How Big Money Can, and Can’t, Shake Up Teaching

December 11, 2014 / Phil Lesch

The Chronicle of Higher Education
December 11th, 2014

Three years ago, two of America’s most influential universities made eye-popping commitments to improve teaching.

Harvard University announced that it would devote $40-million to encourage its faculty members to experiment in the service of learning. The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor would run a $25-million project seeking much the same thing.

On both campuses, faculty members on and off the tenure track have submitted proposals for competitive grants of up to $50,000 to take calculated risks in their courses. They’re creating digital textbooks, organizing workshops on teaching statistics, assigning common reading in engineering, and, in all cases, studying the results.

Larger grants, up to $200,000 from Harvard and $3-million from Michigan, are intended to scale up the teaching experiments. At Michigan, that money will let 19 schools and colleges at Ann Arbor use technology to tailor advising to individual students and retool three architecture courses to bring in outside experts for intensive two- or three-day sessions.

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