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Funded Projects 2013‑2016

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Experiential learning through a course in community-based research with Indigenous populations: Providing opportunities for continued involvement in research

Team Leads: Amy Bombay and Adele Vukic

Department: School of Nursing

Abstract: The persistence of substantial health and social inequalities faced by Indigenous peoples in Canada, the Atlantic Region, and in Nova Scotia continues to highlight the need for increased capacity within the relatively new field of Indigenous health research, as well as within policy and service-delivery in this area. Capacity-building and empowerment through community-based health research training is a vital step in developing skills among young Indigenous peoples to effectively address these pervasive health inequalities as they enter the work force working in various fields and contexts. This pilot scholarship program was part of a larger initiative aiming at helping to build a cohort of Indigenous community-based health researchers across disciplines and universities, who can actively participate in the currently under-resourced area of Indigenous health research. Indigenous students from Dalhousie University, St. Mary’s University, and the Nova Scotia School of Arts and Design took part in a an interdisciplinary course offered at Dalhousie on Community-Based Research with Indigenous Populations, all of whom expressed interest to improve Indigenous well-being in their future work when they finish their degrees. During the course, which incorporated Indigenous ways of knowing and Elder-led sharing circles, students were able to observe and take part in the development of an ongoing community-based research project with an Indigenous community organization. After the course, interested students had the opportunity to continue to work on the project as paid research assistants to allow for their continued involvement in the project. 



MicroRNA as gene seekers: Inquiry-based research in a second-year genetics laboratory

Team Lead: Deborah Grantham

Department: Biology

Abstract: Student engagement and retention increased by allowing students to conduct research in a second-year undergraduate class rather than waiting until an Honours project. New module will modernize  our current Sordaria lab and taster gene PCR lab. The new BIOL2030 lab will study function of human DNA rather than fungal DNA (Sordaria lab) and quantitative PCR rather than qualitative data (taster PCR lab). Students will, through guided enquiry, practice experimental design, reading research papers, current lab techniques, and scientific writing skills. Innovative in that it replaces techniques developed in the 1950s with those developed in 2000s, and cookbook-style experiments with known, predictable results replaced with inquiry-based investigation with unknown results. Fulfills pedagogical goals of active learning, inquiry-based learning, and authentic research.  Skills learned will prepare students for work in modern research laboratories, both in academic or commercial settings, and foster creativity in thinking as well as economic opportunities. Inclusiveness of students is encouraged by allowing them to choose among a diverse group of possible gene targets of interest to specific or general  human populations, and to defend their choice to their peers.  Student assessment spread over smaller value pre-tests, drafts and finally a formal report. Effectiveness assessed by pre and post-course surveys.

The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition

Team Lead: Dr. John Rhode  

Department: Microbiology and Immunology 

Abstract: The international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition is a synthetic biology competition that involves designing a project, carrying out experiments using synthetic biology techniques, not taught or mentored in a discrete package in any courses offered to Dalhousie University undergraduates, and then sharing the results in Boston at the iGEM Jamboree. It is estimated that by the year 2020, synthetic biology will be a $40 billion industry yet there are only a few universities in the world that offer classes to prepare students for these jobs. iGEM provides undergraduate students the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to compete, not only at the Jamboree, but also in the industry. The 2016 Team is composed of students ranging from second to fourth year with interests in microbiology, chemistry, biology, marketing and bioinformatics. The Jamboree (Oct 27-31) provides a platform for students to present their research to an international audience and make networking connections with students with similar research interests. The project designed for this year has industrial implications since the research conducted over the summer by the undergraduate students will involve developing a biofuel producing bacterium. The mission of our iGEM team is to promote undergraduate research and initiate industrial outreach.


The Dalhousie University Inaugural BioBlitz

Team Lead: Dr. Lara Gibson

Department: Biology 

Abstract: The Dalhousie University Inaugural BioBlitz will bring together students, experts, and members of the wider university community to survey all the organisms found on the Studley Campus during a 48-hr event. While there have been other BioBlitz events in Nova Scotia and on Canadian University campuses, there has never been one at Dalhousie, or one that has focused exclusively on an urban environment. The event will pair experts with undergraduate students to systematically survey the campus and tally the number of different species found. Data from the BioBlitz will enhance the current Natural Environment Plan and be used in existing classes.  Participating students will gain opportunities to develop inquiry and discovery skills, as well taxonomic skills. They will become familiar with the common species found on campus and develop a greater appreciation for the campus as a natural environment. Finally, it will provide opportunities for students to develop teamwork skills, make new friends, and have fun.

