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.

  • Teaching system-level thinking with an interdisciplinary lens

    Fawwaz Habbal, Executive Dean for Education and Research and Senior Lecturer on Applied Physics, and Doris Sommer, Ira Jewell Williams, Jr. Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of African and African American Studies, co-teach systems-level thinking. Their course, Aesthetic Pleasure and Smart Design: Janus Faces the Future, trains students to look at complex problems from the perspective of both artists and engineers. This requires the development of skills in scientific assessment and disinterested aesthetic judgment. In the spirit of Renaissance Now, an international movement to promote sustainable development, Habbal and Sommer model the combination of boldness and humility. Students in ES 27 read and reflect on material which ranges from aesthetic philosophy and history to triggers for scientific revolution. Then they tackle a complex problem through a proposal that will gain aesthetic acceptance and be scientifically effective.
  • Building virtual community in a foundational class

    Much like all our faculty across the University, Dr. Tamara Kaplan, Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, shifted the pre-clinical neuroscience course, Mind, Brain, and Behavior, to a remote learning space this past year. In addition to considering curricular materials, Dr. Kaplan and her team agreed that it was especially important to think about the learning environment and students’ social connection with the material, the teaching faculty, and other students. As a result, they developed several systems to foster this social sense of community and “combat the sense of isolation and disconnectedness that can result from online learning” in her class. All course instructors recorded three-minute introductory videos about both their career/research and personal interests. Dr. Kaplan used Canvas to send students daily announcements with learning objectives, key points that came up that day in class, and friendly support. A balance of synchronous and asynchronous communication was used to minimize student burnout and make sure students stayed engaged. Finally, the team built in time for genuine connection with daily half-hour breaks between classes for students to get to know faculty and ask questions. Dr. Kaplan notes, “we realized that creating relationships with faculty is a huge driver of a positive learning environment.”
  • VPAL’s Canvas Dashboards – Lessons Learned

    Zac Wang, HILT’s Senior Manager for Resources Adoption and Impact in VPAL, will discuss Canvas Dashboards-Lessons Learned, and later we will try to identify some of our community needs for Zac to bring back to VPAL.
  • 2021 HILT Conference

    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.
  • Designing and Teaching a Hybrid Course

    The hybrid classroom took teaching and learning world by storm as colleges and universities grappled with balancing online teaching, in-person learning, and public health considerations. With the hybrid model at the forefront of many schools' plans for return to campus in the upcoming academic year, one question looms large: how do we design and teach our courses for a hybrid classroom? How do we teach so that in-person, online, and asynchronous students all feel engaged? What lessons can we take away from this model as we return to fully on-campus teaching? In this HILT Learning Design Affinity Group Lunch & Learn event, faculty and learning designers who have worked or taught in the hybrid model space at Harvard Extension School and Harvard Kennedy School will share their best practices and takeaways.
  • Canvas APIs, LTIs, Data and more!

    We are excited to welcome Gabe Abrams, Senior Software Engineer at DCE who will discuss Canvas APIs, LTIs, Data and more! Following his 20 minute presentation, we will have 10 minutes for Q&A, 10 minutes for networking in breakout rooms, followed by a wrap-up and any announcements.
  • Learning Analytics Reboot

    Please join us on May 19th, 12-1 PM EDT for ‘Learning Analytics Reboot’. This will be a chance to hear what others are doing (or wondering about) with respect to learning analytics at Harvard, and of course networking! In preparation for this meeting we encourage you to read the latest EDUCAUSE 2021 Teaching and Learning Horizons Report.
  • Demonstrating that everyone’s voice is valued

    Dr. Monik Jimenez, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, uses different pedagogical approaches to elevate diverse voices and styles of learning. In her Mass Incarceration & Health in the US course, she balances speaking time between a traditional scholar and an impacted community member, and emphasizes to the latter (and to students) that they are an expert. Dr. Jimenez also provides a variety of ways for students to participate and ask questions that include different cultural and neurodivergent learning styles. “It’s important to think about decolonizing the classroom in a layered way,” she reflects. “What are the multiple ways in which systems of power and white supremacy have impacted what we consider to be an ‘optimal’ student through the metrics we’ve been taught?”
  • Centering student need in gateway courses to the field

