active learning

Teach, embody, and model deep listening and reflection


Cheryl GilesCheryl 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.

The benefits: “Students learn how to hold multiple perspectives to be true,” explains Giles. A major goal of this course... Read more about Teach, embody, and model deep listening and reflection

Research-based teaching using a collaborative learning approach


Manja KlemencicManja 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.... Read more about Research-based teaching using a collaborative learning approach

Flipping the classroom for deeper student engagement and feedback on learning


L MahadevanL 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.... Read more about Flipping the classroom for deeper student engagement and feedback on learning

Implementing collaborative experimentation


Rachel Carmody, Assistant Professor of Human Evolutionary BiologyRachel 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.... Read more about Implementing collaborative experimentation

Making multiple perspectives and complexities visible


Benjamin SommersBenjamin Sommers, Professor of Health Policy and Economics, finishes his Healthcare Safety Net and Vulnerable Populations course with a debate: students are randomly assigned to roles—as senators, witnesses, or experts—and probe aspects of healthcare policy, simulating deliberations that take place on the Senate floor. Somewhat similar to real hearings, each witness makes an opening statement and then takes questions from acting Senators.

The benefits: This exercise pushes students to not only delve into the details of policies, but also to understand how politics... Read more about Making multiple perspectives and complexities visible

ABLConnect: Role Play Description

ABLConnect offers guidance on using role play in the classroom and shares documents and examples of ways to encourage students to reflect on the learning process.

ABLConnect: Role Play Examples

ABLConnect offers guidance on using role play in the classroom and shares documents and examples of ways to encourage students to reflect on the learning process.

A balancing act: Making established courses your own


Karin ObergKarin Öberg, Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Astronomy, taught departmental introductory course Stellar and Planetary Astronomy in 2016 by building on established material and modifying the curriculum using student feedback and her own observational assessment.

The benefits: Öberg saved pre-semester preparation time by using the same in-class worksheets of earlier iterations and retaining the course’s primary elements—three lab sessions; weekly blog post assignments; and an active, collaborative learning in-class format supervised and assisted by roaming instructors.... Read more about A balancing act: Making established courses your own

Leveraging student heterogeneity to bridge gaps through active learning


Marianne Wessling-ResnickMarianne Wessling-Resnick, Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry, employs active learning strategies including debate, ‘pair and share,’ and peer evaluation to bridge gaps in student experience and knowledge. “I have found that it is to my advantage to use the heterogeneity of the class as a tool.”

The benefits: Students enrolled in graduate courses at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health represent diverse academic preparation and intended career tracks, illustrated in matrix form to prospective students. “No matter what part of the quadrant you are in... Read more about Leveraging student heterogeneity to bridge gaps through active learning

Debate (ablConnect)

The ablConnect database highlights Harvard examples of active learning strategies including debate, pair and share, and peer instruction. 

Engaging students via field trips, near and far

James Hanken, MCZ

James Hanken, Professor of Biology and Director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ), increases student engagement by taking students out of the traditional classroom. Whether organizing his freshman seminar around weekly excursions to Harvard’s museums, or guiding a spring break field trip to Costa Rica for undergraduates enrolled in OEB 167 Herpetology, these immersive experiences “provide opportunities for students to see and understand things they simply won’t get in the classroom.”

The benefits: While Hanken favors the traditional lecture for certain material, field trips expose students to people and ideas unavailable in the classroom setting, like interviewing museum directors about the challenges of curation and exhibit administration. The field exposure in Costa Rica, a trip largely sponsored by the MCZ, gives students an understanding of animals as living organisms, not just static entities—an immersive experience "we are uniquely qualified to offer."... Read more about Engaging students via field trips, near and far

Course-based field trip grants

The David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies provides grants to faculty who design and lead course-based field trips. 

Pages