Twelve WSU faculty win eight Smith Teaching and Learning grants

mary wack

PULLMAN, Wash. – Twelve WSU faculty on three campuses have received funding for projects that will enhance undergraduate learning, thanks to the Samuel H. and Patricia W. Smith Teaching and Learning Endowment.

The winning proposals address teaching and learning issues and improvements, support WSU learning goals such as critical thinking and communication, and reflect a commitment to resolve factors raised by recent degree assessments.

“Many of the projects detail teaching innovations designed to better support deep, life-long learning,” said Mary F. Wack, vice provost for undergraduate education. “Some tap into emerging or discipline-specific pedagogies. Others support further growth of unique projects already underway.”

The first impact of the grants will be felt by thousands of undergraduates as early as fall classes.

“As methods and results are shared with other WSU faculty and through academic publications, the ultimate impact of these WSU grants will be very far reaching,” said Wack.

Recipients and projects

The 2017 winners of the Smith Teaching and Learning grants, which receive up to $7,000 each, include:

  • Carla Brim and Laura Wintersteen-Arleth, of the College of Nursing at WSU Spokane, exploring “Innovations in Evidence Based Practice Education for Nursing Students.” Online, independent, self-paced learning modules plus five student-led seminars will be implemented to teach about nursing research, evidence-based nursing practices, and the value the subject matter in promoting optimal patient health. This active-learning approach aligns with a nursing pedagogical paradigm shift to educate nurses who will be change agents in their clinical settings.
  • Paul Buckley and Greg Crouch, Department of Chemistry, “Providing Growth Opportunities for Struggling Chemistry Students.” By creating two, new in-person and online courses, the first-year chemistry experience will be fundamentally altered by providing different pathways for those with different instructional and curricular needs. Three-credit CHEM 103 is a flipped course focused on conceptual and inquiry-based learning, and the companion one-credit CHEM 104 uses small-group workshop/guided-inquiry approaches to teach conceptual problem solving. The courses will prepare students in certain programs for success in foundational chemistry and improve alignment between student needs, curriculum options and program goals.
  • Erica Crespi, School of Biological Sciences, “Investigating the Effects of Environmental Contaminant Exposure on Wildlife Health in the Classroom: A Place-based Approach.” This project aims to improve the learning outcomes of an existing “integrative inquiry-based instructions units” framework, which already incorporates research into her BIOL 321 course. A new component will be added in which 60 students will monitor human consumption/personal health-care contaminants in local water. The biology students will interact also with environmental scientists and experience interdisciplinary research.
  • Leeann Hunter, Department of English, “The Passport Program: Exploring Pathways beyond the Classroom.” Program materials and workshops for faculty mentors will be developed to strengthen the infrastructure, sustainability, and transferability of the current Passport Program in English. It is a humanities-oriented approach to student success, leadership and professional development, and is intended to mobilize students to engage in a series of action-oriented, relationship-building and confidence-boosting activities beyond the classroom and university.
  • Sue Phelps and Sam Lohmann, WSU Vancouver Library, “Accessibility and Experiential Learning to Support Information Literacy.” This project will update a one-credit UNIV 300 information literacy course to include situations and life experiences beyond academic research. Active, experiential-learning activities related to media literacy will be incorporated, such as fact-checking and online news evaluation skills. Universal design for learning-compliant formatting will be applied to course materials.
  • Adam Richard Phillips, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will explore “Encouraging Self-Regulated Learning in Engineering through Guided Discussion and Self-Assessment.” This project aims to increase the capability of engineering students to self-regulate their own learning (SRL) to improve their problem-solving skills and critical-thinking ability, and to promote lifelong learning. The pedagogical framework will include guided discussion, student self-assessment, and instructor feedback. The SRL approach will be used this fall in CE 315 and CE 512, and, following data collection and evaluation, be applied to an updated approach in spring to CE 431 and CE 303.
  • Gretchen Rollwagen-Bollens, School of Biological Sciences and School of the Environment at WSU Vancouver, “Incorporating a ‘Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience’ (CURE) into Biology 106-L on the WSU Vancouver Campus.” This project aims to increase student engagement in biology classes by implementing “course-based undergraduate research experiences” (CUREs). By applying CURE elements to BIOL 106 lab in fall, students will investigate and hypothesize a solution to a question (relating to the author’s research) for which no one — including faculty — has, or has published, an answer.
  • Dave Torick and Nandita Biswas, School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, “Effective Teaching for Dimensioning and Tolerancing in Mechanical Engineering Application with Visual Aid and an Experimental Set Up.” Key concepts of mechanical design include dimensioning and tolerancing of components, but traditional teaching methods typically don’t convey how the part will be created (fabricated). This project addresses student learning through a two-pronged approach: students will use visual aids (weekly sets of videos) as preludes to hands-on assignments involving the use of computer-aided design (CAD) software for fabrication and inspections of final products. The authors will employ undergraduates to plan and fabricate parts, videotape procedures, edit videos, create course materials, and publish a website.

Funding for Smith Teaching and Learning grants was established in 2000, when President Smith retired. Since, dozens of faculty-initiated projects have impacted thousands of WSU students, university pedagogy, and industry knowledge and practices across the world. Visit the website for more information at Applications and nominations for the next round of Smith grants will be announced in fall.

For more information, contact Mary F. Wack, WSU vice provost for undergraduate education, 509-335-8044,