Blog

Lending structure to collaborative work

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

Kathryn Parker BoudettKathryn Parker Boudett, Lecturer on Education, carefully structures the way students learn to collaborate with one another in her course, Data Wise: Using Data to Improve Teaching and Learning. For example, she models collaborative learning through an open discussion of student feedback, or “pluses and deltas,” collected in the previous session with the whole class. She also makes sure students receive plenty of experience putting into practice the ideas from one of the core texts for the course, Meeting Wise: Making the Most of Collaborative Time for Educators. She does ... Read more about Lending structure to collaborative work

Using digital resources to augment course materials

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

Teddy Svoronos Into PracticeTheodore Svoronos, lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, developed digital-learning materials as part of the Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence (BCURE) project and now uses them for both residential and online-learning communities.

The benefits: Svoronos found that the modularity of a BCURE course on Descriptive Evidence allowed him to repurpose the content as introductory material for his residential students in statistics: “BCURE provided rich, interactive examples that policymakers in India and Pakistan had learned from,... Read more about Using digital resources to augment course materials

Mastering course content through creative assignments

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

Kramer_Holbrook_Into PracticeElena Kramer, Bussey Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and Noel Michele Holbrook, Charles Bullard Professor of Forestry, co-teach General Education course OEB 52: Biology of Plants through lectures, labs, field trips, and weekly quizzes that students use to combine concepts into a creative project at the end of the semester. The prompt, “Trace the rise of the sporophyte,” results in the production of resources like videos, art pieces, fashion magazines, original songs, poems, and children’s books that students present in an arts festival during the final class. 

The benefits: Students have to refer back to course activities to help crystalize what they’ve been learning all semester, which ultimately helps them prepare for the final exam. Students tell Kramer the creative projects help them better understand course concepts: “It’s not just busy work, it’s not just fun; it actually makes them think about everything they’ve learned through the semester.”

The challenges: A standard grading rubric is difficult to apply to projects produced in various mediums.... Read more about Mastering course content through creative assignments

Identifying knowledge gaps through illustrations

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

Carl Novina, Into PracticeDr. Carl Novina, Associate Professor of Medicine, and his co-instructor Shannon Turley, amended the traditional graduate seminar Critical Reading for Immunology to teach students comprehension and presentation skills essential to a career in biomedical science. To introduce a topic, students read research papers and present a focused background on the field the paper sought to advance. Then, rather than discussing the paper linearly, students select a key figure that best highlighted the main point. Throughout the semester,students revisit central points of papers and diagram them on the white board—“an effective means to help students better process information ... Read more about Identifying knowledge gaps through illustrations

One person’s story as entry to complex historical issues

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

Gabriela Soto LaveagaGabriela Soto Laveaga, Professor of the History of Science, illustrates how combining nineteenth century documents with oral histories can help unpack complex current issues and disrupt certain assumptions on topics such as undocumented border crossings, addiction, and disease along our southern border. All topics are covered in HISTSCI 140 - Public Health on the Border: Race, Politics, and Health in Modern Mexico, in which she challenges students to expand their own perspectives on these current themes through a variety of assignments including an oral history of an individual.

The benfits: Focusing on individual experiences and pairing them with documentary evidence helps students set aside... Read more about One person’s story as entry to complex historical issues

The merits of an equal basis of ignorance

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

Giovanni ParmigianiGiovanni Parmigiani, Professor of Biostatistics, selects new scientific articles as well as opinion pieces for freshman seminar course FRSEMR 22H – My Genes and Cancer to discuss in-the-moment scientific discoveries in genetics research, and encourages students to also recommend topics of interest. This “equal basis of ignorance” establishes an environment where he and his students learn and develop opinions together.

 The benefits:  Less constrained by his expertise, Parmigiani finds students ask the really simple (and hard) questions. They have to wrestle more concretely with moral dilemmas such as the implications of changing the genome of future children, poke holes in each other’s assumptions and arguments, and develop their own voices. This deepens debate and discussion.... Read more about The merits of an equal basis of ignorance

Working with local communities to engage with global issues

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

Maria Luisa Parra-VelascoMaría Luisa Parra-Velasco, Senior Preceptor in Romance Languages and Literatures, requires her advanced Spanish language learners in Spanish 59: Spanish and the Community to complete four hours a week of engaged scholarship with local organizations as part of their language learning experience. Through classroom discussions, travels from Cambridge to Chelsea (for example), meaningful interactions, and conversations in Spanish with members of the Latino community, they explore powerful concepts like “the borderlands” as related to global migration, changes in local demography, and in-between identities.... Read more about Working with local communities to engage with global issues

Cultivating the skill and the orientation to listen

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

Joshua Margolis Into PracticeJoshua Margolis, James Dinan and Elizabeth Miller Professor of Business Administration, demands of himself intensive listening while teaching, and asks the same from students: “When I listen really carefully it allows me to push students hard and help them see what they have within themselves.” While students speak, he makes direct eye contact and maintains it even when he moves in the classroom so they’re addressing the rest of the class, not just him. Margolis asks a series of follow-up questions and then summarizes after every three to five interactions.... Read more about Cultivating the skill and the orientation to listen

Debate as pedagogy: Practices, tools, and examples from Harvard faculty

Why and when should debate be used as a teaching and learning tool? 

Professors Eric Beerbohm (government), Jill Lepore (history), and Charles Nesson (law) all use debate as pedagogical practice to inspire lively class discussion and enhance learning. They shared their experiences with different methods and supportive technology at the HILT Speaker Series events on Monday, April 24, 2017, where Errikos Pitsos also demonstrated the functionality of online debate tool Kialo. Key takeaways:... Read more about Debate as pedagogy: Practices, tools, and examples from Harvard faculty

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