An Open Textbook for Introductory, Analytical Chemistry

Team Lead: Dr Peter Wentzell

Department: Chemistry 

Abstract: An emerging trend in higher education is the increasing use of open teaching resources, which allow greater flexibility in the development of teaching materials specific to a particular course and greater cost savings to students.  To be competitive with commercial textbooks, however, the materials presented need to be of high quality.  The present proposal seeks to improve an original textbook in analytical chemistry developed at Dalhousie to a level where it will be a much better resource for our own students, and also be more suitably positioned to enter into the sphere of open academic publications.  Funds requested will be used to employ a student to develop a library of original illustrations, photographs, graphical figures and tabular data to greatly enhance the quality of the present textbook.  This will contribute to improving the quality of Chemistry 2201, an introductory course in analytical chemistry with an enrollment of around 130 students.  This is historically a challenging course, required by Chemistry and Biochemistry students, and there is great interest in improving student success and retention.  Additionally, it is intended that these enhancements to the textbook will enable its distribution to a broader academic audience, thereby enhancing Dalhousie’s reputation.



Heritage Studies: Experiential leaning, and potentially a new certificate

Team lead: Dr Jerry Bannister

Department: History 

Abstract: We plan to decelop new course offering our students experiential learning opportunities through placements in the local heritage sector and/or through directed undergraduate research projects. We also wish to explore the possibility of incorporating these new courses into a Heritage Studies certificate program. 

Practicum placement course development for Political Science and Gender and Women’s Studies students

Team lead: Dr Margaret Denike
Department: Gender and Women’s Studies (FASS)

Abstract: this initiative involves the implementation of two practicum placement courses for 4th year Political Science and GWST students. It entails locating and negotiating working opportunities for up to 20 students (with additional placements in subsequent years) at local government or non-government, research, or advocacy organizations that are instrumental in shaping public policy or advancing human rights for minorities. It will require various in-person meetings at agencies and public services in Halifax; negotiations on time commitments, project formation, arrangements for libaility, scheduling, and promotion within the community. 


Teaching data literacy across the University: knowledge, understanding, and skills for a data-driven knowledge economy

Team lead: Dr. Mike Smit
Department: School of Information Management (Management)

Abstract: our students, from all disciplines, will graduate into a world grappling with increasing amounts of data. While there is a growing need for data scientists and specialists, every graduate will need data literacy: the ability to collect, manage, evaluate, and apply data, in a critical manner. Our multi-disciplinary team recently completed a SSHRC Knowledge Synthesis grant examining formal and informal literature to identify best practices for teaching data literacy across disciplines. We identify gaps in this literature, but were able to synthesize core competencies and learning objectives relevant to data literacy. Elements of data literacy are taught in most Dalhousie programs, but there has been no systematic approach to understanding how best to teach data literacy across programs, and no common standard for evaluating data literacy. Data literacy is not taught as a transferable skill; students learn how to work with data in their specialty, but are not cognizant of the broad applicability of such skills. This Academic Innovation funding will support the creation of learning and teaching materials around data literacy: specifically, developing a first-year elective focused on data; sketching the framework for a certificate in data literacy; and the development of data literacy modules that instructors can drop into their own courses. 

Agriculture, Food, and Well-being Interdisciplinary Course Development

Team lead: Dr. Kathleen Kevany (kkevany@dal.ca)
Faculty of Agriculture

Abstract: This Special Topics course in AFW will be offered in 2014/2015, Winter term. The course intends to change the way we are thinking and critically examine intersecting local to regional and global issues in agriculture, food, and well-being.  Good agricultural policy also should be good economic policy, and good health policy and good environmental policy. Learners will undertake a case studies approach to expand their knowledge and skills in interdisciplinarity, criticality, synthesizing, and systems thinking. This course requires participation in class work, case-study, problem-solving exercises, and self-directed research work.  It is to be team taught with faculty members and industry leaders acting as mentors.

