The 2021 annual HILT Conference will explore how we teach students to become global agents of change. Our plenary session will consider how our collective experiences in remote teaching and learning allowed us to rethink our models of instruction, community building, and curriculum. Breakout sessions will explore the various ways instructors can equip students to confront ongoing world-wide challenges through active learning, collaborative groups, and engaged scholarship.
Nicole Mills, Senior Preceptor in Romance Languages and Literatures, helps students grasp the French language and experience the culture through “alternative classroom contexts.” Specifically, students participate in virtual reality (VR) experiences alongside the curriculum. During the first week of the semester, students immerse themselves in the daily lives of four different Parisians from the same quarter through a series of 360 VR videos that were self-recorded by the Parisians themselves. They then partner to challenge stereotypes of Parisian culture and compare observations and findings. For remote learning, Mills added both amateur and professional VR films showcasing Parisian life with accompanying tasks. These VR experiences are mediated by one-on-one 30-minute discussions with Parisians designed to both develop interactional competence and encourage the discovery of cultural phenomena. VR can transport students to culturally immersive experiences that are otherwise impossible given COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Terence D. Capellini, Richard B Wolf Associate Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology, empowers students to grow as researchers in his Building the Human Body course through a comprehensive, course-long collaborative project that works to understand the changes in the genome that make the human skeleton unique. For instance, of the many types of projects, some focus on the genetic basis of why human beings walk on two legs. This integrative “Evo-Devo” project demands high levels of understanding of biology and genetics that students gain in the first half of class, which is then applied hands-on in the second half of class. Students work in teams of 2-3 to collect their own morphology data by measuring skeletons at the Harvard Museum of Natural History and leverage statistics to understand patterns in their data. They then collect and analyze DNA sequences from humans and other animals to identify the DNA changes that may encode morphology. Throughout this course, students go from sometimes having “limited experience in genetics and/or morphology” to conducting their own independent research. This project culminates in a team presentation and a final research paper.
Deborah Jewell-Sherman, Gregory R. Anrig Professor of Practice in Educational Leadership, helps students develop leadership skills and a deeper understanding of the work involved in being a systems-level leader. In her two-term course, The Workplace Lab for System-Level Leaders (WPL), students actively collaborate with school districts across the nation, including the local Cambridge, Lincoln and Boston public schools. Jewell-Sherman intentionally scaffolds the course from personal introspection to undertaking significant problems of practice for sitting superintendents and CEO’s of educational entities. Before students are assigned to teams that maximize diversity in leadership and communication styles, they deeply reflect to identify their core values. “In terms of practice,” she notes, “it’s important to know who you are and for what you stand.” Groups collaborate on simulations and analyze case studies based on real-world problems while leveraging recent research. Later, students work directly with community partners and present recommendations in a “New Haven” run before hosting an on-campus final “Broadway” run to a full audience. In January, Jewell-Sherman typically takes students on a four-day trip to a school district or educational entity in another state to collaborate on new projects.
Linda Bilmes, Daniel Patrick Moynihan Senior Lecturer in Public Policy, created the Harvard Kennedy School’s first-ever field lab, which combines in-class learning with real-world project work in local and state governments. Since its inception in 2005, the course has involved hundreds of students from across Harvard graduate schools. It is an advanced course focused on public finance, operations and budgeting. Each year, Bilmes and her teaching team receive dozens of applications from mayors and city managers. She and her team select a small number of intellectually challenging projects with buy-in at the highest level. The selected partners describe their projects to students at the start of the term; projects range from addressing homelessness to municipal debt. Then students go on site visits to “get a sense of the crunchiness” of each task and to rank clients by interest before they are sorted into collaborative teams. At the end of the semester, students present recommendations to clients.
