Funded Projects

In support of Strategic Priorities 1.3 and 1.5, the Office of the Associate Vice-President launched the Active Learning funding initiative in Fall 2018.  We would like to thank all of the applicants for their participation in this new initiative.

For further information on successful proposals, please click on the following links. 

Flash Essays

Project Lead: Kathleen Cawsey
Department: English 
Abstract:  Flash essays replace the traditional midterm examination in a large-format classroom. They encourage rapid thinking, critical analysis, and quick writing skills. They also enable students to improve over the course of the term, while avoiding the stress that comes with one big midterm.

Writing Bursts

Project Lead: Kathleen Cawsey
Department: English
Abstract:  Writing bursts get the students writing and responding immediately to the class. Regular, constant writing is essential for developing writing skills; distilling the lecture to its key points develops critical thinking and analytical skills. A bonus is the students will have ready-made notes when exam time comes.

Learning Through Service and Through Food

Project Lead: Kathleen Kevany
Department: Business and Social Sciences
Abstract:  Through providing service to organizations or industry, students will learn about leadership development, leader qualities and demonstrate their leadership skills. Students will have some applied experience with social action process in this service component in a food related topic.  This active learning will require students to reflect on and understand the practice as well as theories of leadership. Students will select 1) a place to serve and 2) a group project for which they will develop and assess impact of their Social Change Plan. Such discoveries can help us contribute.

Problem-based and Case-based Learning in the Environmental Sciences

Project Lead: Amu Mui
Department: Environmental Science Program
Abstract:  Numeracy skills and competency in quantitative analysis are key skills our future environmental scientists need to solve the real-world problems of our time. A new core course in environmental analytics (ENVS3100) seeks to use a problem-based collaborative approach to developing these skills in a low stakes class environment where active learning is prioritized.

Ungraded problem-based exercises framed around current environmental scenarios (e.g, climate change, heavy metal contamination of water, species decline) will be integrated into lecture portions of the course to foster collaborative and investigative problem-solving skills in a low-stakes environment. Applying the constructivist theory of learning, students are free to experiment with different approaches to solving a problem and succeed or fail as an avenue to building new knowledge and advancing numeracy skills.

Dalhousie Agricultural Campus BioBlitz

Project Lead: Paul Manning
Department: Landscape Architecture
Abstract:  We will bring together the Faculty of Agriculture for a 24-hour biodiversity survey of the Agricultural Campus. Students will explore campus with local experts to inventory the organisms that call our campus home. Participating students will gain opportunities to develop skills in taxonomy, observation, and inquiry. By participating, students will develop a greater appreciation for the campus as an ecosystem, improve identification skills, and become familiarized with a powerful digital tool (iNaturalist) for exploring natural history. This event will encourage students to explore, and perhaps gain a new appreciation for the biodiversity that surrounds us on campus and elsewhere. 


Active Learning Approaches for MECH 4650: Biomechanical Engineering

Project Lead: Elise Laende
Department: Mechanical Engineering
Abstract:  MECH4650 provides an overview of biomechanical engineering to mechanical engineering students.  Active learning approaches will be employed through:

  1. Immersive simulations of total joint replacement surgery, providing hands-on experience with medical devices through QEII Simulation Skills Centre sessions.
  2. Case-based learning activity using custom modules for R software to perform data analyses and visualizations to answer questions about biomedical research questions.
  3. A student response system asking students to self-identify in categories related to diversity, with the goal of recognizing how their own identities relate to a global perspective and considering a wide rant of needs in engineering designs.

Entrepreneurship and Digital Skills though Opera Studies

Project Lead:  Estelle Joubert
Department:  Fountain School of Performing Arts
Abstract:  This is a pilot project for a research seminar at the Fountain School of Performing Arts that teaches students the skills required to be successful in a large team-based technical project, whether at a university or a start-up.  Through an interactive incubator-style seminar, students will embark on a sustained project with a graph database/visualization component from idea to dissemination.  Students will select a set of historical sources related to operatic mobilities, devise a research question, collaboratively select the information to be included in the database, develop an appropriate data model, visualize their data, and develop appropriate marketing material to generate an online presence.  Students will have the opportunity to engage with a CEO and junior software developer from compared at Volta, Halifax's innovation hub.  They will also cultivate collaborative problem-solving skills and offer constructive feedback to the peers.