Course Redesigns for the Online Environment to Support Student Retention and Academic Excellence

Team lead: Dr. Suzanne Le-May Sheffield (suzanne.sheffield@dal.ca)

Departments: Centre for Learning and Teaching
                         Faculty of Science
                         Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences

Abstract: CLT, Science, and FASS requested funds to create online versions of three already-established courses and one new, elective course. The aim of this project is to enable students to take key disciplinary foundational/core courses at Dalhousie, ensuring high academic standards for student completion of introductory and mandatory courses. Providing this flexibility to students by offering face-to-face and online versions of foundational courses and a key elective, aim to retain students at Dalhousie, and potentially attract students from elsewhere to take these courses. Faculty involved in the creation of these online courses, will have the on-going support of CLTs e-learning team, providing them with the opportunity to investigate the potential of online teaching and learning in their discipline with the necessary pedagogical and technological supports in place.

Courses and dates offered:
Summer 2014
  ECON 1101 Mircroeconomics June 2 to July 18
  SOSA 3147 Aging Cross Culturally June 2 to June 24
  PSYO 1030 Introduction to Psychology and Neuroscience I July 2 to Aug. 20
Fall 2014
  PHIL 2080 Ethics in the World of Business Sept. to Dec.
Later dates
  Introduction to Psychology and Neuroscience II  


Media releases

Creation of an Online Version of Introduction to Psychology and Neuroscience I: Development of Online Laboratory and Demonstration Content

Team leads: Jennifer Stamp (jennifer.stamp@dal.ca)
                      Leanne Stevens (leanne.stevens@dal.ca)
                      John Christie (john.christie@dal.ca)
                      Kim Good (kim.good@dal.ca)

Faculty of Science

 The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience does not currently offer online courses, therefore we are missing an opportunity to reach potential students.  To remedy this problem, we are planning an online version of our first year course, Introduction to Psychology & Neuroscience I.  Our undergraduate courses strongly emphasize scientific literacy and research skills and therefore this Academic Innovation funding is specifically aimed at the development of online laboratory content.  We are developing several activities for distance students which will allow them to act as participants in simple experiments and demonstrations in diverse areas in the fields of Psychology and Neuroscience, thereby gaining experience that goes beyond the textbook.

Curriculum Development and Research: Service Learning Course on Science Communication and Leadership

Team leads: Anne Marie Ryan (anne.marie.ryan@dal.ca)
Faculty of Science

Abstract: Leadership in Science (SCIE/BIOL 4444) - This initiative creates a cross-discipline practicum based course for those disciplines within the Life Sciences Centre. The practicum (service learning) portion of the course involves serving as academic support for novice learners in first and second year within their major subject area. This course is the first of its kind across Canada, and serves to differentiate the Dalhousie science program from others across the country.  This class not only provides senior students with knowledge, leadership skill development and mentoring opportunities but also solidifies and serves to integrate their knowledge in their major subject area and encourage interaction between scientific disciplines and different levels of expertise.

Website: dal.ca/scienceleadership

Media releases


Anesthesia Post-Graduate Education: Curriculum Renewal & Mapping

Team leads: Dr. Janice Chisholm (jdchisho@dal.ca)
                      Dr. Patricia Livingston (plivings@dal.ca)

Department of Anesthesia, Pain management and Perioperative Medicine

Abstract: The Anesthesia post-graduate curriculum was restructured using an outcomes-based format to meet goals identified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. The new curriculum includes custom-designed mapping software to guide learners and teachers.  The map contains objectives, resources, teaching methods and assessment tools.

The project leaders described Entrustable Professional Activities (EPAs): knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for consultant-level practice. The EPAs, which are embedded in CanMEDs competencies, are mapped for clarity of where and how these outcomes are achieved.

The renewed curriculum and map were introduced in July 2013.  Formal evaluation is underway but initial reception has been favourable.

