Faculty of Arts & Sciences

Leveraging individual strengths in collaborative projects

This post is republished from Into Practice, a biweekly communication of Harvard’s Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning

Jie LiJie Li, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, provides students with multiple opportunities to collaborate in General Education course AI 63 East Asian Cinema. Students have the option to collaborate in groups of four to five, on projects such as a short film or screenplay, for their weekly and final assignments.

The benefits: In groups, students can experience different roles in the filmmaking process (director, videographer, editor, actor) and combine their diverse

Creative projects: Interpreting history through various media

This post is republished from Into Practice, a biweekly communication of Harvard’s Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning

Vincent BrownVincent Brown, Charles Warren Professor of American History and Professor of African and African American Studies, trains students to interpret history through various media including graphics, data visualizations, videos, and art installations.

The benefits: By tackling creative assignments in HIST 1912 History Design Studio, students learn as historical artists to evaluate and articulate the rationale for why they might select a particular medium. “History doesn’t have to be told in the medium of print. Every medium has different virtues, and sometimes it’s beneficial to see or hear information rather than read it.” Students also complete a final project and 5 to 7-minute presentation open to peer critique.

Problems and puzzles: Boosting engagement with interactivity

This post is republished from Into Practice, a biweekly communication of Harvard’s Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning

Joshua GreeneJoshua Greene, Professor of Psychology, designs course sessions for maximum engagement by creating interactive opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to grapple with problems and challenge one another. “It’s not a puzzle if there are not two competing, compelling arguments. I try to use students’ natural inclinations to achieve my pedagogical purposes—if they’re not at least a little confused, then I’m not doing my job.”

The benefits: Organizing both seminar-style discussions

A ‘tangible dimension’: Learning by making, listening, and tasting

This post is republished from Into Practice, a biweekly communication of Harvard’s Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning

Gojko Barjamovic, Lecturer on Assyriology, increases student learning in ANE 103 Ancient Lives by designing activities to engage students’ full range of senses. “To convince people to commit a semester of study to ancient history, you have to make it meaningful.” 

Gojko Barjamovic_resin_casts

Engaging students via field trips, near and far

This post is republished from Into Practice, a biweekly communication of Harvard’s Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning

HankenJames Hanken, Professor of Biology and Director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ), increases student engagement by taking students out of the traditional classroom. Whether organizing hisfreshman seminar around weekly excursions to Harvard’s museums, or guiding a spring break field trip to Costa Rica for undergraduates enrolled in OEB 167 Herpetology, these immersive experiences “provide opportunities for students to see and understand things they simply won’t get in the classroom.”

Real problems: Teaching theory through practice

This post is republished from Into Practice, a biweekly communication of Harvard’s Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning

NelsonJelani Nelson, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, assigns students real programming problems in his introductory algorithm courses, CS124Data Structures and Algorithms and CS125 Algorithms & Complexity. Students write and test their coded solutions to practice problems via an open server on the course website and receive immediate feedback on their work.

The hidden curriculum: Engaging students on another level

This post is republished from Into Practice, a biweekly communication of Harvard’s Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning

NickelBernhard Nickel, Professor of Philosophy, engages students in his introductory College courses about the “hidden curriculum”—defined here as the social and disciplinary norms often invisible to both students and the teaching staff, including expectations about class preparation, in-session focus, respectful discussion behavior, and the role of feedback.

Museum collections: Using objects to teach the abstract

This post is republished from Into Practice, a biweekly communication of Harvard’s Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning

Racha Kirakosian, Assistant Professor of German and of Religion, selected works of art for an installation at the Harvard Art Museums for students in her freshman seminar, Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Finding Justice and Truth in the Middle Ages

Kirakosian
Assistant Professor Kirakosian encourages students to have a last look at the course installation prior to the final class discussion. (Photo by B.D. Colen)

 

Research assignments: Teaching the production of knowledge

This post is republished from Into Practice, a biweekly communication of Harvard’s Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning

Ryan Enos
Ryan Enos, Associate Professor of Government, assigns an original research project—students define a question, design a study, collect data, and present their results—in his undergraduate and graduate political science courses. “It’s an opportunity to gain first hand experience conducting behavioral experiments, and to navigate all the necessary steps, questions, and challenges.”

The benefits: Engaging in research facilitates the study of the production of knowledge—how it is created, replicated, and validated. According to Enos, “part of being a democratic citizen is being able to evaluate knowledge and understand what goes into it.”

Multimedia assignments: A doable skill, a usable skill

This post is republished from Into Practice, a biweekly communication of Harvard’s Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning

Kuriyama
Shigehisa (Hisa) Kuriyama, Reischauer Institute Professor of Cultural History and Chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, prefers brief video assignments – where students create a visual presentation with audio narrative – to regular written response papers. “I think the ability to express oneself with media is one of the most usable skills.”

The benefits: Students exhibit a sense of ownership, interest, and investment in their media projects – even sharing them with family and friends – unlike written assignments. They improve their multimedia skills, and more critically, students learn to prepare for and present to an audience.