Virtual Exchange Language Project

Project Lead:  Cristina Rafales
Department:  Spanish
Abstract:  We plan to add a virtual exchange component to SPAN 2035, an existing intensive intermediate language class for second year Spanish students. In partnership with the UOC (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain) we will bring together students of Spanish (face-to-face class) at Dalhousie with students of English in Spain (online course) to participate in a Google community and in three recorded video-conferences outside the classroom. This initiative aims to promote intercultural education and collaboration to complete a real-life task. The data collected in the project will be used to measure increase in learners’ motivation to learn a foreign language and improvement of their oral skills.

Engaged Learning Exploring Mi'kmaw Perspectives on Resources and the Environment

Project Lead:  Melanie Zurba
Department:  School of Resource and Environmental Studies
Abstract:  This active learning project will provide students enrolled in the graduate-level course “Indigenous Perspectives on Resource and Environmental Management” (ENV 5039; 3 Credits) with the opportunity to engage in active learning with Mi’kmaw community leaders involved in resources and environmental management. Learning objectives for students will include: (1) developing a deeper understanding of Mi’kmaw culture and perspectives on resource and the environment; (2) learning about different issues and policies affecting Mi’kmaw people’s abilities to participate in resource and environmental management; and (3) relating the concepts from the course to local First Nation resource and environment issues.

Faculty of Science Winter Learning Groups

Project Lead:  Susan Gass
Faculty:  Faculty of Science - All Departments
Abstract:  The Faculty of Science is proposing a pilot course focused on intentional academic planning, co-curricular planning, and career exploration for Winter 2019. This is a non-credit course offered to all first-year science students. It is intended as an opportunity for students to develop their academic and co-curricular plans in advance of the March registration date, and connect them to career planning resources on campus, such as the Bissett Student Success Centre’s (BSSC) Career on Track Program. This course can serve as a follow-up to the First-Year Interest Groups (FIGs) offered to undeclared BSc students in the first semester.


Learner Stories: A strategy for Active Learning and Student Engagement

Project Lead:  Raghav Sampangi
Faculty:  Faculty of Computer Science
Abstract: Active learning facilitates immersive learning experiences by engaging and involving learners in their overall learning and development.  However, these strategies are sometimes considered, (labour-intensive), alternatives to traditional teaching.  We have developed a new strategy named Learner Stories that facilitates quick and easy implementation of active learning strategies in learning events, and helps easily convert passive lectures into active learning opportunities.  In this project, we aim to evaluate this framework of Learner Stores in engaging students in the classroom.  In the long-term, we wish to employ and evaluate the effectiveness of this framework in all aspects of an educational program. 


Student Exhibition

Project Lead:  Shauntay Grant
Department:  English (Creative Writing Program)
Abstract:  CRWR 2001 Student Exhibition is a multi-media installation created and curated by students enrolled in CRWR 2001: The Creative Process. In partnership with the  Dalhousie Art Gallery (DAG), students will develop a themed body of original artwork that synthesizes their academic and research interests with the creative arts (e.g. visual arts, literary arts). The installation will be a feature part of the 2018 Dalhousie Art Gallery’s Student, Staff, Faculty & Alumni Exhibition, which opens December 6th at the gallery.

Online Peer Review of Scientific Community using "Aropa"

Project Lead:  Sarah Wells
Department:  Medical Sciences
Abstract:  We propose to use the web-based tool “Aropa” to manage peer-review of oral and written communications in our Medical Sciences courses SCIE 4005 (Capstone) and SCIE 4900 (Honours). The software not only provides rapid, consolidated feedback to students, it allows for peer review practice, “review marking” (students reviewing reviews from their peers), and a mechanism to give participation grades. Use of this tool will require students to actively engage with—and internalize—assessment criteria and standards, fostering critical thinking and creating a more collaborative learning environment. Evaluation will be assessed by a pre- and post-course survey.


