Active Learning Grants

Active Learning Grants

Do you have an idea for a teaching strategy to enhance student learning? The Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education is pleased to offer instructional development grants of $1,500 for courses taught in the coming academic year. Offered in conjunction with the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL), each grant will be awarded for the implementation of a teaching strategy that engages students more actively in learning. Bloomington campus full-time faculty are eligible for these awards. Team-taught courses are eligible to receive one grant for a total of $1,500.

Active Learning Grants will be awarded for course development plans that encourage greater student engagement and offer the opportunity for transformative learning experiences. Examples of active learning methods include, but are not limited to, using team-based or problem-based learning, introducing group work or small-group exercises, analyzing case studies, and employing Classroom Assessment Techniques in class.

Application Guidelines

Deadline: Monday, February 26, 2018, 9:00 am

To apply, please submit the following:

  • a completed application form
  • a current course syllabus (unless you will be designing a new course)
  • a curriculum vitae
  • a letter of support from your department chair or dean

Email the complete set of documents to by the deadline.

Strong active learning project proposals will:

  • Address an identified instructional need or opportunity via creative active learning strategies.
  • Explain how students will be more engaged in disciplinary content.
  • Assess the impact of the project on undergraduate student learning. 
  • Incorporate reflection on the effectiveness of the innovation after implementation.
  • Solve a teaching and learning challenge in a creative and innovative way.
  • Involve a plan for sharing results of the project in the department or school.
  • Include a letter from the department chair or dean that endorses the project and certifies that the applicant will teach the course twice in the following three academic years.

As a part of the process of developing course innovations, grant recipients will be expected to:

  • Devote two weeks or more of full-time effort to their projects in the summer for a course to be taught twice in the next three years.
  • Participate in one or two group planning/working sessions in late spring.
  • Deliver a short written report for web publication and an oral presentation—for interested faculty and staff—outlining the implementation and evaluation of the project within a calendar year of the fellowship period.
  • Participate in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Community Poster Session, or other presentation.

After a faculty and staff committee makes and announces selections, funds will be distributed into a research account.

  • 2017

    Mary Embry, Senior Lecturer, School of Arts, Architecture + Design
    F203: Materials for Fashion Design
    Materials for Fashion Design is a foundational large flipped course, using in class time to work on assignments that review recorded lectures viewed outside of class.  This grant supports the implementation of student response system technology for in class assignments, leaving time within the classroom for hands on group activities with a swatch kit of materials.


    Steph De Boer, Associate Professor, The Media School
    Global Media Infrastructures: From Undersea Cables to Local Itineraries
    This project revises the assignments for my course, “Global Media Infrastructures: From Undersea Cables to Local Itineraries.”  It does so to better emphasize the significance of case-based analysis, as well as develop and utilize mapping tools (from analogue to digital) to enable students to discover, analyze, and convey the global to local scaled relationships that form these instances of media infrastructure.  In so doing, students will better contextualize as well as more forcefully and critically convey the dynamics of power, control, and access at play in particular instances of media infrastructure.  


    J Duncan, Senior Lecturer and Erick Lee, Lecturer, Informatics
    Debugging as an Active Learning Tool: Participating in Programming
    Our project focuses on I210, a skills-based introductory programming class in Python. We examine a piece of the programming process where students often under-perform, and seek to enhance group performance. When the student typing encounters an error in their code, communicating this to other group members should increase the chances for the other group members to contribute, participate in the process, and increase their own understanding. By implementing this process in some sections but not others, we plan to compare performance to see if there is a measurable difference in student outcomes.


    Virginia Hojas Carbonell, Senior Lecturer
    S250 Intermediate Spanish II
    Virginia will be working on developing peer-editing skills in her S250 Honors class as a tool for self-regulation and learning. In this class, students will work on creating a semester-long project broken into smaller assignments, for which they will provide each other with feedback to submit several drafts. She will also be collecting feedback regularly to evaluate students’ perceptions and progress regarding peer feedback.