Dalhousie Social Work Community Learning Clinic

Team leads: Cyndi Hall (cyndi.hall@dal.ca)
                      Dr. Jeff Karabanow (jeff.karabanow@dal.ca)

Department: Faculty of Health Professions

Abstract: The Social work Community Learning Clinic has been established as a pilot project with the assistance of Innovation Funding and other sources at Dalhousie University.  The clinic is staffed by two MSW graduates (one is currently completing her thesis), conceptualized and managed by the Social Work Field Coordinator, Cyndi Hall and faculty member, Dr. Jeff Karabanow.  The purpose is twofold:  We want to offer our undergraduate students an opportunity to learn front line practice, from a social justice perspective, with marginalized populations; understand  how the social determinants of health impact these individuals, families and communities;  and what the social service and health care systems offer in responding to these difficult issues.  Secondly, the Case Management Services that will be provided will improve the life circumstances of clients and enhance the front line services that currently exist by supporting their work and collaborating on complex cases.  In the future the plan is to introduce our graduate students to the services by providing clinical training on various therapeutic Interventions, as well as the other professions in the faculty as appropriate.  The pilot phase has been made possible by the funding from Dalhousie and a partnership with St Paul’s Church who has offered us space in the downtown core.  Ultimately we see this entity performing the dual role of service to community for those on the margins and providing practice education for the Faculty of Health Professions that embraces a social justice perspective.

Media releases
  • Community Learning Clinic
    (School of Social Work Quarterly, 2014)


Development of a Digital Scoring System

Team lead: Anna MacLeod (Anna.MacLeod@Dal.Ca)
Department: Faculty of Medicine

Abstract: The Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) is a common assessment method in medical education.  An OSCE is a timed assessment consisting of multiple stations in which simulated patients portray clinical scenarios. Medical students cycle through the stations, responding to the scenario at hand. A faculty examiner observes and makes a determination about the student’s performance.

Currently, information about OSCE performance is captured in a basic paper-scoring booklet. We are using our Academic Innovation funding to develop an innovative, digital approach to OSCE assessment, which will provide detailed feedback to each learner, putting into practice a position of “assessment for learning.”

Development of Online and Blended-Delivery Courses in FASS

Team lead: Donna Rogers (fassadac@dal.ca)
Department: Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences

Abstract: This project will focus most concretely on offering a new online course to be cross listed between International Development Studies and Sustainability, on the topic of ‘Sustainability, Development and Economy.’ This is intended in the first instance to fill a curricular content gap identified by our students, but also to help generate knowledge within the Faculty about how best to offer online or blended-delivery courses in future.

Media releases


Faculty of Management Curriculum Mapping

Team lead: Vivian Howard (vivian.howard@dal.ca)
Department: Faculty of Management

Abstract: Academic Innovation funds were used to hire two students from the Masters of Library and Information Studies program and to provide them with initial training in the use of Daedalus curriculum mapping software. They began by mapping core BComm and BMgmt classes, working initially from current course  descriptions, assignments, and marking rubrics to identify learning  outcomes. They then verified the learning outcomes with course  instructors before finalizing the data on Daedalus.  They have worked  closely to ensure use of controlled vocabulary to ensure consistency  in the map itself. The two undergraduate programs are now fully mapped and can be viewed online.

Media releases


First-Year Seminars Pilot: Integrating Rich Content and Information Fluencies

Team lead: Donna Rogers (fassadac@dal.ca)
Department: Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences

Abstract: Small group, interactive seminars for students new from high school have been shown elsewhere to increase students’ academic performance, connections with peers, and sense of engagement with their universities. The seminars to be offered here will offer in-depth treatment of interdisciplinary topics and will integrate special sessions from library staff to improve information fluencies, too. We hope to see whether the ‘first year seminar’ model used to such good effect elsewhere can be adopted, and adapted, here to promote (amongst other benefits) new students’ information literacy and long-term retention.

Media releases


Interprofessional Health Education MOOC

Team lead: Fred McGinn (fred.mcginn@dal.ca)

Department: School of Health and Human Performance

Innovation Course Development and Delivery

Team lead: Mary Kilfoil (mary.kilfoil@dal.ca)
Department: Faculty of Management

Media releases


Learning Analytics – Pilot Study on Online and Blended E-Learning: Understanding On-line Student Interaction Networks

Team leads: Anatoliy Gruzd (gruzd@dal.ca)
                      Martine Durier-Copp (martine.durier-copp@dal.ca)
                      Scott Comber (scott.comber@dal.ca)

Department: Faculty of Management

Abstract: This project, based in the Faculty of Management, is designed to extract, analyse and visualise online learning student interaction so as to better understand how these relationships and networks impact upon student performance. The findings of this study may provide information which will contribute to more effective design and delivery of on-line courses.The knowledge derived from this study will be formulated into recommendations and best practices for online faculty.