    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.
  • Distracted: Using the Science of Learning to Cultivate Student Attention

    It often seems that the current generation of students is more distracted than ever, especially given the proliferation of technology at our fingertips. In the face of ever-present distractions, how can we cultivate students’ attention in order to foster deep learning? In this first meeting of the Research-Informed Teaching and Learning (RITL) Affinity Group, we will share research-based insights from James Lang’s new book Distracted: Why Students Can’t Focus and What You Can Do About It (2020) and collectively brainstorm applications to our own work as educators. (No need to read the book beforehand!) We will also make time to discuss future directions for this affinity group.
  • “I Learn Best When” | Centering Student Voices

    A panel of students from various Harvard Schools will share their experiences as learners. Through the lens of inclusivity and equity, what approaches have they seen work well? What advice do they have for when models or structures don't work so well? The panel will be co-moderated by Sherri Charleston, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (ODIB), and Alta Mauro, Associate Dean of Students for Inclusion and Belonging (Harvard College). All Harvard students are welcome to join the conversation. All Harvard faculty and staff are welcome to attend, learn from our students, and ask questions.
  • Capturing conversation to build ideas collectively

    Ryan Buell, Finnegan Family Associate Professor of Business Administration, leveraged Scribble for his remote course to help students engage with case discussion longitudinally and collectively. The virtual board platform allowed students to engage online in lieu of an in-person experience in which the blackboard operates as a coordinating element for case discussion. “It helps students put the pieces together, allowing them to track any idea shared by the faculty and shared by the students.”
  • Student Success Initiatives

    Please join the HILT Learning Design affinity group on April 28th at 12PM ET for a webinar on recent student success initiatives featuring colleagues from across the Harvard University community. Each of the panel’s presenters will share experiences from the past year related to work supporting their respective learner audiences, along with the challenges and future opportunities this unexpected and prolonged disruption has presented.
  • The importance of incorporating mentorship into your teaching practice

    Dr. Anita Vanka, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Associate Advisor & Director of Hinton Society at Harvard Medical School, co-directs Practice of Medicine with Dr. Katherine Johnston, Assistant Professor of Medicine. The eleven-month course involves several hundred faculty members at different teaching hospitals and is designed to teach first-year medical and dental students how to effectively interview and communicate with patients, perform a thorough physical exam, reason through diagnostic possibilities, and translate findings effectively in both oral and written form. Given the size and breadth of the course, Drs. Vanka and Johnston developed a mentoring system which allows for each student to meet with an assigned faculty advisor at their hospital site several times a year. These meetings encourage faculty to develop personal relationships with the students, oversee their clinical progress, provide feedback, and guide students into setting goals for their learning and progress.
  • Encouraging learning by creating alongside diverse feedback

    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.”
  • Virtual Harvard: Using 3D imaging to support learning space planning

    While many of our campus spaces have been empty, the Virtual Harvard team has been hard at work, capturing high-resolution 3D scans of building interiors. Rus Gant from the Harvard Visualization Lab will show us some examples of what the team is capturing and how they’re doing it, and Cara Noferi from the FAS Office of Physical Resources and Planning will share how the scans are beginning to be used to support planning and projects in FAS learning spaces.
  • Enhancing learning through an alternative (and immersive) classroom

    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.
  • Empowering students to develop research skills

    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.
  • Module 0, Preparing students for online learning success

    What is Module 0? It depends on who you ask. When it comes to helping our students get started with a course, every school has a different way to do that. Some programs focus on helping students access and use technology by providing policy and procedure guidelines, technical training and support. Other programs want to make sure the students have the appropriate incoming knowledge to succeed in the course they are about to begin. Join us to learn about what “Module 0” means at Harvard.
  • 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.