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A balancing act: Making established courses your own

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

Karin Oberg 1Karin Öberg, Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Astronomy, taught departmental introductory course Stellar and Planetary Astronomy in 2016 by building on established material and modifying the curriculum using student feedback and her own observational assessment.

The benefits: Öberg saved pre-semester preparation time by using the same in-class worksheets of earlier iterations and retaining the course’s primary elements—three lab sessions; weekly blog post assignments; and an active, collaborative learning in-class format supervised and assisted by roaming instructors.… Read more about A balancing act: Making established courses your own

Engaging students in a course postmortem dialogue

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

Alfred GuzzettiAlfred Guzzetti, Osgood Hooker Professor of Visual Arts, dedicates the final session of
VES 52R: Introduction to Non-Fiction Videomaking—where students spend the term creating one nonfiction film on a subject of their choosing—to a class-wide postmortem discussion about all course elements.

The benefits: Unlike online course evaluations that close with students’ responses to questions, Guzzetti’s postmortem is a two-hour, informal dialogue: “I ask, ‘Why do you think that? Was it worth spending two weeks on the introductory assignment? What did you get out of it?’ It’s a conversation.”… Read more about Engaging students in a course postmortem dialogue

Perspective-taking and humility training with medical case studies

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

ssayeedDr. Sadath Sayeed, Assistant Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine, introduces issues of ethical reasoning in medicine (e.g., confidentiality, professional boundaries, conflicts of interest, informed consent) with hypothetical cases and vignettes.

The benefits: Discussing anonymized cases helps first-year students in “Medical Ethics and Professionalism” (one component of … Read more about Perspective-taking and humility training with medical case studies

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… Read more about Leveraging individual strengths in collaborative projects

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."… Read more about Difficult topics: Seeking and considering alternative viewpoints in the classroom

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.… Read more about Creative projects: Interpreting history through various media

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 … Read more about Problems and puzzles: Boosting engagement with interactivity

Student case pedagogy: Learning from their own experience

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

HeifetzRonald Heifetz, Co-Founder of the Center for Public Leadership and King Hussein bin Talal Senior Lecturer of Public Leadership, uses experiential teaching methods like student case analysis—where students collaboratively develop and analyze cases drawn from their own work experiences—to promote deeper engagement and stronger retention of leadership concepts.

The benefits: Teaching leadership as practice in the Harvard Kennedy School’s … Read more about Student case pedagogy: Learning from their own experience

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.” … Read more about Leveraging student heterogeneity to bridge gaps through active learning

Pre-texts: The Arts Teach (Anything)

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.

Read more about Pre-texts: The Arts Teach (Anything)