Thomas Jefferson University Nexus Learning™ Grant


2019 Application should be submitted through the InfoReady Portal

Scoring Template for Reviewers

Dean's Letter of Support

Program Director or Coordinator’s Letter of Support

Deadlines for Spring 2019 applications:

  • Applications are due February 1, 2019
  • Notifications sent on March 8, 2019
  • Grant funds initially available after July 1, 2019
  • The grant project can be undertaken at any time in the funding year.   
  • Grant funds must be used by May 31, 2020, with all requests for reimbursement processed by June 30, 2020.
  • Final report due on August 31, 2020.

The Director of the Center for Teaching Innovation and Nexus Learning (CTinL) is also available to talk about proposals at any time.

2018 Recipients

Radika Bhaskar and Kathryn Gindlesparger
"Developing Evidence-based Reasoning through Modeling and Scientificd Arguement: Scaffolding Visual Literacy and Computational Thinking"

The project will create a sequence of in-class exercises designed to ask students to translate between visual diagrams and written narrative, and iterate on their use of evidence through peer feedback within and among small-groups.

Monique Chabot, Marie-Christine Potvin and Colleen Zane
"Piloting the Use of Software-Enhanced Classroom Notetaking on the East Falls Campus"

This project will explore the efficacy of a note-taking assistant software on the ability of undergraduate and graduate students to increase the quality of notes taken, increase information retention and achieve higher grades.

Craig Strickland, Jeanne Felter and Winden Rowe
"Extending the Reach of the Community and Trauma Counseling (CTC) Program through Online Training"

This project aims to address the void in trauma focused clinical training among clinical supervisors who support Community and Trauma Counseling students in field placements, while simultaneously advancing student learning, by development of an online, four-module course entitled, The Brain Changes: Clinical Applications of Neuroscience.

2017 Recipients

Jack Suss and Damon Orsetti
"Student Engagement during Game-Based Learning"

View Proposal

This project focuses on engaged learning. Nexus Learning involves students being active and engaged, and often these terms are used synonymously when they really mean different things. In order to properly say that an active and engaged classroom improves learning outcomes, we should first be able to accurately address whether the classroom is both active and engaged. This proposal aims to introduce and assess engagement through game-based learning (GBL) in a non-majors science class. We plan to develop a physical manipulation game to scaffold systems modelling using a non-technological approach prior to application of computer based modelling. We will develop a rubric based on the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) to assess student engagement in classes with and without GBL intervention.

Wendy Wachter-Schutz and Bridget Trivinia
"Interprofessional Collaboration in a Student Run Pro-Bono Clinic: Facilitating Clinical Excellence in the Professional Development of Occupational Therapy Students"

View Proposal

Students enrolled in the Occupational Therapy (OT) program have limited opportunity to collaborate with those from other healthcare disciplines. Additionally, eight OT programs exist in the greater Philadelphia area. All programs compete for mandatory fieldwork sites. It is the context in which students implement knowledge from the classroom into real –world situations. Students have the opportunity to work with patients, practice clinical skills, and build confidence in their abilities. However, with the increased number of fieldwork programs and limited sites available, programs continue to be challenged in providing adequate experiences. In January 2016, student volunteers from the OT Program began collaborations with Widener University’s physical therapy (PT) program providing services one night a week in a student run pro-bono clinic located on Widener’s campus. A pilot program was established through receipt of a Nexus Grant in 2016 to expand services to two nights a week allowing for Level I fieldwork opportunities for OT students. The proposed research project aims to expand this opportunity by increasing the number of Level I fieldwork experiences circumventing the challenges of student placements. In addition, this will allow a greater number of students to benefit from this unique off-campus Nexus Learning opportunity. Preliminary outcomes from the pilot program indicate higher confidence levels pre and post fieldwork compared to peers in traditional settings in clinical reasoning, decision making and interprofessional collaboration.

Marie-Christine Potvin, Zoe Ann Gingold, Monique Chabot
"Piloting an On-Campus Community-Based Learning Opportunity for Occupational Therapy Students While Expanding PhilaU’s Disability Services’ Offerings"

View Proposal

To pilot an on-campus, community and project-based, experiential learning opportunity for occupational therapy (OT) students that integrates coursework and clinical experiences while augmenting the offerings of the Disability Services Office (DSO).

