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Internal teaching grants recipients 2021-22

Educational Advancement Fund

Divya Chaudhry, senior lecturer in Asian Studies; “Improv for language learning and promoting intellectual risk-taking.”

The current project seeks to study the impact of improvisational theater (improv) on language learning, intellectual risk taking, and overall wellness of learners enrolled in elementary and advanced HindiUrdu courses during the fall 2021 and spring 2022 semesters. Adapting the Common Ground Framework for Teaching Improvisational Ability in Medical Education (Fu, 2019) for linguistic and intercultural learning, learners will develop three core skill groups- (a) attunement to the self, others, and situational cues, (b) affirmation to what was perceived, and (c) advancement of conversation to accomplish a collaborative goal. Each core skill consists of a subset of behavioral and cognitive “microskills” which will be taught through experiential exercises conducted virtually by expert improv artists from a New Delhi- based theater group.

View Divya’s spotlight blog post


Carolina Palacios, senior lecturer in Spanish; “A transformative learning approach for FL2 Spanish students.”

This project aims to foster life-long learning and involves transformative learning in FL2 Spanish students through a Virtual Immersion Experience (VIE) with Spanish native speakers from varied Spanish speaking countries. This experience will enhance speaking and listening skills as well as Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC) and Sociopragmatic Competence.   By using this innovative learning approach, Vanderbilt Spanish students will be exposed to diverse Latinx/Hispanic/Spanish cultures and embrace a cultural immersion even if remotely.


Course Improvement Grant 

Tucker Biddlecombe, associate professor of choral studies; “Choral library modernization.”

The Vanderbilt Choral Library provides course-related materials for choral singers, free of charge, in both curricular and non-curricular vocal ensembles, serving over 300 singers in choirs throughout the University. The library contains music dating back to the Peabody School of Music (1920s) and while it is a fascinating historical resource for choral music at Vanderbilt, it is also considerably dated and lacks diversity in its offerings. The library is located in the basement of the Music Rehearsal Hall and is at nearly full capacity with no further room for expansion. This modernization project would provide a detailed cataloguing and evaluation for each piece in the choral library, purge/donate music that is no longer stylistically or historically appropriate, and provide repertoire and library experience for Integrated Studies Teacher Education (Blair-to-Peabody) students.

View Tucker’s spotlight blog post


Jessica Gilpin, senior lecturer in biological sciences; “Incorporating student feedback in introductory biology to increase learners’ sense of belonging.”

Undergraduate students commonly leave the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines citing a lack of sense of belonging – this finding is exaggerated for minority groups. It is thus important to identify mechanisms to improve student sense of belonging and student sense of trust in faculty instructors by gathering feedback from students on such issues. This study will introduce periodical formal feedback surveys to test whether this benign and voluntary intervention can encourage student belongingness in an introductory undergraduate biology course (BSCI 1511). To measure student sense of belonging and trust in faculty, pre- and post-semester surveys will be distributed to the students with adapted from published scales for belongingness and trust in faculty. These measures will allow comparison of student sense of belonging and trust in faculty before and after the intervention.

View Jessica’s Spotlight blog post


Will Grissom, associate professor of biomedical engineering; “Cloud-hosted Python notebook for teaching biomedical signals and systems.”

In Fall 2020 I began teaching BME 3400: Quantitative Methods II (Biomedical Signals and Systems). I used a flipped classroom model in which I recorded short (< 15 min) video lectures for each class session with a quiz, and then used class sessions to revisit concepts from the lectures, do in-class coding examples, and answer homework questions. Pathbird would improve my Fall 2021 class. Pathbird is a commercial web-based educational platform that presents students a ‘codex’ for each learning unit or homework assignment, which is like a rich Jupyter notebook webpage with text and videos, mixed with auto-graded multiple choice and short answer questions. Most importantly, it includes a Python coding environment with text fields that students enter their code into, which are executed on the remote mynerva computers to produce plots or quantitative results on demand. By engaging every student in coding exercises and answering questions in lockstep with lectures, I hypothesize that adopting Pathbird in my course will help students become more comfortable with coding for biomedical signals and systems problems, synthesizing the lecture concepts into specific applications, and will increase their success on homeworks.


