Every time the patient tries to sip from her straw, it slips out of reach—and she’s physically unable to right it. But a small piece of plastic could keep the straw in position so she can sip with ease. It’s a simple invention made possible by an innovative 3-D printing course M. Blanche Leeman, an assistant professor of occupational therapy at Touro College in Bay Shore, New York, offers to her students.
The groundbreaking course came to Leeman—a Doctor of Education (EdD) student at the university—quite by happenstance: Touro’s library department was looking to partner with an OT instructor on a 3-D printing project. Intrigued, she did some research and brainstormed ways her students could use the device to improve patient care.
The result is a two-credit course that challenges students to collaborate with engineering students to design and create solutions to problems faced by patients. Other inventions include stabilizers that make keys and baby bottles easier to handle. The course has been such a success that Leeman plans to offer it again in the fall.
It’s a high-tech endeavor that Leeman couldn’t have imagined just a few years ago. Her experiences as a student are powering her own curriculum. Based on the Foundations of Teaching and Learning course, Leeman transformed her own curriculum. For instance, she has a more collaborative, question-and-answer focused lecture, which is interspersed with hands-on lab experiences, a strategy that helps make the lesson come to life and solidifies learning.
She’s also changed the way she tests students, moving away from multiple-choice and toward inferential questions based on case studies so students are better able to demonstrate what they’ve learned. It’s paid off: Students’ assessment scores after taking her class have risen by about 15%. “They are retaining information better and are more successful in applying this knowledge in their fieldwork,” she says.
As she prepares for another year of teaching—and plans more 3-D printing projects—Leeman marvels at how far she’s come.
“Two years ago, I would never have imagined I’d be teaching high-tech courses and earning my EdD at the same time. I’m having so much fun that I forget I’m also learning a tremendous amount.”