Evan Pruitt and David Kratzer
"Creating Equitable Learning Environments in Architectural Studio Courses"

View Proposal

The studio environment in architectural education has harnessed the techniques of “project-based learning” long before the term became a defined academic approach to teaching the complexities of real-world problems. Open floorplans, fluid rows of working surfaces, communal discussions, group design projects and public reviews are just a few of the defining elements of a traditional studio environment. In this sense, the pedagogical approach and spatial environment of a traditional architectural studio course are intrinsically linked in an effort to promote an interactive process which is open, active and public. Although the temperamental tendencies towards extroversion, ambiversion and introversion are in a constant state of flux, it can be hypothesized that “project-based learning” pedagogies and the environments they are typically implemented within cater to students and faculty with extroverted tendencies while placing those with introverted tendencies at a distinct disadvantage. This submission specifically seeks to explore the dilemma of students with introverted tendencies operating in the more extroverted “project based learning” systems and their environments by examining student engagement, participation and productivity in architectural design studios. It aims to promote equitable learning environments for students of all temperaments.


2016 Recipients

Kasey Wagoner and Edward Santilli
"Promoting Physical Intuition through Experiment-Based Learning."
View Proposal
View Final Report

This proposal seeks funding to overhaul the introductory physics course at Philadelphia University. The primary focus of this redesign will be to teach students physics, rather than math, by piquing their curiosity and guiding their intuition through experiment-based learning. The modern pedagogies adopted in this project will give ownership to the students, which has been clearly shown to increase student engagement in, aptitude for, and attitude toward physics. These approaches appeal to the Hallmarks goal of scientific understanding through curiosity and rigorous inquiry and also align with the basic principles of the Nexus Learning initiative. Two different but complementary approaches will be taken, with each approach using research-proven methods. Semester by semester, the developers will work together to assess which aspects of the two approaches work best, eventually convolving these successful approaches into one course which is best for Philadelphia University. We have a well defined rubric for quantifying student learning gains and the successes will be shared with scientists at the local and national levels.

Wendy Wachter-Schutz and Bridget Trivinia
"Interprofessional Collaboration: Proving Physical and Occupational Therapy Services at a Student Run Pro-Bono Clinic."
View Proposal

Students enrolled in the Occupational Therapy (OT) program have limited opportunity to collaborate with those from other healthcare disciplines. Additionally, eight OT programs exist in the greater Philadelphia area. All programs compete for mandatory fieldwork sites. It is the context in which students implement knowledge from the classroom into real –world situations. Students have the opportunity to work with patients, practice clinical skills, and build confidence in their abilities. However, with the increased number of fieldwork programs and limited sites available, programs are challenged in providing adequate experiences. The Chester Community Physical Therapy Clinic, located on Widener University’s campus, is a student run pro-bono facility, which previously only provided physical therapy (PT) services to uninsured or underinsured members of the Chester community. Recently, a pilot program has been implemented with student volunteers from the Philadelphia University OT Program one night a week with supervision provided by the authors of this proposal. This research project aims to expand this opportunity by structuring this experience within our OT program so that more students would benefit from this unique off-campus Nexus Learning experience. Goals include provision of fieldwork; development of leadership, clinical skills, professional behaviors, and confidence; mentorship of students, and increasing clinic hours from one to two days per week.  Project implementation includes ongoing use of student volunteers and offering Level I fieldwork opportunities to OT students.

Stephen DiDonato, Richard Hass, Amy Baker, and Michelle Gorenberg
"Trauma-Informed Inter-Professional Education amoung Health Science Graduate Programs."

Faculty from Philadelphia University’s Community and Trauma Counseling (CTC), Physician Assistant (PA), and Occupational Therapy (OT) programs have a unified (immediate) goal of developing a comprehensive trauma-informed inter-professional educational model to be utilized within higher education settings that will enhance the students’ trauma-informed clinical skills and knowledge within these three programs.  Once refined, this model can be expanded beyond these three health programs into other health science disciplines in a continuous fashion in order to enhance the student’s experience and the care that they deliver to their future patients.   The CTC, PA, and OT programs have a long-term visionary goal of developing an inter-professional clinic that serves the emotional and behavioral needs of children, adolescents, and families from the Philadelphia area.  In addition to providing clinical outreach, the clinic will also serve as a venue for collaborative, real-world inter-professional training for students in the CTC, PA, and OT programs, and potentially other health programs within the Philadelphia University Community. In support of these immediate and visionary goals, the aim of this Nexus grant is to develop and deliver a trauma-informed inter-professional educational module to CTC, PA, and OT students, to be implemented Summer, 2016. This module will build extend on the previous pilot project data from the 2015 CTC and OT comprehensive inter-professional training module. Funding provided by this grant will support the research, development, execution, and assessment of this inter-professional training module.

