The Transformative Teaching and Learning (TTL) Strategic Initiative calls us to: 'Promote innovation in teaching and learning practices by providing faculty support to innovate and scale transformative teaching practices and creating conditions for all students to engage in meaningful experiential learning.' 

In support of the Transformative Teaching and Learning strategic plan initiative, instructors were invited to apply for the 2023 TTL Innovation Incubator grant to receive financial and programmatic support to plan, implement, and evaluate a transformative teaching project. The pilot round identified 11 projects that feature transformative course redesign through the integration of experiential learning and high-impact practices.

One of the projects that was selected is co-led by Dima Nazzal from ISyE and Kyla Ross from BME and the Provost’s Office. Nazzal is the primary faculty instructor for the ISyE Senior Design, a capstone design course, and Ross is the Assistant Vice Provost for Advocacy and Conflict Resolution and teaches a BME course in Systems Physiology.

Student success in both senior design and systems physiology - and many others - relies on team collaborationsHowever, conflicts that arise within teams negatively impacting student motivation, creativity, and productivity, often leaving students with lasting negative impacts that may bias future group interactions in the classroom and beyond.

After attending the TTL kick-off workshop in the summer, Nazzal and Ross decided to join forces to investigate ways in which they can equip students enrolled in their courses with strategies for effective and empathetic interactions within diverse teams. This skill  is essential for creating a positive learning environment, particularly for those students from underrepresented minority groups. “As one of 11 High Impact Practices, collaborative assignments have the potential to transform students’ ability to solve problems and learn from peers with different life experiences and perspectives. This project investigates several key levers to enhance the group project experience”, says Kate Williams, Interim Director of Transformative Teaching and Learning Faculty Initiatives.

In ISYE 4106 Senior Design and BMED 3100 Systems Physiology, Nazzal and Ross are implementing a unique learning experience to assess the effectiveness of two team-based approaches: providing short videos with helpful tips for handling difficult conversations and introducing a 360-degree feedback tool that encourages peer evaluations with guided questionsThe goal of these enhancements is to provide students with the language and emotional maturity for constructive feedback, which is at the core of all transformative teaching and learning frameworks.. By empowering our students to engage in and reflect on tough conversations in a psychologically safe way, we have the potential to maximize their learning and instill transferable and transformative skills for years to come.

“Our goal is to create an environment where students feel confident in constructive discussions, conflict resolution, and offering valuable feedback. These skills are increasingly important in today's diverse and collaborative world,” Nazzal and Ross wrote in their grant proposal.

Through this project, they anticipate seeing improved teamwork, reduced conflicts, and higher satisfaction with team dynamics. Stay tuned for updates on this exciting project as they work towards fostering a positive learning environment and instilling essential skills in our students. 

Kyla Turpin Ross and Dima Nazzel