Into Practice, a biweekly communication distributed from the Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning to active instructors during the academic year was inspired by a successful 2012 HILT grant project. The e-letter highlights the pedagogical practices of individual faculty members from across Schools and delivers timely, evidence-based teaching advice, contributing to and strengthening a University-wide community of practice around teaching.

Below is a catalog of all the Into Practice issues sorted by the publication date. To subscribe to Into Practice, please sign-up via our Mailing List page.

  • Learning from and giving back to the community through the classroom

    Learning from and giving back to the community through the classroom

    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.

  • Using the classroom to challenge the boundaries of a discipline

    Using the classroom to challenge the boundaries of a discipline

    Sawako Kaijima, Assistant Professor of Architecture and Shutzer Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute, challenges students’ preconceptions towards material often defined by their disciplinary norms though the use of visual programing to foster an “intuitive understanding of structural engineering in architectural design.” Structural design and architectural design often live separately in teaching and practice but are fundamentally linked. So her Interface Design: Integrating Material Perceptions course seeks to fuse these two disciplines. The use of a software tool developed specifically for this course, which is accessible even to students with no programming experience, “defamiliarizes architecture students from the common way of looking at materials” and introduces them to an engineering perspective right from the start.

  • Bridging practice and theory in the professional classroom

    Bridging practice and theory in the professional classroom

    Dr. Richard Schwartzstein, Ellen and Melvin Gordon Professor of Medicine and Medical Education, is revolutionizing textbook-dependent classrooms by incorporating real-life applications. In this case, first-year Harvard Medical School students apply their reading through case simulations. A robot functions as the patient, and a small group of students take on various roles to work together and treat the patient. Students are supported by a facilitator, who offers guiding questions but no direct answers, as well as the rest of the class, who serve as consultants or in other supporting roles in the case, like the patient’s family. “Instead of a paper case, now it feels much more real. And suddenly, they’re immersed in taking care of a patient,” Dr. Schwartzstein reflects. After a simulation ends, the whole class debriefs the case, including what students struggled with and how they felt during the exercise.

  • Treating merging forms of evidence around us as a collective ensemble

    Treating merging forms of evidence around us as a collective ensemble

    As an historian of religions, Davíd Carrasco, Neil L. Rudenstine Professor for the Study of Latin America, conducts his courses through an ensemble approach, which enables students to learn about complex evidence from a variety of approaches, sources and mediums. This approach contains four parts: (1) an interdisciplinary intellectual method, (2) incorporating a variety of sources, including artifacts, texts, films, and museum exhibitions; (3) expanding disciplinary perspectives through team teaching and visiting speakers; and (4) organizing diverse student experiences and inviting a range of responses. One example of the ensemble in action is Carrasco’s annual collaboration with the Peabody Museum on their Día de los Muertos exhibition as part of his Gen Ed course, Montezuma’s Mexico: Then and Now (co-taught with William L. Fash) in which students visit and add their own interpretations and art works to the ofrendas.

  • Engaging with course material and serving communities at the same time

    Engaging with course material and serving communities at the same time

    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.

  • Reconfiguring classroom mechanics to break down hegemony & build up student learning

    Reconfiguring classroom mechanics to break down hegemony & build up student learning

    John Asher Johnson, Professor of Astronomy, aims to cut through dominant constructs of what teaching looks like and to disrupt hegemonies in his classes through collective norms setting and conveying to students that they are “intellectual peers with the professor.” He structures his courses around the Tao of TALC method in which students work on assignments in collaborative groups while the instructor and TFs use the Socratic method to stimulate collective problem-solving.

  • Using asynchronous learning to improve students’ learning experiences

    Using asynchronous learning to improve students’ learning experiences

    Elisa New, Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature, has ample experience blending asynchronous and synchronous learning to teach students at Harvard and beyond. Asynchronous learning happens independently from in-person class time and can take many forms. In her courses, New has incorporated on-location “field-trips,” discussions with relevant authors, and even recordings of former student discussions, which has helped current students “up their game.” “People really love those. They like to see how a good discussion works.”

  • Grappling with a global pandemic in class, as a class

    Grappling with a global pandemic in class, as a class

    Jonathan Zittrain, George Bemis Professor of International Law, adapted his digital governance course to incorporate what everyone was really focused on in mid-spring of 2020: the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of “compartmentalizing” between class and crisis, he reworked the syllabus to respond to students’ needs and evolving experiences. Zittrain replaced the final exam with collaborative reports in which students examined aspects of the pandemic through the lens of digital governance dilemmas. “The idea was to offer students an opportunity to apply what they learned in the course to problems that were on everybody’s mind.”

