classroom contracts

Practicing complex, new skills in a supportive environment

Linda KaboolianLinda Kaboolian, Instructor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, teaches Negotiations for public health students who will continue to practice these skills in everyday and high-stakes settings all around the world. “I’m a social scientist,” she explains, “so I’m very concerned about how to modify practice as a negotiator to be relevant to the context you’re working with.” Kaboolian underscores the importance of understanding the power dynamics and cultural context at play before negotiating. She designs stylized cases steeped in research on culture and scaffolded in complexity, building from one-on-one discussions to multi-stakeholder, multi-issue dilemmas.

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Social Pedagogies

This article on “social pedagogies” shows how engaging students with “authentic audiences” is crucial for understanding key (and often difficult) concepts in a course. 

Demonstrating that everyone’s voice is valued

Monik JimenezDr. 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 U.S. 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?”

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

John Asher JohnsonJohn 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. 

Research: A Guide to Incorporating Social-Emotional Learning in the College Classroom: Busting Anxiety, Boosting Ability

This article on how to incorporate Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) in higher education provides a holistic review on the importance of SEL to 1) college classrooms through reducing students’ stress and anxiety, and improving their learning experience and performance, and 2) other areas of students... Read more about Research: A Guide to Incorporating Social-Emotional Learning in the College Classroom: Busting Anxiety, Boosting Ability

Incorporating social support and love into the classroom

Gretchen Brion-MeiselsGretchen Brion-Meisels, Lecturer on Education, focuses on ensuring that holistic support is apparent and felt deeply in her classroom. From listing mental health resources on all her syllabi to convening opening circles to build relationships at the start of class, Brion-Meisels incorporates ways of “checking in.” In her course Establishing Loving Spaces for Learning, students are asked to keep reflective journals and share them with a peer to engage in a conversation around their experiences. “Fundamentally, my biggest goal is to normalize the idea that everyone needs support. We’re all works-in-progress, learning and growing, but also with a lot to contribute to each other’s growth.”

Research: Classroom of Choice

Research in K-12 education shows that engaging students in developing classroom norms enhances the student and instructor relationship, increases the chance that students adhere to agreed-upon norms, and altogether creates a learning environment more conducive to learning outcomes.

Classroom norms: Developing a language of public agreement to eliminate “noise”

Emily Click, Into Practice ProfileEmily Click, Assistant Dean for Ministry Studies, Director of Field Education, and Lecturer on Ministry Studies, facilitates a discussion with students early in the semester to agree upon norms for classroom engagement, including how to address any divergent behavior. Students prepare for the conversation by writing a journal reflection that illustrates what is most important to them and what helps them thrive as a learner.   

Research: Should syllabi communicate expectations regarding appropriate classroom behaviors?

Students poorly predict instructor expectations, according to an analysis of student and instructor survey responses about in-class behaviors such as arriving late, talking to other students, not taking notes, and monopolizing class time. The authors underscore the importance of clearly defining...

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The hidden curriculum: Engaging students on another level

Bernard Nickel Into Practice profile PicBernhard Nickel, Professor of Philosophy, engages students in his introductory College courses about the “hidden curriculum”—defined here as the social and disciplinary norms often invisible to both students and the teaching staff, including expectations about class preparation, in-session focus, respectful discussion behavior, and the role of feedback.