources that inform media, news, and history.

The Ministry of Government grant will support the transformation of four key courses in the major, using a range of teaching strategies to improve student retention of core concepts and deepen understanding of research design and statistical methods . The department believes that a more hands-on approach to political science will enhance student engagement with the material and improve learning outcomes.

The Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering will use its grant to revolutionize lab-based teaching, creating learning studios to replace traditional lab classes. The studios will focus on three engineering systems: forklift, robot and satellite; each integrating laboratory experiments in 5 to 10 classes. The studios will be central hubs for students of any skill level in all years of the program, connecting classes and concepts across the curriculum. Additionally, the change will affect all required classes in the program and one-third of all classes in the school.

Biomedical engineering students participate in a class exercise.

Through its grant, the Nancy E. & Peter C. Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering will use the teaching principles used in the teaching of architectural design to transform its core undergraduate sequence into 6 courses. This is the first step in a plan to expand design education to address the challenges students face in bridging design knowledge with practice and improving their ability to integrate knowledge into through the ladders. With the new approach, students will work in small groups to model, analyze, and design products to present in class during feedback reviews. The department believes that the new teaching strategy, coupled with the emphasis on the application of technical analysis to complex biology, will enhance students’ skills and prepare them for the variability and uncertainty common in their career while developing essential communication and teamwork skills.

Developed with the help of Alex Hanson ’87 and Laura Hanson ’87, ALI is supported by the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Innovation at Cornell and the Educational Innovation Center (CTI). The College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering also provide support for new projects. To date, ALI has supported 19 departments in curriculum transformation, improving learning for thousands of Cornell students.

Dave Winterstein is a communications specialist at the Center for Teaching Innovation.