Allison Leich Hilbun, senior lecturer in biological sciences; “Compare studies of 3D materials to creating quizzes to consider whether learning strategy outshines motivation in memory retention.”

For Anatomy and Physiology, a major portion of the class involves learning the names and locations of muscles and bones. I would like to frequently quiz my students about their current level of “buy-in” to the teaching strategies and on their quantifiable improvement on several low-stakes muscle and bone examinations. A powerful memory-retention strategy for students is retrieval practice and frequent testing itself, with feedback being an important factor (Brame and Biel, 2015). Another common strategy used often from grade school through higher education is to have students write their own exams, switch with peers, and grade each others’ work. It will be helpful to evaluate how the quantitative and qualitative output of students changes as they go through the different activities, and I will quantify how motivation and perception of being in control or experimental group impacts improvement.


Nozomi Imai, lecturer in Asian studies; “Making innovative learning videos for elementary Japanese classes.”

With the funds, I will purchase an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription for Students and Teachers. The software allows me to use various animation functions, add sound effects, and combine and edit videos. Having access to video editing functions like these are essential for me to create content that best reflects my ideas. I would like to make use of a variety of animation functions in order to introduce new grammar points in a clear and entertaining way. I can tell a story while giving ample visual aids. Instead of just reading an example sentence as a plain text, students can easily visualize when and how the grammar can be used in different contexts. Also, I would like to make conversation practice videos using some editing functions. Many students feel scared to speak up in their foreign language in class. Practicing with a video before coming to class can ease their anxiety, and they can also easily use the same method to do some review practice after class. Using the software, I can put some visual cues (like text and pictures) next to my face, which will help students to engage in the video conversation.

View Nozomi’s spotlight blog post


Neil Kelley, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences; “Restoration and rehabilitation of Vanderbilt fossil teaching collection.”

This proposal seeks to rehabilitate and augment an existing resource, a rich and impressive collection of fossils from Tennessee and beyond housed in the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Disorganization and neglect threaten the long-term stability of these materials and hamper their efficient use in hands-on, specimen-based learning. Ultimately, we would like to engage in an ambitious program to digitize some of our more unique specimens and make them available for educators and researchers worldwide via a web-based 3D model viewer. Before we can do that, we need to carefully catalogue, repair and reorganize the collection. This initial effort will immediately facilitate the more effective use of this resource in several Vanderbilt courses, most notably EES 3220 – Life Through Time, as well as set the stage for the longer-term project.

View Neil’s spotlight blog post


Asami Nakano, lecturer in Asian studies; “Incorporating Japanese cultural experiences for Japanese language course.”

I would like to propose including two Japanese cultural experiences for the JAPN2201 Intermediate Japanese language course 1) Japanese Tea Ceremony 2) Japanese Flower Arrangement Both of them include hands-on activities for the students. I will invite special guest speakers (either Zoom or inperson). Also, I would like to find an open space so that I can reach out to a larger audience (students and faculty members).


Chiara Sulprizio, senior lecturer in classical and Mediterranean studies; “Italian language enhancement for Maymester course in Rome.”

I seek to improve my Italian speaking, reading and writing skills as a means to more skillfully navigate and lead my Maymester study abroad course, CLAS 3720: History and Art of Ancient Rome. Having the ability to communicate more fluently in Italian will facilitate my planning for the course, which requires me to write to and speak with a number of museum administrators, archeological site operators, as well as hotel, restaurant, transportation and retail managers and employees. Development of these skills will also aid me in interacting with individuals in these contexts “on the ground” in Italy and will thereby create the conditions for a more streamlined, enriching and enjoyable experience for my students.