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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • How Good Accessibility Practices Enhance Online Teaching

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.”
  • 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.
  • 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

    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. 
  • Syllabus Explorer

    Harvard Syllabus Explorer is a web application developed by the Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning - Research Group. Syllabus Explorer combines registrarial data and syllabi from Canvas to give users the ability to search for and download syllabi across Harvard.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Flipping the classroom for deeper student engagement and feedback on learning

    L Mahadevan, Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics in SEAS, and Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and of Physics in FAS used a 2017-2018 SEAS Learning Incubator LInc Faculty Fellowship to emphasize active learning in his Mathematical Modeling course. He implemented a flipped classroom approach to enable students to come to class with problems and questions to collaborate on, time to develop their own problems from scratch, and work on modeling with peers. The foundational arc supporting this process has students move from observations through abstraction, analysis and communication, and iteration.
  • Implementing collaborative experimentation

    Rachel Carmody, Assistant Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology, explores a burgeoning new field in her course Gut Microbiome and Human Health. The main goals are for students to develop the skills to understand how experiments are designed and conducted, and to critically evaluate existing studies and emerging research papers. Students are challenged to generate new data of their own and run experiments to investigate a predetermined hypothesis individually and collectively during the semester. They regularly discuss the results of their experiments and produce final research papers that use the collective data to explore any aspect of the hypothesis that interests them.
  • Rubric Visualization Project

    Awardees will create a program to transform raw rubric data into an easy-to-understand visualization that shows which part of an assignment students best performed on and which parts they need help with.
  • Teaching Students How to Learn

    Awardees will develop an interdisciplinary STEM initiative that will enable instructors to incorporate explicit lessons to teach their students how to study and learn both inside and outside of the classroom.
  • Supporting Virtual Reality Pedagogical Initiatives across Harvard

    Awardees will provide virtual reality (VR) equipment, software, and staff training for initiating and supporting innovative VR pedagogical initiatives at the Cabot Science Library VR studio.
  • Helping students see themselves as scientists

    When Dr. Kevin Eggan, Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, did research as an undergraduate, it “transformed for me what science was and what it could be.” His Precision Genetics and Gene Therapy year-long course offers sophomores a similar opportunity. In the fall, students are introduced to a “jamboree of recent medical discoveries in Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).” Working in small groups, they explore and then choose a gene to focus on. In the spring, they continue in small groups to experiment on mice, learn tools for analyzing the data they generate, and present to their peers, instructors, and external experts along the way.
  • Structuring intellectual collaboration and play

    Emily Dolan, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of the Humanities, co-teaches the graduate seminar Instruments and Instrumentalities with Professor and James McGill Chair in Culture and Technology Jonathan Sterne of McGill University in which students from both Harvard and McGill (representing a range of disciplines) engage with one another via audio and video conferencing, trips to each campus, online documents, and other tools.
  • Enhancing student learning through field experience

    Gonzalo Giribet, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, takes students in his course Biology and Evolution of Invertebrate Animals (co-taught this semester with Professor Cassandra Extavour) to Panama to do fieldwork during spring break to help them see how invertebrate animals “are assembled in nature,” and how “organisms are integrated into systems.” Students incur no costs for the trip thanks to funding from the Museum of Comparative Zoology.
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