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1 – Doing Learning Differently: International Student Experiences with Active Learning

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  • Ellen Ahlness, Department of Political Science, College of Arts and Sciences, UW Seattle
  • Pratima Jadhav, Leadership and Policy Studies, College of Education, UW Seattle


Active learning has been advocated as a method of instruction since the early 1980s, yet little attention has been paid to the way students respond to and perceive the quality of active learning instruction. Instructors are increasingly encouraged to use active learning, while having little understanding of how students vary in its reception. We focus on “breaking down” the classroom to understand how students experience and respond to various kinds of instruction. Notably, there is little understanding of how international students, whose prior educational experiences are with transmission-centered instruction (e.g. lecture and memorization), are frequently under-prepared for the diversity of active learning instructional strategies used in American colleges and universities. Therefore, we ask: how do international undergraduate students perceive the quality and benefit of active learning instruction in American higher education?

By shifting the evaluation paradigm to focus on student-centered classroom experiences and perceptions of value, we conduct an affective study on student reception of active learning, specifically, the experiences and reflections of Indian international students. Through phenomenological interviews and focus groups with over 15 Indian international students studying in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington, we sought to find out how participants experienced the transition to interactive learning, and whether they found value in the new instructional methods. Initial findings suggest indicate that Indian international students found active (as compared to transmissive) learning to be more engaging and beneficial for retention; however, instructor expectations could be confusing and predicting one’s success could be far more challenging. This project adds to the bottom-up work on active learning while also focusing on the experiences of the growing Indian student population as an underserved demographic in American higher education. Finally, we develop considerations for instructors working with international students most familiar with transmission-based instruction.

3 – Application of Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives in Early Non-Major Undergraduate Education


  • Salwa Al-Noori, Division of Biological Sciences, School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics, UW Bothell
  • Gary Carpenter, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, UW Bothell


Topic: We describe the design, implementation, and assessment methods of two quarter-long cross-disciplinary courses at the University of Washington Bothell (Autumn 2018, 2019) incorporating art and science as tools of inquiry exploring the natural world.

Context: This freshman foundational course in the first year Discovery Core (DC) series was designed and co-taught by one art and one science faculty to students of diverse ethnic/cultural background and overall college preparedness.

Scholarly basis: The instructor’s field-specific teaching experiences informed this science-art integrated course aimed at promoting holistic understanding greater than that achievable solely through single-discipline perspectives. These rigorous, creative interdisciplinary courses incorporated requisite components of DC1 courses including introduction to research, writing communication skills, and developing successful academic strategies from onset of collegiate experience.

Results: We identify the impact of providing formal awareness of the role of interdisciplinary learning versus comparable dual-perspective learning approaches. Instructional approaches emphasized student-centered discussions, hands-on activities, individual reflections, and group research projects focused on integration of our respective disciplines. Further transformative aspects included student exposure to the role of interdisciplinarity in public communication and collaborative research, while encouraging comfort in thinking broadly across disciplines. Evaluation was based on pre/post-surveys and synthesis of final projects.

Application: This experience informs our individual instructional practices. Salwa Al-Noori finds incorporating multidisciplinary perspectives in her teaching has allowed her to achieve greater inclusivity, integration, and student recognition of the value of interdisciplinarity. Gary Carpenter is inspired to infuse a wider range of disciplines into his arts-based courses, highlighting the arts as a rigorous research methodology and the benefits of interdisciplinary inquiry. This course design underscores benefits of collaborative interdisciplinary teaching in developing higher-level learning while exposing students to both disciplines early in their college experience: “I see them both as a gateway to understanding as well as a way to discover…” (student quote).

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5 – Promoting Accessible Informal STEM Learning

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  • Scott Bellman, DO-IT, College of Engineering, UW Seattle
  • Sheryl Burgstahler, Academic Services, UW Information Technology, UW Seattle
  • Meena Selvakumar, Information School, UW Seattle
  • Victoria Bonebrake, Museology Master of Arts Program, Museology Graduate Program, UW Seattle


Topic: Accessibility and universal design of informal science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning.

Context: The UW DO-IT Center’s pilot project facilitated student accessibility reviews of informal STEM learning (ISL) sites. In this effort, high school and college students with disabilities conducted accessibility reviews of ISL programs including the Seattle Aquarium, the Pacific Science Center, Museum of Flight, Burke Museum, and the Woodland Park Zoo.

Scholarly Basis: Applying concepts from the literature regarding Universal Design defined as “the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design,” social justice education, and DO-IT’s student-centered model of engagement.