Jorrit de Jong, Lecturer in Public Policy, combines practice, research, and engagement with learning and teaching in his course Innovation Lab: Public Problem Solving in Massachusetts Cities, in which students participate in a field-based, problem-oriented, and experiential setting, immersed in local city governments. Students observe, first-hand, the work of public servants—going on inspection tours, triaging cases, analyzing geo-spatial data, reconciling competing priorities and politics—and then pitch proposals to city mayors, usually building on the work of previous students.
Lily Song, Lecturer and Research Associate, divides her course, Community Development: History, Theory, and Imaginative Practice, into three sections. In “Unraveling,” students read theoretical texts about community development and interrogate dominant approaches that uphold race, class, and gender-based supremacies. “Revisiting” immerses students in alternative histories of community development, drawing on various liberation struggles and movements. Finally, “praxis” brings community development practitioners to present and discuss their work. The course seeks to create a peer-learning community that pushes past remedial and reformist approaches to community development in order to intervene on prevailing economic, political, social, and spatial structures and processes that lock communities in denigrating and dehumanizing terms. By showcasing and interrogating work being done in the field, it breaks down students’ barriers to entry.
Robert S. Huckman, Albert J. Weatherhead III Professor of Business Administration and Ariel Dora Stern, Poronui Associate Professor of Business Administration pair student groups with local hospitals to address challenges related to access, adoption of new delivery methods, and the quality of care in their elective course, Transforming Healthcare Delivery. This applied work is rooted in a series of cases that have been written by Harvard Business School (HBS) faculty and articles that cover broader ideas from the literature and previous research.
Rachel Carmody, Assistant Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology, explores a burgeoning new field in her course Gut Microbiome and Human Health. The main goals are for students to develop the skills to understand how experiments are designed and conducted, and to critically evaluate existing studies and emerging research papers. Students are challenged to generate new data of their own and run experiments to investigate a predetermined hypothesis individually and collectively during the semester. They regularly discuss the results of their experiments and produce final research papers that use the collective data to explore any aspect of the hypothesis that interests them.
Benjamin Sommers, Professor of Health Policy and Economics, finishes his Healthcare Safety Net and Vulnerable Populations course with a debate: students are randomly assigned to roles—as senators, witnesses, or experts—and probe aspects of healthcare policy, simulating deliberations that take place on the Senate floor. Somewhat similar to real hearings, each witness makes an opening statement and then takes questions from acting Senators.
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When Dr. Kevin Eggan, Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, did research as an undergraduate, it “transformed for me what science was and what it could be.” His Precision Genetics and Gene Therapy year-long course offers sophomores a similar opportunity. In the fall, students are introduced to a “jamboree of recent medical discoveries in Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).” Working in small groups, they explore and then choose a gene to focus on. In the spring, they continue in small groups to experiment on mice, learn tools for analyzing the data they generate, and present to their peers, instructors, and external experts along the way.
Jal David Mehta, Associate Professor of Education, directs students to use design thinking and interact with real-world stakeholders when making proposals to improve educational systems in his course Deeper Learning for All: Designing a 21st-Century School System. At the end of the semester, students present final projects to panels of educational experts ranging from superintendents to K-12 teachers to Harvard Graduate School of Education faculty.
Gonzalo Giribet, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, takes students in his course Biology and Evolution of Invertebrate Animals (co-taught this semester with Professor Cassandra Extavour) to Panama to do fieldwork during spring break to help them see how invertebrate animals “are assembled in nature,” and how “organisms are integrated into systems.” Students incur no costs for the trip thanks to funding from the Museum of Comparative Zoology.
Resources on in-class teaching from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, including 1) Building Rapport, 2) Classroom Contracts, 3) Active Learning, 4) Instructional Strategies, and 5) Technology and Student Distraction.
María 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.
Jelani Nelson, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, assigns students real programming problems in his introductory algorithm courses, CS124Data Structures and Algorithms and CS125 Algorithms & Complexity.
Ryan Enos, Associate Professor of Government, assigns an original research project—students define a question, design a study, collect data, and present their results—in his undergraduate and graduate political science courses.