matt_westAE3 congratulates Associate Professor Matthew West, an Education Innovation Fellow with AE3, on being named a University Distinguished Teacher-Scholar for 2014-2015. This honor is the university’s premier recognition for excellence in both teaching and in contributions to the scholarship of teaching and learning. The honor also includes a commitment to activities to enhance student learning at Illinois.

In the coming year, West will work to bring project-based learning to the Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (TAM) series of 200-level courses which are required for many engineering students. Project-based learning will provide students with more authentic and engaging learning opportunities. It will also provide opportunities to apply creativity and critical thinking in an engineering context.

“The inspiration for this project was a trip conducted by Dean Cangellaris to Olin College in March of this year,” explains West. “At Olin we saw the impact that project-based classes can have on encouraging engaged and passionate learners in undergraduate engineering, which motivated me to implement these ideas at Illinois. The key challenge for us is scaling the project-learning methods to work with the very large classes that we have on campus.” The TAM 200-level sequence in which West teaches has over 2500 students per year.

West embarks on this project with a wealth of experience in implementing innovative course instruction. West is the principal investigator (PI) on a Strategic Instructional Initiatives Program (SIIP) grant titled “Adaptive Learning via Big Data: The future of student-focused instruction.”  Through SIIP, West has built a team of faculty, lecturers, and teaching assistants to bring active learning to the TAM series and to increase student engagement in the course. West is also a co-PI on an NSF grant for implementing evidence based instructional reforms.

West’s selection as a Distinguished Teacher-Scholar was also based on his record of excellence in teaching. He has been named to the University of Illinois’ List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students for every course he has taught at UIUC since 2010.  These courses include both theoretical and applied mechanics and mechanical engineering. He also has received the Excellence in Education Award from the University of California, Davis while serving an assistant professor there.

More information on the Distinguished Teacher-Scholar program may be found at the University Provost’s website.