Results: In pilot activities, 46 students with disabilities from 13 high schools and 16 postsecondary institutions contributed a total of 79 accessibility reviews. Participants—whose disabilities included autism, blindness and low vision, deafness and hard of hearing, learning disabilities, mobility and health impairments, traumatic brain injuries, and mental health disabilities— increased their awareness of disability types, access issues, access solutions, and advocacy strategies.

Application: Pilot activities have resulted in a newly funded project, Access Informal STEM Learning (AccessISL). AccessISL , a collaboration between the UW Museology Program and the UW DO-IT Center, focuses on the following two objectives:

  • For ISL personnel and museology faculty: to increase knowledge, skills, and actions to make ISL programs, facilities, courses, and resources more welcoming and accessible to participants with disabilities and embed relevant practices within their work.
  • For postsecondary STEM students with disabilities and museology students: to increase knowledge and skills in advocating for ISL offerings that are welcoming and accessible to everyone, including those with a wide variety of disabilities, and to encourage individuals with disabilities to pursue careers in ISL.

7 – Women of Color in Global Health: Community, Leadership, and Resiliency


  • Mame Mareme Diakhate, Department of Global Health, School of Public Health, UW Seattle
  • Hannah Atlas, Department of Global Health, School of Public Health, UW Seattle
  • Polly Woodbury, Department of Global Health, School of Public Health, UW Seattle
  • Diem Nguyen, Department of Global Health, School of Public Health, UW Seattle


Due to the negative impacts the burden of coping with race-related stress has on students of color in higher education settings, such as being singled out and experiencing stereotyping and microaggressions, it is essential to have supportive spaces within the institution where students of color are empowered and encouraged.

Women of Color in Global Health is an intentional critical learning community, started in Spring 2019 by a group of women of color in the 2018 MPH Global Health cohort. Our work is grounded in a community of practice and social justice framework. We integrate a critical lens to examine the impacts of structural bias, racism, and the legacies of colonialism on our work, studies, and personal lives. We use this lens to reflect on how our own positionality, specifically our positions of power and privilege shape how we learn, teach, and do research. Moreover, we support one another to gain crucial skills for professional development as we continue our academic journey. Currently, we are planning a writing retreat with a grant from the UW’s Diversity and Inclusion Seed Grant that supports institutional transformation and resiliency. Our writing retreat will support our work on our theses and other writing projects, as well as provide social and emotional support to sustain us through this work.

Many of our members expressed that being part of this group has given them a sense of community within an academic environment that can feel isolating. Our goal is to share our approaches to building critical learning practices in other settings across the university. We plan to share the processes and applications used to start and sustain this group, as well as our success stories that motivate us to continue this important work.

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9 – A Hands-On, Student-Centered Approach to the Exploration of Coriolis


  • Rosalind Echols, School of Oceanography, UW Seattle
  • Sasha Seroy, School of Oceanography, UW Seattle


Hands-on activities and demonstrations are abundant in geoscience education. While these activities are useful tools to promote student learning, their classroom implementation often lacks key evidence-based pedagogical elements and/or real-world context, making it difficult for students to transfer and apply knowledge. However, such hands-on demonstrations can be easily adapted to improve student learning.

In this work, we modified existing laboratory activities and demonstrations using elements of Ambitious Science Teaching and Model-Based Inquiry and assessed how these targeted modifications enhanced student learning. This was implemented in an undergraduate UW Oceanography laboratory course (OCN 201) with students, most of whom were STEM majors, at all stages of their undergraduate career. We transformed a traditional lab that relied on direct instruction and confirmation of pre-supplied hypotheses to a concept-first-math-second exploratory approach that scaffolds generation and testing of student hypotheses. The written lab materials cultivated discourse within the classroom where students’ ideas and experiences were regarded as resources, as they developed and revised hypotheses around real-life phenomena. Lab activities include a host of inexpensive do-it-yourself apparatuses that provide opportunities for students to conduct their own experiments, commissioning students to employ scientific practices to do authentic work.

Pre- and post- assessments demonstrated that students were better able to meet key content goals, as evidenced by their ability to contextualize and accurately convey information in environmentally relevant models. By eliciting student ideas throughout instruction, we were able to identify misconceptions and track subsequent learning, enabling us to critique and enhance critical parts of instruction for future years. This study shows that minimal adaptation to existing undergraduate laboratory curriculum can lead to greater learning outcomes.This approach is widely applicable to other disciplines and can be easily implemented by reframing already existing activities and demonstrations using the framework we provide.

