Grant of $150,160 from Davis Educational Foundation will Send Olin Faculty Back to the Classroom to Experience Curriculum as Students Do

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Davis Educational Foundation Grant supports innovative faculty development modules that will return faculty to the classroom to experience foundational Olin courses firsthand.

These modules will allow Olin’s faculty to better understand what is taught in the core classes at Olin,” said Caitrin Lynch, an associate professor of anthropology at Olin who will direct the program.

Olin College of Engineering has received a three-year, $150,160 grant from the Davis Educational Foundation to support innovative faculty development modules that will improve teaching and learning by returning faculty to the classroom to experience Olin’s state-of-the-art engineering curriculum firsthand.

Olin faculty will offer short, intensive versions of foundational Olin courses to their faculty colleagues, most of whom have graduated from institutions with traditional pedagogical approaches. Participants will be able to experience Olin’s core and flagship courses as students do, improving their own delivery of courses across the curriculum. Each module instructor will be paired with an “educational partner,” an Olin faculty member who has done research in curricular effectiveness, providing another level of insight into improving student learning.

“These modules will allow Olin’s faculty to better understand what is taught in the core classes at Olin,” said Caitrin Lynch, an associate professor of anthropology at Olin who will direct the program. “Furthermore, these modules will allow faculty members to experience a variety of pedagogical approaches and develop a deep understanding of why these approaches improve learning. By incorporating conversations in educational theory, this program will make teaching and learning at Olin even more effective.”

Up to six of Olin’s flagship courses will be offered in mini-versions through the program. Included will be Design Nature, a required course for Olin first-year students in which students develop bio-inspired ideas into functional prototypes; the Stuff of History, a popular interdisciplinary elective combining history and materials science; and Modeling and Simulation of the Physical World, a project-based core course that is an introduction to mathematical modeling and computer simulation of physical systems. The modules will be offered summers and during the winter intersession break, and will begin in 2012.

The grant was received from the Davis Educational Foundation established by Stanton and Elisabeth Davis after Mr. Davis’s retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets. It is the second grant Olin has received from the foundation. An earlier grant also supported faculty development and pedagogical innovation.

In its short history, Olin has become widely known in engineering education circles for its innovative, hands-on curriculum that blends rigorous instruction in engineering fundamentals with study in the liberal arts and entrepreneurship. Olin has formed academic partnerships with institutions such as Stanford and the University of Illinois to help foster curricular reform, and operates the Initiative for Innovation in Engineering Education, which offers highly participatory faculty workshops that provide a forum for effecting change in engineering pedagogy.

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