  • Keeping students engaged and learning through the “human hook”

    Keeping students engaged and learning through the “human hook”

    Maya Jasanoff, X. D. and Nancy Yang Professor of Arts and Sciences and Coolidge Professor of History, uses narratives to engage students and deepen their understanding of course content. From her Gen Ed course Ancestry to her upper-level seminar Narrative History: Art and Argument, Jasanoff demonstrates that “stories do not necessarily mean fiction; rather, stories are simply arguments based on the evidence. The former cannot exist without the latter.”

  • Applying Pedagogical Insights to Large Online Courses

    Applying Pedagogical Insights to Large Online Courses

    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.

  • Understanding pathophysiology with real-life vignettes

    Understanding pathophysiology with real-life vignettes

    Barbara Cockrill, Harold Amos Academy Associate Professor of Medicine, uses case-based collaborative learning (CBCL) in her Homeostasis I course to help medical students explore real-life clinical scenarios they may face as practitioners. Case discussions start in cohorts of four students, formed at the beginning of the course, and focus on a series of questions. Discussion continues with the full class of 40 students, facilitated by Cockrill and other medical school faculty.

  • Engaging students in a field-based, problem-oriented, experiential course

    Engaging students in a field-based, problem-oriented, experiential course

    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.

  • Lowering the barriers to becoming a practitioner

    Lowering the barriers to becoming a practitioner

    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.

  • Establishing a rigorous and invigorating classroom

    Establishing a rigorous and invigorating classroom

    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.

  • Teach, embody, and model deep listening and reflection

    Teach, embody, and model deep listening and reflection

    Cheryl Giles, Francis Greenwood Peabody Senior Lecturer in Pastoral Care and Counseling, shares her own experiences, missteps, and successes to demonstrate self-awareness for students in her course Counseling for Wellness and Resilience: Fostering Relational Wisdom. She encourages students to listen deeply to themselves and others without judgment by practicing mindfulness throughout the course.

  • Motivating students to transition from learning-for-testing to learning-for-learning

    Motivating students to transition from learning-for-testing to learning-for-learning

    In his Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics course (a core class for physics concentrators) Matthew Schwartz, Professor of Physics, tries to move his students away from a binge-learning exam-based model, common in science classes, to one of sustained learning throughout the semester. To do this, he persuades students to read the course materials before class through comprehensive pre-class quizzes, replaces the midterm with a non-collaborative problem set, and assigns a take-home final weighted the same as two problem sets.

  • Engaging Students with Difficult Text Through a Flipped Classroom

    Engaging Students with Difficult Text Through a Flipped Classroom

    In his general education courses, Jay Harris, Harry Austryn Wolfson Professor of Jewish Studies, posts two different videos prior to class for students to view: pre-reading videos contextualize and provide guidance for the week’s readings, and lecture videos replace Harris’s in-class lectures on the material. Students then send their questions and comments to Harris through Canvas, which he uses to build the class discussion. 

  • Research-based teaching using a collaborative learning approach

    Research-based teaching using a collaborative learning approach

    Manja Klemenčič, Lecturer on Sociology, has scaled a small research-based seminar course for sociology concentrators to one of Harvard College’s newest general education courses, Higher Education: Students, Institutions, and Controversies. While the previous iteration asked students to conduct an individual research project, the new version emphasizes the importance of group work and collaboration. “Students will learn how to conduct social science research and practice working as a research group exploring issues close to their student experiences.” Projects will culminate in a symposium presentation about student research findings and will be showcased on the platform Harvard Undergraduate Research into Higher Education.

  • Mutually beneficial partnerships

    Mutually beneficial partnerships

    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.

  • Physically inhabiting new and different spaces

    Physically inhabiting new and different spaces

    Virginie Greene, Professor of Romance Languages and Literature, transfers the theme of her Freshman Seminar course, The Grail Quest of Marcel Proust, to the classroom by holding every class session in a different location around the Harvard campus or in the Boston area. “Teaching a freshman seminar allows you to do something a little rash and provoke students. A knight going on a quest never stays in the same spot twice.” Whether they are exploring Sanders Hall, the Harvard Art Museum, or the Boston Public Library, class time is split between exploring the space and discussing the week’s reading.

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