The project is currently awaiting Ethics Approval to proceed to the data collection stage.

Integrating Statistics into First-Year Science

Team lead: Cindy Staicer (cindy.staicer@dal.ca)
Department: Faculty of Science

Interdisciplinary Minor in Aboriginal Studies

Team leads: Vivian Howard (vivian.howard@dal.ca)
                      Patti Doyle-Bedwell (patti.doyle.bedwell@dal.ca)

Faculty of Management

Abstract: Academic Innovation funds were used to hire a curriculum developer, Sociology graduate student Lisa Robinson, a member of the urban Mi’kmaq community who has a BEd with a focus on curriculum development.  Lisa has worked closely with a development committee, which includes Indigenous faculty, staff, alumni, and students, both graduate and undergraduate as well as non-Indigenous faculty.  Lisa has been engaged in consultations with students and academic leaders at Dalhousie and has also visited the Indigenous Studies Program at Trent University and participated in the CAUT conference for Aboriginal Scholars in November 2013.  She will be visiting regional First Nations communities this winter as part of the consultation process before drafting a proposal for an interdisciplinary Indigenous Studies Minor at Dalhousie University.

Media releases


Video Lecture Capture Recordings for Introductory Physics (PHYC 1300)

Team lead: Dan Jackson (dan.jackson@dal.ca)
                   Ted Monchesky (theodore.monchesky@dal.ca)
                   Doug Rogers (dougrogers@dal.ca)

Department: Faculty of Science

Abstract: Video recordings of lecturers in the introductory course “Physics In and Around You” (PHYC1300) were made during 2013/2014.  The goal was to understand howstudents use video lecture capture to assist their learning in first year Physics and to gauge the feasibility of using lecture recordings to create a “flipped classroom” version of the course.   The recordings were posted on the Echo360 server to monitor usage by students, and compared with how students used live audio & screen recordings in first year Biology and Psychology and pre-lecture recordings in first year Chemistry, as part of a larger lecture capture study.

Preparing to Work and Study in Canada

Team lead: Vivian Howard (vivian.howard@dal.ca)
Department: Faculty of Management

Abstract: The curriculum for COMM 1700.03 (Preparing for Work and Study in Canada) was developed over the summer of 2013 by Ayesha Mushtaq, an ESL specialist with the College of Continuing Education in consultation with a Development Committee which included the Director and the Program Manager of the Commerce Program, the Director of Management Career Services, the Faculty of Management International Student Support Specialist as well as current international students from the BComm program. COMM 1700.03 was introduced as an elective option for incoming international students in the fall of 2013 and was offered again in the winter term of 2014.

Portuguese 1010: Accelerated Basic Portuguese

Team lead: Robert Summerby-Murray (rsummerb@dal.ca)
Department: Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences

Abstract: Dalhousie is part of a group of Canadian universities engaged in a program to bring significant numbers of Brazilian students to study in Canada, with financial support from the Brazilian government.  In anticipation of interest on the part of Dalhousie students to study for an academic term or longer at a Brazilian university, we propose to offer instruction in Brazilian Portuguese in an accelerated course. Such an offering will, moreover, complement our strong programs in Spanish and Latin American studies and will provide experience in accelerated language programming more generally.

Research First: Early Experiential Learning

Team lead: Melanie Dobson (melanie.dobson@dal.ca)

Department of Biochemistry & Molecular

This academic initiative focuses on providing an early experiential learning experience in biochemistry and molecular biology to first year undergraduate students. Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows will travel to local high schools during the fall and winter terms to promote the opportunity with a recruiting seminar that will feature biochemical experiments. Students will apply in their first year (either directly from high school or during the fall term of their first year at Dalhousie). Students will then be placed in labs within the first year of their undergraduate degree. Selection will be based on their academic record and a written essay.