Think, pair, share and Team based learning using Immediate Feedback-Assessment Technique (IF-AT) cards...

Adding value to classroom time through engaging in-class activities: Think, pair, share and Team based learning using Immediate Feedback-Assessment Technique (IF-AT) cards in an anatomy classroom

Project Lead:  Thejodhar Pulakunta
Department:  Medical Neuroscience
Abstract:  To make anatomy lectures engaging and interactive and to instill the seeds for scientific thinking, application and analysis, we will employ two methods in the classroom.

1. Modified think, pair and share:

During the lecture, at the end of each learning concept, clinical vignette based MCQs are presented to the class using the TopHat. Students try to answer these by themselves after which they discuss their choice with a neighbor.  This will be followed by a mini lecture (under 5 minute explanation) by the instructor.

2.  Immediate feedback –Assessment Technique IF-AT forms.

During review sessions after students answer MCQs they discuss their answers  in small groups and use the IFAT scratch cards to arrive at the correct answer,

Pre Practicum Preparation through Simulation and Practice

Project Lead:  Cyndi Hall
Department/Faculty:  Social Work/Faculty of Health
Abstract:  It has been identified that students at the undergraduate level of Social Work Education would benefit from more preparation for practicum prior to being matched with an agency.  Students will have an opportunity to engage with each other through case simulations and demonstrations to identify appropriate interview skills, identifying their strengths and areas for improvement and practice receiving constructive feedback.  The outcomes for this initiative will include better interview results, lower pre-placement anxiety for students, stronger relationships with their Instructors/Preceptors and improved readiness to work on identified learning needs. Students will select 1) a place to serve and 2) a group project for which they will develop and assess impact of their Social Change Plan. Such discoveries can help us contribute to the great work of improving society, organizations, families, and ourselves.


Sensitizing Undergraduate Nursing Students to Health Policy and Politics: A Pilot Project

Project Lead:  Damilola Iduye
Department/Faculty:  Nursing/Faculty of Health
Abstract:  Nurses interact closely with patients at various levels and are positioned to advocate for their patients to promote population health and equitable health care services. Incorporating political education content into the program curriculum can help prepare future nursing leaders in their roles as policy and political advocates. This proposal seeks to pilot the use of Top Hat software and various learning activities in NURS 4720(Professional Formation: Nursing and Social Responsibility) to promote classroom engagement and significant learning experience for the students in the winter term. The faculty anticipates that these strategies would improve undergraduate students’ knowledge about and comfortability with policy involvement and political advocacy in their future practice.


Adaption of Domestic Animal Behavior to Online

Project Lead:  Miriam Gordon
Department/Faculty:  Animal Science/Faculty of Agriculture
Abstract:  Domestic Animal Behaviour is currently being developed to online delivery. A large component of the domestic animal behaviour course is observing animals in managed systems and learning the techniques of recording observations. Students will need to be able to have stock videos of a variety of animals available to use for recording exercises and live observations for assignments. Also, to make online content more engaging, it will also be useful to be able to show specific behaviours of animals, which we would be able to get from stock video footage created. The primary modality of learners is through visual processing; providing high quality videos is key to the success of the delivery of this online course.


"Foundations": A Primer in Social Sciences for the 21st Century

Project Lead:  Robert Huish
Department/Faculty:  International Development/Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Abstract:  The course is composed of three modules in addition to an introduction and summary.  The coordinator (Robert Huish) is responsible for introduction weeks and the summary, while three, 3-week modules are taught primarily by faculty members from: History, Sociology & Social Anthropology, and Political Science. Throughout the course, the coordinator will host a series of radio-interview style podcasts with members of FASS to highlight research and teaching in relation to big issues of the day.


Virtual Trace Paper: Enhancing the Design Process thru Contextual Feedback

Project Lead:  Richard leBrasseur
Department/Faculty:  Landscape Architecture/Faculty of Agriculture
Abstract:  The landscape architecture design process within the studio environment involves active learning and immediate feedback, which occurs between the professor and student/group organically.  It is an iterative process; layers of explorative solutions and differing ideas need to be revealed and “built-upon” quickly.  The objective of this initiative is to introduce and analyse the effectiveness of a digital-based methodology during critiques and feedback.  This process has traditionally been paper-based, where multiple sheets of trace paper are torn and placed aside, then looked at and reviewed later – often without context causing confusion due to lack of reference.


