ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan's Barry Fishman, known for his gameful learning approach to teaching, has been named Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year by the Michigan Association of State Universities.
Fishman is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Learning Technologies. He teaches in both the School of Information and the School of Education, and serves as the director of the Undergraduate Bachelor of Science in Information Program.
"Professor Fishman represents the very best of teaching, innovation and dedication to student success," said Daniel Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities. "With his research on technology to foster student learning, he symbolizes the excellence in higher education for which Michigan's public universities are globally renowned."
The award will be formally awarded to Fishman and two other fellow recipients April 21. This honor is given by the state organization representing Michigan's 15 public universities in recognition of a sustained commitment to undergraduate education. It recognizes faculty for impact on and involvement with undergraduate students, individualized and experiential learning, scholarship and innovation in teaching and learning, and contributions to undergraduate education at the institution and beyond.
Fishman's work focuses on teaching that incorporates the concepts found in well-designed video games to create learning environments for undergraduate students. Together with doctoral student Caitlin Holman he co-created GradeCraft, a learning management system operating on a gameful design, which uses competence, autonomy and belongingness to foster intrinsic motivation.
"Ideally, I want to help my students become their best selves," Fishman said. "To do this, they need to be empowered to explore the opportunities around them and take risks. I am working with great colleagues on a range of academic innovation projects at Michigan aimed at helping the broadest possible range of students gain access to higher education, engage deeply with the opportunities offered by a great public research university, and grow into lifelong learners."
Since GradeCraft's introduction in 2012, more than 30 faculty at U-M have adopted this approach to teaching, and the software soon will be shared with other colleges, universities and K-12 schools.
Fishman also helped develop the Bachelor of Science in Information Program at U-M. The program was launched the year before he was named the director, and he helped develop the program, which started out with 26 students, into one that now annually admits 120 students per class.
"Excellence in teaching is only possible when one is surrounded by excellent and engaged students, colleagues, staff and administrators," Fishman said. "I am fortunate to benefit from the efforts of many such great people around me at Michigan."
Fishman won Campus Technology's "Innovator of the Year" honor in 2016, became a Fellow of the International Society for Design and Development in Education in 2015, and won the Provost's Teaching Innovation Prize in 2010.
Among these achievements, Fishman also co-authored the Obama Administration's 2010 U.S. National Education Technology Act and serves on the Information Technology Council at U-M, as well as the chair of the Academic Innovation Advisory Council for U-M's Office of Academic Innovation.
He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Brown University in English and American literature in 1989. He went on to receive his Master of Science from Indiana University in 1992 and a doctorate in learning sciences from Northwestern University in 1996.