  • 2016

    Erik Willis, Associate Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
    S425 Spanish Phonetics
    Willis will use his grant to address challenges in his Spanish Phonetics course, S425. Specifically, students in this course face a lack of immediate feedback on pronunciation mistakes, as well as authentic native Spanish listening practice that is communicatively meaningful. Willis plans to address these challenges by developing peer-to-peer video-call activities between IU students and native Spanish speaking students in the Dominican Republic and possibly in Mexico. He conducted a pilot of this activity using “video-pronunciation pals” from the Dominican Republic, and found that it was in general a great success. To enhance this activity, Willis will develop specific exercises for the IU students and their video-pronunciation pals to engage in, improve their Spanish language skills through authentic listening and speaking.

    Kelly Benham French and Joseph Coleman, Professors of Practice, the Media School
    MSCH-C 225
    French and Coleman will split an award to work on redesigning the foundational reporting and writing course in the Media School, MSCH-C 225. They will update this large course, which is required for journalism and public relations tracks in the Media School, with modern newsroom practices and more time for active learning. The revised course will include a single large lecture each week (with lectures on basic content, guest speakers, classroom assessment techniques, and team-based learning), as well as lab time in which students can do hands-on writing and reporting exercises under the supervision of their instructors.

    Gretchen Horlacher, Professor of Music Theory, Jacobs School of Music
    MUS-T 351 Music Theory and Literature V
    Horlacher teaches MUS-T 351 Music Theory and Literature V, the last in a series of music theory courses required for all music majors. The challenge she will address with her Active Learning Grant concerns the music students are required to listen to for the course, which consists of long, highly individual pieces that are usually unfamiliar to students and often not well liked. To help students focus on the important aspects of each piece as they prepare for each class session, Horlacher will create “just-in-time” activities to encourage students to listen carefully and to prepare them for more complex analysis in class. Students will do these exercises online, on a Canvas platform, and will also be able to express their opinions of particular pieces and to respond to others’ opinions.

    Brandon Howell, Lecturer, School of Public Health
    T302 Management of Food and Beverage Operations
    Howell will be designing a new course, T302 Management of Food and Beverage Operations, for majors in the department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Studies in the School of Public Health. Because of the specialized content of this course, students need to take a hands-on, active approach as much as possible. To enable this for his students, Howell will adopt a service-learning approach in which students in his course will be assigned to individual restaurant establishments on the IUB campus, in collaboration with Residential Programs and Services. By observing and helping to solve operational issues in these locations, the students will gain valuable practitioner-based skills in a “lab” environment.

  • 2015

    Cody Kirkpatrick, Lecturer, Geological Sciences
    GEOL-G144 Extreme Weather and Its Impacts
    Kirkpatrick will use his grant to revise his GEOL-G144 Extreme Weather and Its Impacts course, a staple of the new atmospheric science degree track that is also being considered as part of the General Education curriculum. Kirkpatrick plans to refine and formalize some informal, in-class “mini-lab” activities and to develop better explanations of how the activities relate to the course’s other assessments (homework and exams). The in-class student activities he will work on include using an online “tornado warning simulator” program; using weather maps to identify regions of wildfire danger; predicting where tornados will develop on a major severe weather day; inferring hurricane strength from weather satellite imagery; and forecasting the type of winter precipitation. Through these exercises, students will be able to experience science as science is practiced—as a collaborative, interactive process of analyzing information and data about current and recent events. 

    Peter Nemes, Lecturer, International Studies
    INTL-I100 Introduction to International Studies
    This course is taught in the Collaborative Learning Studio (SB 015) in the Student Building, which lends itself to group work and collaborative projects. Nemes will take advantage of the classroom by developing learning units in which an overarching issue relating to international studies (language, identity, religion, conflict, human rights, health, development) is explored in detail through the use of regional case studies. The success of these case studies depends on clear instructions, a strong connection to previous material, and good time management. Through these case studies, students will have an opportunity to engage in and think about the central issues of this discipline while developing critical thinking skills that will aid them not only in other International Studies courses but in other disciplines, as well. 

