Awardee: Kris-Stella Trump (FAS)
Summary: Awardee plans to develop and pilot an open database of section plans for Teaching Fellows in the government department.
Former College Fellow in Government Kris-Stella Trump (PhD ’13) set out to create an online resource of lesson plans (govteaches.fas.harvard.edu) for large, recurring courses where the teaching fellow staff is typically new each year. The project aimed to transfer and improve class-planning materials from generation to generation.
She applied Spark Grant funding for the development of a web-based resource for the government department, as well as incentives for the initial recruitment of teaching fellows to contribute lesson plan content and feedback. “We had imagined that most of the funding would be for web design, but were fortunate to connect with members of the FAS Academic Technology Group who helped us with our initial set-up on Confluence, their wiki platform. This aspect of the project was therefore much less expensive that we planned.” A key consideration in the selection of a web platform was PIN protection to provide TFs a secure platform to share their materials, open to Harvard but not to the world.
Recruiting teaching fellows to participate turned out to be the bigger challenge, and Trump offered gift cards to amazon.com and Starbucks. “We used the weekly TF meetings of targeted courses to make the project visible. In these meetings we also publically reward teaching fellows who participated, in order to show that people are contributing and others should too.”
Another key finding surfaced when Trump convened eight TFs to test and give feedback on the in-development site: “It became very clear that the planned interactive component, where TFs could rate lesson plans, comment on them, and submit improvements, would not fly due to the time commitment this would require. Rather, the TF’s expressed that they would be more likely to actually use a curated resource that contained lesson plans that were user-ready.”
This feedback made it apparent that the tool would ultimately need to be sustained by a person based in the department whose role responsibilities included updating the content year over year; ultimately, the responsibilities became part of the role description of Departmental Teaching Fellows and the Government Department.
When Trump left her position in 2015, she had rolled out the website to two courses: Gov97: Sophomore Tutorial in Government and Gov 20: Foundations of Comparative Politics. By that time, the repository had found a new online home as the inward-facing “GovTeaches” side of the broader “GovWrites” project.
Trump imagines that the tool could be scaled to other departments where there are large-format courses with new teaching staff annually. “The demand would be there. Success would primarily depend on whether you can instill participation into the department culture.”