New Grants Target Innovative Teaching Strategies

July 8, 2014

Seven fac­ulty research projects have been selected for grant funding through a new ini­tia­tive that pro­motes inno­v­a­tive teaching approaches in the class­room and advances under­grad­uate learning at Northeastern.

The com­pet­i­tive grant pro­gram, spon­sored by the Office of the Provost, is designed to pro­mote explo­ration and inno­va­tion in teaching and learning by sup­porting evidence-​​based activ­i­ties that result in deeper learning. The pro­gram launched this year and will be offered annu­ally going forward.

“The goal is to enhance stu­dent learning,” said Susan Ambrose, senior vice provost for under­grad­uate edu­ca­tion and expe­ri­en­tial learning at North­eastern. “We are con­tin­u­ally looking to improve the quality of edu­ca­tion we pro­vide our stu­dents. We have cre­ative and inno­v­a­tive fac­ulty, and we wanted to pro­vide these grants to allow them to do things that haven’t been done before.”

The seven research projects selected were sub­mitted by an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary group of fac­ulty. In one project, researchers from the Depart­ment of Phys­ical Therapy will create 3-​​D models of internal body parts that will fur­ther stu­dents’ under­standing of cross-​​sectional anatomy, par­tic­u­larly the brain. In another project, game design fac­ulty in the Col­lege of Arts, Media, and Design and Col­lege of Com­puter and Infor­ma­tion Sci­ence will inte­grate a com­puter game they are devel­oping called Mad Sci­ence into the class­room for expe­ri­en­tial learning. The game allows users to create and par­tic­i­pate in sci­en­tific exper­i­ments on social behavior in fun and engaging ways.

Another project—led by Hubert Ho, lec­turer in the Depart­ment of Music, and Michael Epstein, asso­ciate pro­fessor in the Depart­ment of Speech Lan­guage Pathology and Audi­ology—involves devel­oping a new course for stu­dents across a range of aca­d­emic pro­grams who are inter­ested in music and sound per­cep­tion. The course would fea­ture a variety of inter­ac­tive learning tools and would be tai­lored to fit the indi­vidual stu­dents’ needs, so they could focus on sec­tions they’re unfa­miliar with and skip over those they’ve pre­vi­ously cov­ered in other courses. At the end, all stu­dents would have a basic under­standing of the topics, which range from music theory and sound physics to music and hearing research. The course would pro­mote inter­dis­ci­pli­nary col­lab­o­ra­tion and could serve as a model for future courses on other topics.

The pro­gram aligns with Northeastern’s com­mit­ment to high-​​quality under­grad­uate edu­ca­tion and con­tinued sup­port of pro­grams and projects that inno­vate and enrich under­grad­uate learning. This com­mit­ment includes an emphasis on use-​​inspired research that addresses global chal­lenges and the university’s long­standing expe­ri­en­tial edu­ca­tion model, anchored in its sig­na­ture co-​​op program.

Fac­ulty will present their research project updates and find­ings at a con­fer­ence on May 5, 2015 and spon­sored by the Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning Through Research, which also pro­vided con­sul­ta­tion and resources to fac­ulty who sub­mitted proposals.

A com­mittee com­prising fac­ulty from all col­leges reviewed the pro­posals, judging each on the orig­i­nality of the research approach, the impact the project will have on stu­dents, and whether the project includes an assess­ment com­po­nent to learn from and under­stand how well the project worked. Ambrose noted that the research projects’ long-​​term sus­tain­ability was an impor­tant factor. The goal was to iden­tify new teaching mod­ules and approaches that could be easily inte­grated into cur­rent cur­ricula and evolve over time.

“We thought these seven were fresh approaches, and that’s what we were looking for,” she said. “You can develop some­thing new out of some­thing old, but we were looking for some­thing that is orig­inal and sus­tain­able in the long term.”