11 – Hypothetical Cases for Teaching Skills for Critical Analysis of Wrongful Convictions


Ann Frost, Department of Law, Societies and Justice, Department of Sociology, College of Arts and Sciences, UW Seattle


This poster illustrates a teaching strategy using hypothetical cases to teach students to analyze cases of wrongful conviction. This strategy has been used in my course Miscarriages of justice in which we ask the question: Why are some people, against whom there is only weak evidence, arrested, convicted–and sometimes even executed?

A complicated set of legal and social factors shape criminal case outcomes, and we use hypothetical cases to examine how social forces intersect with and shape institutional factors and legal processes to produce miscarriages of justice. We analyze professional misconduct and its institutional causes, and consider how legal rules and procedures themselves, including reliance upon eyewitness identification, inadequate legal defense, and limits on the appeals process, contribute to wrongful conviction. Use of hypothetical cases helps students develop skills in considering how various reforms might alleviate these problems, or whether these problems are more durable consequences of racial and class inequality.

Students analyze hypothetical cases to identify errors in the case, evaluate why they occurred and their impact, apply legal and constitutional safeguards and analyze the breakdown of those safeguards, synthesize their learning on human error and bias in creating proposals for reform, assess the impact of errors on life after exoneration, and reach conclusions on the policy implications of errors leading to wrongful convictions.

While students read academic articles and analyzes of real cases, use of hypothetical cases allows students to hone these skills in a case that has no clear outcome and has not been previously analyzed.

I have applied this strategy in two iterations of the course and have collected survey responses from students on how they view the experience. I hope to collect further data and adapt the strategy to other courses and show that it can be successful across a variety of course topics.

13 – Hot-Button Topics In Student-Led Discussion: Strategies for Civil Engagement


Jennifer Gogarten, School of Public Health, UW Seattle


A large introductory course about genetic technology implications for society taken largely by freshmen in their first quarter at the UW has developed a parallel approach of discussion sections and blogging to facilitate civil discourse of hot button topics, while reducing load on instructors.

Lecture sessions are focused on education about underlying science technologies, and the broad scope of ethical, legal, social implications. The diversity of beliefs are highlighted through the use of Polleverywhere, stimulating awareness about the need for sensitivity in discussion/blog contributions.

A student-led approach to quiz section discussions hinges on random selection of leader at the start of section. Assessment for participation in this drawing yields punctuality, and uncertainty about leadership yields high preparation, while empathy for the student leaders being tasked with leading the section yields high participation. Assigned readings are selected from popular press and contain varied biases, encouraging student discourse. TA participation is only allowed in the second half of discussing each article, and is generally limited. TA assessment focuses on the assigned leaders, while citizenship assessment is informed by periodic self-evaluation, which allows for more successful accommodation of neurodiversity and language learner status, recognizing that different people’s best efforts at contribution may vary widely.

In parallel, a blog community requiring students to bring in outside resources or experiences to an informal blog, and then responding in a substantive way to 3 different students writings. The student responses reduced the workload on TAs as compared to traditional writing assignments, since students usually correct each others’ mistakes. This online community allows introverted, shy, anxious or private individuals to more actively share with their peers, and encourages active participation in driving the content of the course. Students varied in their discussion versus blogging strengths, supporting the hypothesis that these are different ways to engage the material that add value to assessment.

Additional elements supporting civility include explicit guidelines about respectful participation, implicit-bias assessment and icebreaker exercises.

This approach can be taken to increase student engagement and active participation in learning in large lecture courses that cover other topics, allowing for greater student participation while decreasing assessment burdens on instructors.

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15 – Teaching EQ: Strategies for Success in Graduate School and Beyond


  • Amy Howells, Child, Family and Population Health Nursing, School of Nursing, UW Seattle
  • Renee Cantarini, Child, Family and Population Health Nursing, School of Nursing, UW Seattle
  • Marie-Annette Brown, Child, Family and Population Health Nursing, School of Nursing, UW Seattle


Decades of research published in the Harvard Business Review highlights the pivotal role that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) plays in the success of leaders and employees in almost all professional arenas. No longer considered a ‘soft skill’, evidence shows EQ can be improved with attention and training. We applied EQ to an existing Leadership, Communication and Professional Identity course for 1st year Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) students. This innovative strategy allows for a degree of personalization that greatly enhances the applicability of course topics to individuals.

