His students say Mechanical Engineering Professor Jay K. Martin is one of the most accessible, dedicated teachers they have ever had — someone who instilled ethics and pushed them to do better work than they ever imagined they could.
But perhaps the greatest testament to Martin's dedication as an instructor is his energetic pursuit of ways in which he and others can improve teaching and learning. Some 15 years ago, he and two colleagues brought new ways of thinking about teaching to the engineering campus; ultimately, their activities led campus faculty and staff to form the Center for a Cooperative Learning Environment (CCLE). “The activities of Jay and the CCLE group brought a new vocabulary, new ways of looking at education, new processes and methodologies, and new excitement about teaching to many of us in engineering,” says a colleague.
He is an active member of the UW-Madison Teaching Academy, which encourages innovation, experimentation and dialogue about teaching and learning. Under Martin's leadership, the group began to assess how teaching evaluation affects campus teaching practices.
In his role as mechanical engineering ABET accreditation coordinator, Martin developed creative assessment and reporting techniques to address ABET criteria and held workshops to help faculty understand how to participate in the accreditation process.
At the college level, he led a two-year effort to develop a common first-year curriculum, which the college implemented in 2005. More recently, he has been a pivotal member of a group that is assessing how to create a preeminent college that stands out from its peers and provides an environment that stimulates creative thinking and risk-taking.
As an outgrowth of Martin's participation in the National Science Foundation-sponsored Foundation Coalition program, he changed his own approach to teaching. His lectures now encourage student interactions and use “concept inventories” to provide students immediate feedback on their comprehension of the material. Martin also urges other faculty to adopt concept inventory assessments in their courses. “Martin was able to show me the important role that concept inventories have in assessing the understanding/learning of engineering material,” says a young colleague. “In guiding and taking on a young faculty member, Jay Martin is ensuring that not only the students he teaches, but all engineering students, benefit from his teaching improvements.”