Three years ago, Scot T. Martin, Gordon McKay Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering and Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, decided to “start from scratch” with his approach to teaching thermodynamics. In his course Thermodynamics by Case Study, he found that by focusing on every day, concrete examples (e.g., running, the function of the heart) and demanding an intense level of participation, he could help students unpack ... Read more about Simple examples lead to deep engagement
Jacob K. Olupona, Professor of African and African American Studies andProfessor of African Religious Traditions, collaborated with students from Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013 to develop a team-taught course on entrepreneurship that would appeal to learners across the University. “They felt entrepreneurship was important and central to what people are doing.” Entrepreneurship in Africa is organized topically (e.g., agriculture, energy, healthcare) around the unique challenges... Read more about Inviting guest instructors to teach entrepreneurial theory and practice
This issue of Into Practice is adapted fromInstructional Movescontent produced by the Teaching and Learning Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Paola Arlotta, Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, creates an environment of active inquiry, experimentation, and brainstorming by employing interactive lecturing in her course, Got (New) Brain? The Evolution of Brain Regeneration. An approach which spurs discussion that “often spans multiple fields of study.”
Cassandra G. Extavour, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and of Molecular and Cellular Biology, is one of six co-instructors for LIFESCI 50(A & B) Integrated Science, an intensive two-semester course created by Andrew Murray, Herschel Smith Professor of Molecular Genetics, covering methods and concepts from biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. They design class discussion and assignments as problems that require students to rely on one another to solve."We let them know it's normal to not be able to answer everything on the problem sets on their own. We've structured them that way. They learn to engage with classmates, or with us, to work it out."... Read more about Encouraging students to engage with one another to solve problems (and problem sets)
Karin 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
Alfred 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
Jie 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.
Vincent 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
Joshua 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.”