group work

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

Difficult topics: Seeking and considering alternative viewpoints in the classroom

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

Meira Levinson

Meira Levinson, Professor of Education, develops case studies about difficult questions in educational ethics—for example, grade inflation, charter schools, and policies that disproportionately impact low-income students of color—for A203 Educational Justice students to debate and discuss the ethical dimensions of educational practice and policy.  

The benefits: In addition to in-depth content analysis, case discussions illuminate different views among students who may have expected they were in like-minded company. According to Levinson, this is an important goal for instructors, as we tend to assume that others think the same as we do: “Students learn that is not true. We are socialized culturally to avoid difficult conversations—‘don’t talk about religion, sex, or politics at a dinner party’—and not often provided opportunities to substantively engage with one another."

Leveraging student heterogeneity to bridge gaps through active learning

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

Wessling-ResnickMarianne Wessling-Resnick, Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry, employs active learning strategies including debate, ‘pair and share,’ and peer evaluation to bridge gaps in student experience and knowledge. “I have found that it is to my advantage to use the heterogeneity of the class as a tool.”

The benefits: Students enrolled in graduate courses at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health represent diverse academic preparation and intended career tracks, illustrated in matrix form to prospective students. “No matter what part of the quadrant you are in, you can use your background and expertise in the classroom.”

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

Putting students at the helm of their learning experience

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

Jon Hanson

Jon Hanson, Alfred Smart Professor of Law, saw an opportunity to improve learning by putting students in the driver's seat. Along with Jacob Lipton, JD ’14, he developed The Systemic Justice Project (SJP) – a policy innovation collaboration, organized and catalyzed by students – as a problem-oriented, team-driven, and experiential approach to courses in legal education.

The benefits: Systemic Justice” and “The Justice Lab” require that students work in teams to select and fully immerse themselves in a current social policy problem, an applied and interdisciplinary experience that many point to as the most memorable and rewarding coursework of their academic career. The approach connects students to issues they care about and the communities and people who stand to benefit from policy change.