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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This talk will explore teaching about difference in a Harvard Divinity School course that looks at connections between the Harlem Renaissance and Mexican Modernism during the 1920s and 1930s. Using holiday-themed examples and compelling visual images, we will juxtapose the lives and works of two important figures in the course: Miguel Covarrubias, a Mexican-born caricaturist who spent most of his life in New York City illustrating for Harlem Renaissance texts and popular magazines, and Elizabeth Catlett, a U.S.-born Black sculptor and printmaker who spent her life in Mexico where she created some of the most powerful symbols and images of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Covarrubias and Catlett captured our students' imaginations in part because they serve as "human bridges" connecting the United States with Mexico as well the past with the present. Please join for a lively and wide-ranging meditation on the dynamic interplay of race, religion, art, and politics, and the cross-fertilization between history and ethics.
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.
Join members of the Harvard Next Gen Initiative to learn more about their Harvard Culture Lab Innovation Fund pilot program that consolidates, aligns, and enhances Harvard’s institutional supports for Next Gen student populations (predominantly first-gen, low-income students) in and beyond the classroom. This session presents an overview of the Next Gen student population, pedagogical tools that promote Next Gen Student Success, and how each one of us plays a role in strengthening Harvard’s commitment to inclusive excellence.
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.
When it comes to accessibility, it’s much better to be proactive than reactive—especially when designing major components of your courses. Furthermore, designing accessible courses helps provide equitable educational opportunities and added benefits for all learners. Join us to learn more from our panel of accessibility experts from across the University about the ways in which accessibility practices enhance classroom teaching and 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.
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.”