Robert Fleming and Christopher Pastore
"Game Based Learning."
View Proposal

Gamification, or Game Based Learning (GBL), in higher education is an emerging mechanism for establishing an additional mode of student engagement. Although gamification might appear to be an attempt to add “fun” to the learning process, it has been shown to learning enhancements for students. A game that generates curiosity on the part of the player leads to engagement, autonomy and meaning – key elements of critical thinking. Engagement is a critical element of Nexus Learning; curiosity is a Hallmark outcome of DECSYS.

2015 Recipients

Jeanne Felter and Michelle Gorenberg
To develop and deliver a trauma-informed, inter-professional training module for CTC and OT students
View Proposal
View Final Report

The Community and Trauma Counseling (CTC) and Occupational Therapy (OT) programs want to create a trauma informed inter-professional clinic that serves the emotional and behavioral needs of children, adolescents, and families from the Philadelphia area.  The clinic will also serve as a venue for collaborative, real world interprofessional training for students in the CTC and OT programs, and potentially other health programs within the university.  

The aim of this Nexus grant is to develop and deliver a trauma informed, interprofessional training module to CTC and OT students, to be implemented Summer, 2015. This module will represent a pilot of the first step in comprehensive interprofessional training in trauma informed practice. 

Ryan Long and Frank Wilkinson
Evaluation of Change in Attitudes in Response to a Personal Genetic Information Exercise
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View Final Report

Knowledge of one’s own genetic information may cause distress. When genetic information is not kept private, this exposes one to the risk of being harmed by third parties. Genetic testing therefore generates ethical, professional, and public policy problems. We intend to study how performing genetic self tests and participating in classroom discussions on genetic testing impacts student attitudes on such issues. The project will be implemented simultaneously in Hallmarks core and Biology major courses in both the fall and spring.

Marcia Weiss
Digital Learning Tools to Enhance Student Learning
View Proposal
View Final Report

The purpose of this project is to develop and assess the effectiveness of a scaffold of digital resources that support individual student learning in upper level design courses, specifically Jacquard and Advanced Jacquard.  Six years ago I created a series of video demonstrations.  While helpful, it is apparent that increased technological support via revised videos, searchable data fields and hyperlinks (a scaffold) will increase student mastery of course content.    My Nexus Learning hypothesis is that enhanced digital learning tools will support student learning through individualized pacing and mastering of complex and varied concepts.  

  • This project seeks to determine if increased integration of technology can: 
  • Enhance pacing and depth of upper level design courses.
  • Enable students to participate as active, engaged learners in activities that foster exploration, synthesis and discovery.
  • Facilitate better-informed design and structural decisions.
  • Create a structure that supports individualized learning in real world projects.

Anne Bowers and Kathryn Mickle

Human Case Studies and Demonstrations for Active Learning and Application of Critical Thinking for Improved Mastery of Anatomy and Physiology from the Freshman to the Sophomore Foundational Courses
View Proposal
View Final Report

The purpose of this project is to support improved student mastery of fundamental anatomy and physiology knowledge and critical thinking skills for health professionals through a longitudinal collaboration across courses in the freshman and sophomore year using POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry and Learning) pedagogies.  

Currently 35% of students do not meet progression requirements for health majors in anatomy and physiology.  We will collaborate across the freshman and sophomore level to redesign four modules and then track both immediate student learning gains as well as longitudinal gains. 

Madeleine Wilcox and Raju Parakkal
Implementing Best Practices for technology-assisted peer review in a Capstone Course.
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View Final Report

This project will identify and promote best practices for implementing technology assisted on line peer review.  Existing paper based peer review methods have produced limited success.  Research undertaken in studio classes at Philadelphia University by Alex Messinger and Lisa Phillips, professors of interior design, provide initial evidence of positive results for the use of Google Docs software for student peer reviews in a studio setting.   This project will examine whether this pedagogical tool would serve the needs of a “traditional” classroom in the liberal arts and will employ a more technologically versatile and student friendly tool. Our additional goal is to examine whether anonymity in peer review allowed by the online process would impact the quality of student feedback.  This study will be bolstered by data acquired from previous iterations of courses and a workshop for faculty.

