The 2022 annual HILT Conference will explore various approaches to collaborative learning and the successes and challenges in facilitating group dynamics. Our plenary session will demonstrate the importance of psychological safety as a foundation for successful teamwork. Breakout sessions will showcase current practices from Harvard faculty across the University on topics related to the effective design and implementation of group projects and collaborative learning. All will highlight students’ first-hand experiences engaging with the learning and teaching environment.
Dr. Carmen Messerlian, Assistant Professor of Environmental Reproductive, Perinatal, and Pediatric Epidemiology, remodeled the department’s gateway Reproductive and Perinatal Epidemiology I course after her first year teaching it. Drawing on key observations and 6-8 hours of one-on-one student meetings per week, “I wanted to understand students’ learning needs and requirements, their goals for the course, and where their training was going to take them.” From there, she synthesized both her own experience in the field and quantitative student review data to radically revise the course’s structure. Now the course helps students develop their scientific research skills, explicitly scaffolding how to perform activities that students rarely get formal training in, like academic journal peer reviews, abstract writing, and poster presentations. At its core, the course trains students “how to become a reproductive epidemiologist,” and to learn how to put on “an epidemiological lens” when they produce, digest, or evaluate material in the field.
Paul B. Bottino, Co-Founder, Executive Director, and Lecturer at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, offers Start-up R&D to undergraduate students across disciplines who are interested in the field and have a particular project idea in mind. Within the workshop course structure, “each student project is the educational centerpiece.” Student groups work on a variety of innovative startup projects seeking solutions to problems they care about. The course uses multiple approaches to help students build upon their ideas and receive constructive feedback: “challenge sessions” where students outline their biggest obstacles to a small group of peers; individual meetings with Bottino and teaching fellows; and connections with alumni. “It’s like a Greek forum of peers, near-peers, and mentors” with students learning that “entrepreneurship is a creative and iterative research practice of idea formulation, experimentation, and feedback.” At the end of term, students present and receive feedback on projects at a public event “Demo Day.”
When William Fisher, WilmerHale Professor of Intellectual Property Law, was approached to create an online course version of his Harvard Law School Copyright course, he agreed with the stipulation that CopyrightX be paired with the residential version, that enrollment be limited to 500, and that students meet in discussion sections of 25. Both online and residential students watch the same 90-minute lecture video prior to class time. When the class meets, Fisher facilitates case study discussions with residential students and 15-20 teaching fellows do so for sections of online students. Sometimes, residential and online students meet virtually to hear from a guest speaker.
Robert Reid-Pharr, Professor of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality and of African American Studies strives to create a “rigorous but not frightening” classroom experience for the course Gender, Sexuality, and the Archive, in which students take turns leading class discussion—presenting thoughts on, challenges to, and questions about course readings derived from essays they have written. With facilitation from Reid-Pharr, their peers then ask difficult questions of the discussion leader that begin to generate meaningful conversation.
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.
HILT’s eighth annual conference held on September 27, 2019, in Wasserstein Hall, explored various approaches to peer learning at Harvard and beyond: in the classroom (residential and online) and outside the classroom.
Though Timothy Patrick McCarthy, Lecturer on History and Literature, Public Policy, and Education, plays an integral role in class discussions for his course Stories of Slavery and Freedom, students are responsible for leading the majority of classes through an exercise McCarthy refers to as “provocation.” “The provokers do not come in and give a summary of what we’ve read or a mini-lecture about the top-line themes that might emerge from the assigned readings. I really want them to find some way to literally provoke us into conversation, get the juices flowing, and try to get all the students to think about something urgently at the outset of class.”
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.
When enrollment for seminar After Luther: Faith, Will, Law, and the Question of Goodness doubled last year, Michelle Sanchez, Assistant Professor of Theology, was concerned that the depth and quality of the connections—with and among students and the texts they read together—would diminish. In response, she modified some logistical elements including assigning different pairs of students to circulate brief response papers before class and then lead discussion each week.
Dr. 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.
Marianne 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.
With Advance Grant funding, Rehding established regular lab meetings to refine the goals of SLab 2.0, updated equipment in the lab to accommodate the increased usage of the space, designed a website to host a repository of digital projects and to highlight current student projects, and hosted masterclasses open to the Harvard community.
Awardees will continue development of AskUp, a free, open-source studying and learning app that leverages evidence-based techniques to enhance learning, and will evaluate the efficacy of the application’s improvement to metacognition, self-directed learning, and class performance through small randomized trials.
Awardees will extend the transformation of traditional to online cases across Harvard by developing a new e-module for delivering teaching cases on-line to public health professionals in field settings, and convening a cross-Harvard workshop to share best practices.
Awardee bridged the gap between statistics courses and students’ ability to implement concepts in their own work with a student-run consulting service to be permanently housed in the Biostatistics Department.
Awardees evaluated types of interactivity between faculty and students and generated a resource guide of best practices to assist instructors in interacting with online and residential students in Canvas.
Awardees will pilot an advanced elective in primary care medicine and teaching, where senior medical students tutor junior medical students in clinical skills, with assessment of its benefits to both students enrolled in the elective and the junior students they tutor.