Have you ever wondered about the nifty blue light dentists use to repair your teeth?
If so, Professor Julie Jessop in the College of Engineering can fill you in.
Her current research includes radiation polymerization with electron beams and photons, which, for those of us without PhDs in engineering can best be exemplified by that blue light.
However, this is only a part of her contribution to the University and academic community. Professor Jessop also teaches in the University’s TILE classrooms, sees herself as a change agent for engineering education and, this fall, is encouraging other STEM faculty to come along for the ride.
For the Fall 2013 semester, Dr. Jessop embarked on a new adventure when she decided to “flip” her Process Calculations course for undergrad chemical engineering students and move it into a TILE classroom.
“Flipping” a class means students participate in active learning activities during face-to-face class hours and are responsible for picking up the traditional lecture content at home.
“I sat down and started thinking about this class and about how I really wanted to get the students more engaged, “ Jessop says “When I did some research on the TILE program I thought, this sounds exactly like what I envision my class would be.”
In the case of Process Calculations, Jessop provides a variety of content delivery methods - web lessons, lecture capture from the previous course, and podcasts - which allow her students to control how and when they learn the material.
Although Professor Jessop initially faced some resistance from students, she makes every effort to ensure that the time students need to spend on content outside of class is comparable to what they would customarily spend on homework.
Now, more than midway through the semester, a lot of the feedback she receives is positive.
Students particularly like the ability to ask questions while they are working problems and they appreciate how classroom activities prevent them from falling behind.
“I had one student come in and say: ‘I hated it at first, I didn’t like having to get the content myself, but then I sat back and realized I wasn’t cramming for the exams because I was being paced along with [the content].’” Jessop says.
It also turns out that the structure and technology of the TILE rooms is conducive to the kind of learning that engineering and other STEM faculty aim for.
Jessop points out that the whiteboards are great for working on problems because they facilitate sharing and collaboration, which are essential for problem solving in the STEM fields. The natural division of students into table groups also facilitates teamwork, which is a crucial skill for budding engineers to develop.
“A big thrust in engineering is teamwork because when you go out in industry you are going to be working in a team,” Jessop says. “The problems are too big for one person to solve.”
In 2012, Jessop attended the “Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium” which challenged participants to go back to their campuses and communities and be agents of change.
Professor Jessop has taken that message to heart and has since been working closely with the Center for Teaching and ITS-Instructional Services to develop training and a support network for STEM faculty interested in bringing innovation into their classrooms.
An integral part of that process is an upcoming training event for STEM faculty called STEM in TILE, November 19 and 21.
This day-and-a-half workshop aims to provide instructors with the knowledge and tools necessary to transform their own courses.
Research indicates the most effective changes in instruction come from grassroots faculty movements so Jessop recognizes the importance of getting input from seasoned instructors.
“We contacted the exemplars, the STEM faculty who have been using the TILE classrooms effectively and said: ‘From your perspective, what you have learned along the way and what you’ve been hearing from your colleagues, what do we need to include?’,” Jessop says. “And so it’s for faculty, by faculty.”
With faculty like Jessop on board and with the support of the TILE Program, students in the STEM fields, along with a number of other disciplines, such as English, Business, and History, are experiencing active and inquiry-based learning that will serve them for the rest of their academic and professional lives.
“We can’t teach them everything at the university,” Jessop says. “ They need to have that lifelong learning ability.”