2014 Recipients

Wendy Wachter-Schutz
The Effects of RATs and TBL in the Classroom as a Means to Promote Student Preparedness and Integration of Key Academic Concepts
View Proposal

Anne Bower/Frank Wilkinson
Design, Implementation, Assessment and Professional Development Training of Faculty for Innovative Pedagogical Approaches to Biology Foundation Instruction
View Proposal

Previous Recipients

Kim Douglas, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture
Interdisciplinary Collaboration in the Design Studio
We must develop a new way of teaching design studio that takes the design studio into the real world and out of isolation and provides the missing link of collaboration among ‘experts’ and mirrors ‘real’ project work. We will develop an interdisciplinary collaborative studio over the summer that includes outside consultants and liberal arts faculty.  For this grant we intend to develop a studio curriculum that addresses collaboration among varied disciplines with landscape architecture and architecture students.  The collaborative studio will improve upon existing studios now being taught and developed with C-ABE and C-SLA as well as outside experts.

Katie Gindlesparger, Director of the Writing Program and Assistant Professor of Writing
Writing Across the Curriculum:  Writing Beyond Writing 101
PhilaU has a sophisticated structure for WAC already in place: we require writing in all four years and writing intensive courses in every major; additionally, many programs require extensive writing in courses not designated as writing intensive. The trouble is, many faculty inherit these structures but aren’t trained how to teach in them.

This grant addresses the question, “How do we convey writing in a way that doesn’t alienate.”  How might we help faculty integrate writing into their studios, labs, and specific disciplinary expectations?  This grant proposes a “teaching circle” for faculty to learn more about writing pedagogy.

Katharine Jones, Associate Professor of Sociology, and Barbara Kimmelman, Associate Professor of History
Course Re-Design: The College Studies Capstone
Our purpose is to develop and pilot an alternative version of the current College Studies Capstone, Contemporary Perspectives in Fall 2013 that would integrate this Capstone with students’ senior year work in their majors, in order to revise both curricular content and encourage more active classroom practices.

Capstone classes are among the high impact practices that solidify student learning of concepts and skills, as evidenced by AACU data. They also showcase PhilaU’s commitment to integrative, collaborative learning based on active pedagogy.

The chief priority of this project is to achieve an integrated capstone experience that provides a more meaningful culminating experience of the students’ college careers by asking them to apply what they have learned in College Studies directly to their professional activities.

Kihong Ku, Assistant Professor of Architecture, and Susan Frostén, Associate Professor of Architecture
Incorporating Open Source Knowledge Communities into the Research Skillset of the Design Student as Evidenced through Prototyping of Interactive Architecture
We propose to incorporate and promulgate the use of information from open source knowledge communities and social media networks into the information literacy and research skills agenda of the architecture program.  As entry points, we will use the studio, ARCH-502 Design X: Digital Methodologies and the theory seminar, ARCH-320 Ecology and Making. This supports proposed changes in the Architecture curriculum to create a more defined and enhanced design research agenda through a required theory seminar and design research studios.

Meriel Tulante, Assistant Professor of Italian Literature and Chair of World Languages, with Professors Farida Ferradji (French and Arabic), Concetta Caporale (Italian), Eiko Carr (Japanese), Siegfried Boettjer (German), Carlos Gonzalez-Ferrin (Spanish), and Maria Peale (Spanish)
Developing Best Practices in Nexus Learning for World Languages
The purpose of this grant is to provide an intensive and focused faculty development opportunity for the World Languages instructors at Philadelphia University. Participation in the ACTFL conference will promote instructors’ development on a personal level for instructors as well as involve them in a research effort to experiment with and enhance language instruction at the university.

This project does not envisage a single pedagogical framework, but will explore different ways of teaching that reflect Nexus Learning practices and best serve Philadelphia University students. Meriel Tulante (Chair of World Languages) will lead a workshop before the conference to discuss Nexus Learning and the goals of the project as well as a workshop after the conference to consider and collate what we have learned.