A Crash course in Harvard College and undergraduates

Awardees: Michael Zachau Walker and Sophia Watkins (College)

Summary: Awardees designed a workshop for teaching fellows to increase understanding of teaching Harvard undergraduates in order to foster meaningful and productive relationships. The goal was to improve teaching and learning experiences for both graduate teaching fellows and college students.

“Our experiences in Harvard classrooms have varied widely, and we realized how these learning environments can be drastically improved through increased communication between undergraduates and teaching fellows.” — Sophia Watkins ’15

A Conversation between undergraduates and teaching fellows at Harvard College

Michael Zachau Walker and Sophia Watkins designed and implemented a workshop in the spring 2015 semester about teaching undergraduates and undergraduate life at Harvard for graduate students prior to their first semester as teaching fellows.

The idea for “A Crash Course on Harvard College and Teaching Undergraduates” surfaced during their stint teaching at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, in particular the success of a discussion group they designed for international graduate students.

Walker and Watkins conducted significant research and outreaching, including interviewing and surveying faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students to inform their workshop design. They hopes to foster in teaching fellows, a better understanding of Harvard undergraduates and life at the college, and how to encourage more meaningful and productive relationships between students and instructor. The pilot program included four departments, and the sessions were very well received by teaching fellows and departments. After the pilot, they began developing a program with the Bok Center and the Undergraduate Council, secured additional funding, and hired new workshop leaders to institutionalize the program for the future.