Our course uses active learning strategies to teach major concepts (e.g., giving and receiving feedback, dealing with conflict, group effectiveness). Early in the quarter, key components of EQ are introduced and students take a self-assessment. The results of the EQ assessment are used throughout the quarter to individualize how students approach course modules. A quarter long project requires each student to choose their lowest scoring EQ domain and identify several strategies from our course text. The assignment consists of 4 phases: Identification of the EQ domain to address, choosing strategies to address that domain, a mid-quarter check-in (requires analysis of the strategies and any changes going forward), and a final analysis at the end of the quarter.

Students provided formal written, as well as unsolicited, feedback about their positive outcomes. Their enthusiasm focused on the broad application of their enhanced EQ skills. This novel approach allowed for practical skill development applicable in graduate school, their professions and life in general. The addition of EQ content to curriculum is easily adaptable to multiple disciplines and varied class formats. There is broad applicability to baccalaureate and graduate students, alike. EQ is a transformative approach to building skills that are necessary for success in higher education, as well as professional and personal lives.

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19 – Illustration and Evidence-Based Teaching to Promote Knowledge Acquisition and Engagement


Jill Jandreau, Division of Physical Therapy, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, School of Medicine, UW Seattle


Topic: Visual note-taking was utilized as a learning and teaching tool combined with peer jigsaw teaching in a flipped doctor of physical therapy course.

Context: The classroom was flipped such that students were tasked with becoming an expert on weekly pathophysiology topics. Collaboratively, small groups would create a visual representation of the content, focusing on illustration with minimal words.

During class sessions, reorganized groups participated in jigsaw teaching. In this approach, content experts take turns teaching their peers, piecing together a knowledge jigsaw puzzle. The visual representations created by the expert groups outside of class served as a teaching plan.

Students also worked on a clinical case with faculty support. These face-to-face sessions focused on Bloom’s higher order skills of application through evaluation.

Scholarly basis: The physical act of manipulating content to create a visual representation increases comprehension and retention over typing or highlighting. Images are more memorable, facilitating recall and require a greater level of comprehension to formulate.

Collaborative learning increases knowledge and comprehension. When peers teach each other, they are more deeply engaged and reach a greater depth of comprehension due to accountability.

By flipping the classroom, students were able to work at the level of knowledge acquisition independently and engage in more clinically relevant discussion in class than if that time involved traditional lecture and knowledge translation.

Results: Course feedback completed by faculty moderating small groups largely supported the use of this method for maximizing faculty-student interactions. They reported discussions that reflected more depth of comprehension and noticed greater student engagement during small group interactions. Students enjoyed the collaborative learning and teaching as well as the clinical application.

Application: Courses can be structured to require visual note-taking to promote comprehension and retention. By flipping the classroom, faculty can address higher order skills during class time. Jigsaw is an engaging technique to promote comprehension.

21 – Well-Being for Life & Learning


  • Megan Kennedy, Resilience Lab, Undergraduate Academic Affairs, UW Seattle
  • Anne Browning, School of Medicine, UW Seattle
  • Billy Farrell, Evan’s School of Public Affairs and Governance, UW Seattle
  • Jon Monteith, School of Social Work, UW Seattle


The Well-Being for Life & Learning Initiative (WBLL) is promoting social-emotional learning (SEL) across the University. By incorporating wellness themes within the academic realm, faculty are participating in the University’s continuum of care. Currently, 30 instructors from 15 academic departments are incorporating 8 skills and mindsets in their teaching: social connectedness, mindfulness, growth mindset, resilience, gratitude, inclusivity, self-compassion, and life purpose. Approximately 3,000 students were engaged in a WBLL class during Spring and Fall Quarter (2019).

Assessment of the initiative is through student surveys and faculty focus groups. Beck Tench, an instructor from the Information School, describes the experience as, “I show up to the class as my whole self and invite students to do so as well. This gives all of us more integrity, which overcomes impostor syndrome and opens our minds and hearts to new ways of thinking and being.” Student feedback describes the initiative as promoting connectedness, “Having check-ins allows us to acknowledge the pressures in the rest of our life and creates a sense of community through sharing” (WBLL Student Survey, 2019). UWRL is currently developing a guidebook that will be available to all instructors and provide instruction for incorporating the 8 skills and mindsets. Instructors are also invited to join the monthly Community of Practice.

It is well-documented that the SEL movement within the K-12 system is supporting students for careers and life. “More than two decades of research demonstrate that education promoting (SEL) gets results. The findings come from multiple fields and sources, including student achievement, neuroscience, health, employment, psychology, classroom management, learning theory, economics, and the prevention of youth problem behaviors” (CASEL, n.d.). WBLL provides an opportunity to extend SEL into higher education for a more profound impact.


CASEL. (n.d.). The research documenting the impact of SEL is compelling. Retrieved from