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Provost’s Innovation in Teaching Awards

While the entire goal of scholarly inquiry and scientific efforts is innovation in knowledge, innovation in teaching and learning is also critical to the impact of the university. Georgetown is blessed with a support system for pedagogical innovation in the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS) and the Red House, which offer design and evaluative tools that make innovation attractive. It enhances the orientation of strong faculty, motivated for caring about the whole person of their students, and constantly striving to maximize the engagement in the learning process.

Since 2018, Georgetown has honored extraordinary innovation in teaching with annual awards. The Provost’s Innovation in Teaching Award was made possible by the generosity of Bill (B ‘92) and Karen Sonneborn. The awards shine a spotlight on extraordinary innovation that merits attention of all faculty. Through this attention, we hope to disperse pedagogical initiatives that can be implemented widely around the university.

This year, one set of awardees is a group that designed an delivered a joint course in Government and the department of Performing Arts, uniting students in two different colleges. A second is a group in the School of Nursing and Health Studies who implement and rigorously evaluated a new approach to improve observational skills of nursing students.

Daniel Brumberg (Government), Derek Goldman (Performing Arts and SFS), Ijeoma Njaka (Red House and Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics) and Rachel Gartner (Campus Ministries) share one award. The groundwork for this initiative emerged over the last decade by Prof. Goldman, through the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, which he co-founded and directs. Many of the key elements incorporated into the “Performing One Another” methodology were honed in theater courses taken by GU students. The design has two students who have starkly opposing viewpoints on some topic collaborate. For example, students are given prompts such as “Home” and “Belief” and then engage in paired discussions that they record and transcribe with great precision, and then select sections of the other person’s words to bring back and to perform with the larger group. This material is then used iteratively as the catalyst for further dialogues, which can also be sourced for performance. The process models and rewards profound listening, prompts deep introspection about one’s own beliefs, and empathy for opposing viewpoints.
The design seemed well suited to the curriculum of the MA in Democracy and Governance in the Government Department, for which Professor Brumberg was a key lead. Ijeoma Njaka and Rabbi Rachel Gartner were collaborators. The group collaborated on a course that brought together students at Georgetown with students from Patrick Henry College, a private liberal arts non-denominational Christian college located in Purcellville, Virginia. The five-credit course Dialogue and Difference: Performing One Another (TPST 415/GOVX 424) was the result. The course was chosen as one of the key pilot courses under GU’s “Core Curriculum Initiative: Enhancing and Transforming the Core Curriculum.” This suggests a bright future for the kind of collaborative, cross-university experiential teaching that is central to the project.

The second Provost’s Innovation in Teaching Award is given to Peggy Slota, Maureen McLaughlin, Sarah Vittone, and Nancy Crowell of the School of Nursing and Health Studies. In a multi-prong approach, the awardees attempted to enrich nursing observational skills through visual thinking strategies in a formal course.

The course used separate stages of concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation, intentional visual thinking and learning activities focusing on cognition and transformational learning. The design was developed in collaboration with a Georgetown Humanities faculty member (Julia Langley) and a museum arts educator (Dr. Lorena Bradford, NGA). They implemented the course both at the National Gallery of Art and in an online version of the course.

The group completed two evaluative studies of student outcomes. Prior to and following the art session, participants completed an investigator-developed Visual Intelligence Assessment (VIA) scaled survey of 20 items related to observation and communication skills and the role of visual intelligence in perception and empathy. In the second study, they increased quantifiable outcome measurement with an additional Image Assessment Exercise measurement pre- and post-class experience, requiring identification of objective, observable characteristics on human adult photos, scored for accuracy.

The pedagogical innovation was found to be effective in the outcomes measured. The evaluation of the course approach was published in a peer reviewed journal in nursing.

The team thus carefully combined theory-guided design, implementation with a multi-disciplinary group, followed by rigorous evaluation of whether the design was effective.

Join me in congratulating our colleagues on exemplary innovation in delivering instruction to our Georgetown students.

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