    Jo Anna Shimek, Clinical Assistant Professor, School of Public Health
    SPH-V351 Foundations of Environmental Health
    Shimek will use her grant to develop a new course, which will be required for students seeking a degree in the School of Public Health. The challenge in this course is to help students understand environmental health issues as they relate to the broader field of public health. To accomplish this goal, students will be introduced to a framework of core concepts in environmental health, which they will then apply to a series of scenarios and case students on specific environmental health issues. Case studies may focus on real-world issues such as the release of a chemical that contaminated the water supply of Charleston, West Virginia in 2014, as well as other topics such as indoor air pollution, lead exposure and children’s IQs, industrial pollution and asthma, and radiation exposure and melanoma. Through these activities, students will master a framework and acquire a process for analyzing other environmental health problems they might encounter. 

    Rebecca Dirksen, Assistant Professor, Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology
    FOLK F253 Music and Disaster
    Dirksen will use her grant to adapt a course she taught at MIT to work for a larger class size when taught at IU for the first time. The course revolves around three disaster events—9/11, Katrina, and the Haiti earthquake—and addresses how music has been used for survival, hope, and healing. Music-related humanitarian efforts will also be considered, as well as how music has been used for "re-memorying" lost locations and (re)defining cultural spaces. Up to 40 students will enroll in the course, and to make sure all are actively learning, Dirksen will employ guided critical reading, class discussions and debates, individual research and analysis, peer review, and the collaborative creation of a digital humanities platform, such as a blog or website. Team-based activities will be integrated into the course, and clicker polling will also allow for increased feedback and interaction in class. All of these components will promote critical thinking and engagement by building a high degree of interactivity between students into the course plan.

  • 2014

    Jared Allsop, Lecturer, School of Public Health
    Y378 Recreational Therapy Assessment and Planning
    This project will focus on bringing two forms of active learning into SPH-Y 378 (Recreational Therapy Assessment and Planning), case method teaching and the flipped classroom. By bringing in these active learning techniques it will allow us to heighten the educational experience of our Recreational Therapy students. It will do so by allowing them the opportunity to apply their book smarts in real life experiences and examples; as well as allow for more direct practice and targeted feedback. All of which are vitally important to help our students learn the proper techniques and procedures to thoroughly and accurate conduct assessments and plan intentional treatments.

    Carol Hostetter, Associate Professor, Social Work
    S322 Small Group Theory and Practice
    Undergraduate students will work to develop the skill of metacognitive monitoring, that is, the ability to review the critical features of a problem and create a mental map that connects knowledge from one source to another.  Students will interview each other after learning social work group theory and skills, and will write case notes.  The interviews and notes will be used to help students connect their thoughts and feelings to course content.  

    Judy Steiner-Williams, Senior Lecturer, Kelley School of Business
    C204 Business Communication
    My C204, business communication course, will be re-structured to provide six class periods for  me to work with students individually and for students to work with their peers on three practice business documents and then on three graded documents. Rather than my spending class time lecturing about communication theory, students will be assigned readings from Strategic Business Writing etext and business communication courses; and their understanding of the concepts will be checked.  Making students responsible for the "lecture material" will allow me to spend class time guiding students in applying the theory and providing specific feedback on drafts for routine, good news, and negative news documents.  Carry-over of learning from individual and team practice documents to graded documents in each category will be analyzed.  

    Katy Strand, Associate Professor, Music
    MUS E232 Inclusive Participatory Music Practices
    The MUS E232 course, Inclusive Participatory Music Practices, will focus on the social nature of musical engagement. Three essential questions will guide our work in this class: (1) “Why and how do people seek out musical learning opportunities in twenty-first century societies?” (2) “How do complex social and cultural forces shape community interactions through music?” and (3) “How do we foster, facilitate, and lead inclusive, participatory music practices?” Through active inquiry we will engage in social forms of music making, reflecting on the learning process and outcomes, and we will explore various avenues for leading inclusive participatory music in the community and the classroom.