Reading Performance: in-class writing responses to Shakespearean scene

Project Lead:  Christina Luckyj
Department/Faculty:  English/Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Abstract:  Shakespeare’s plays were never designed to be read as books.  Students in my Shakespeare class always do “performance projects”, but they would benefit from wider exposure to performance as a form of interpretation.  Five times in the term, in the final fifteen minutes of class, students would view a brief clip from a contemporary production and discuss its strengths and weaknesses.  A teaching assistant, well versed in Shakespeare, would grade the resulting 200 short responses.  The students would benefit from regular in-class writing and from opportunities for increased engagement with Shakespeare in performance.


Engaging Students in Lectures with Digital Trainer Boards

Project Lead:  Yuan Ma
Department/ Faculty:  Electrical and Computer Engineering/Faculty of Engineering
Abstract:  Hands-on experience is critical in teaching electrical circuits. Each student in Digital Circuits course get a trainer board to use in their weekly labs. The objective of this project is to incorporate the boards in lectures without going through the laborious design and implementing steps. Toggling the input switches on the boards and observing the changes on the output LEDs will not only engage the students in lectures, but also help them understand complex design subjects. Evaluation of the learning outcomes will be used to justify the effectiveness of this initiative.


Online Module to Review Math Skills for Intro Statistics Classes

Project Lead:  Sean Mackinnon
Department/Faculty:  Science (Psychology & Neuroscience)/Faculty of Science
Abstract:  This Active Learning Project proposal involves developing an instructional tool that provides students with a refresher in remedial math skills, posted online through Brightspace.  This tool would quiz students on their remedial math skills and assess gaps in the students’ skills sets through the analysis of incorrect responses.  Then, the tool would provide semi-individualized learning paths to the students, depending on the deficits in math skills demonstrated by the quiz results.  Potentially, the tool could assist students in achieving better academic performance in statistics, improving their attitudes about quantitative methods, and reducing their anxiety levels around studying second-year psychology statistics. 


Mobilizing Inuit Ecological Knowledge through Art - Action-Learning Exercise

Project Lead:  Andrew Medeiros
Department/Faculty:  College of Sustainability
Abstract:  This action-learning exercise focuses on the contribution of Inuit ecological knowledge expressed through art. Bringing together Inuit and non-Inuit perspectives, students will undertake a communication exercise that incorporates storytelling, craftwork, prints, and knowledge preservation. This activity intends to advance knowledge access for: 1) expression of ecological knowledge that is practiced in northern communities, 2) connection of Inuit knowledge of the environment to objects of cultural heritage, and 3) acknowledgement of creation of Inuit cultural capacity.


Tiny Earth

Project Lead:  John Rohde
Department/Faculty:  Microbiology and Immunology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Chemistry/Faculty of Science
Abstract:  Tiny Earth is an innovative training program that provides hands-on experience for undergraduate researchers in the area of antibiotic discovery. One of the major health problems facing humans today is the emergence of microbes that are resistant to current antibiotics. To combat this threat, we need to discover new antibiotics. Tiny Earth is a community of undergraduate researchers across North America that carry out novel research in the areas of microbiology, biochemistry, and chemistry to discover and characterize new antibiotics. Students learn the basics of laboratory science while conducting original research and learning how to effectively communicate their science.


Introduction of Course-Based Authentic Undergraduate Research into 1st Year

Project Lead:  Anne Marie Ryan
Abstract:  The introduction of course-based, authentic undergraduate research opportunities within a first year earth sciences course for both majors and non-majors, is a novel approach to laboratory work in the first year earth sciences program. Through this experience, students have the opportunity to "do" real science in a supportive environment, with the goal of promoting curiosity and questioning. This experience further aims to increase scientific literacy and understanding of the nature of science.  Furthermore, as students progress through their research, it is anticipated they will develop their critical thinking, collaborative, and science communication skills.