Blog

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-world’ projects: Balancing student learning and community need

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

ForsythAnn Forsyth, Professor of Urban Planning, incorporates projects with clients into many of her Graduate School of Design courses, from semester-long endeavors to optional assignments. Students gain experience designing sustainable and healthy cities by working with and producing reports for government, educational, and non-profit organizations.

The benefits: While students can learn new perspectives researching a case or scoping a theoretical project, partnering with clients offers a chance to understand political, ethical, and technical dimensions and manage time with real stakes. “Students are required to meet with the community, relate to people, and collect data in that context. It adds a certain ethical commitment.”

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)

 

Late semester assignments: Recognizing merit through collaboration

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

Guinier
Lani Guinier, Bennett Boskey Professor of Law, incorporates collaboration into her late semester assignments in order to provide opportunities for self-improvement and self-reflection. “By sharing perspectives and differing approaches, classmates can in some cases teach their students more effectively than the professor.”

The benefits: Whether encouraging lecture course students to take their final exam in small groups or asking seminar students to prepare and lead portions of late semester discussions, Guinier believes collaborative endeavors show students that understanding how to get the answer is as important as getting the answer. 

Blended Learning: Using interactive online modules before class to enhance learning in class

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

Dan Levy, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Faculty Chair of the Strengthening Learning and Teaching Excellence (SLATE) Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School, developed a series of online modules for Advanced Quantitative Methods I, work made possible by teaching fellow Teddy Svoronos and SLATE staff member Mae Klinger. The modules contain interactive videos, diagrams, and practice problems; an end-of-module quiz; and an anonymous feedback survey.

Primary sources: Teaching humanity in history

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

Catherine Brekus
Catherine Brekus, Charles Warren Professor of the History of Religion in America, worked with Schlesinger Research Librarian Amanda Strauss this semester to design a session for her freshman seminar on Christianity and slavery: “When I arrived for our meeting, there was a table full of materials for me to look at—Amanda did so much work.”

The benefits: Handling primary source material connects students to humanity: “these were real people, with real lives, concerns, joys, and sorrows.” She and Strauss created four stations of 19th century sourcesillustrating perspectives on slavery, including Harriett Beecher Stowe’s personal copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and a diary with no mention of the Civil War or slavery—Strauss’s idea, to round out the variety of human experiences of the era.

Linking learning outcomes and topics across the undergraduate curriculum

The Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT) welcomed guest speaker Karen Willcox, MIT Professor of Aeronautics & Astronautics, and over 40 attendees to its Scholar to Practitioner Speaker Series on January 26, 2016. In addition to her research pursuits, Willcox is active in education innovation (biography).

Her talk, entitled “Linking Learning Outcomes and Topics across the Undergraduate Curriculum,” focused on curriculum mapping – the appropriateness of the talk location in room B-30 next to the maps section of Lamont Library did not go unnoticed! – and addressed the benefits and possible applications of three relevant platforms developed by her team. Jump to full video.

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.”