The Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT) hosted its Speaker Series on November 30, 2016 with guest speakers: Doris Sommer, Ira and Jewell Williams Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of African and African American Studies; Gigi Luk, Associate Professor of Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education; Adriana Gutiérrez, Senior Preceptor in Romance Languages and Literature; and Viviane Gontijo, Senior Preceptor in Romance Languages and Literature.
The talk, entitled “Pre-Texts: The Arts Teach (Anything),” discussed a program for education professionals to employ close reading and critical thinking skills by making art – visual performance, literacy, etc. – based on challenging texts. Professor Sommer described Pre-Texts as a tool that “transfers the authority of learning and gives the keys to unlock knowledge to students.” According to Sommer, it is an effective method achieved with few resources. Jump to full video.
Gigi Luk explained how it works and offered reflections as a psychologist about what Pre-Texts can offer to educational research: she recently administered this tool with a local high school and is gathering data on its effects to increase student engagement and retain enrollment from those students that may otherwise slip through the cracks.
Adriana Gutiérrez and Viviane Gontijo have implemented Pre-Texts in their foreign language courses at Harvard and spoke to increased student engagement and confidence, as well as how this method aligns with their goals to includes lessons about communities, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communication. “With Pre-Texts they orate every day, practice every class – students become less anxious,” Gontijo noted. Regular feedback reveals to the instructor how well students are learning and builds their confidence.