BME doubles up on awards

Earlier this semester, Tech’s BME department received two awards dedicated to the quality of its education. The 2013 Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award for Department and Programs was presented to the department, which recognizes teaching styles that “actively embraced a design and problem-solving curriculum […and] practical applications,” according to the Board of Regents’ website.

The BME department provides many unique approaches to teaching its students. The professors aim to work away from traditional, lecture-based teaching towards a more “information-unloading” approach, according to BME professor and department chair Larry McIntire.

Faculty members work to be more of facilitators of learning rather than lecturers, encouraging the students to apply their knowledge outside of the classroom through projects such as writing and editing online BME articles.

“The program is very problem-based, with active learning from freshman to senior year, interweaving teamwork and design,” McIntire said.

One such faculty member in the program that demonstrates these capabilities is Dr. Steve Potter, who won the 2013 Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award for faculty in research universities. The Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award was given in the research universities category, unlike the Excellence Award for Department Program,  which included all Georgia universities.

The award recognizes what Potter defines as “real world” teaching and what the Board of Regents’ site calls a “problem-based pedagogical approach.”

Potter actively works to fulfill two goals he is dedicated to maintaining in the classroom—constructing projects designed to directly benefit the scientific community and “[creating] the desire to learn enough to earn an ‘A’ in [my] classes.”

Based on interactions with some of his previous students, Potter has been known to create assignments that allow students to contribute knowledge outside of the classroom. His assignments are, in a sense, validated by outside audiences.

“I’m not the only one grading them,” Potter said. “Knowing they will be judged not only by their teacher, but by people across the world […] motivates them to do outstanding work.”

Examples of these assignments was to create a Wikipedia article on any neuroscience topic of the student’s choosing. Students also reviewed neuroscience books on Amazon, and one assignment required them to get creative by submitting reviews on YouTube.

“What is unusual about my class is we incorporate science into the real world,” Potter said.