course transformation

Grappling with a global pandemic in class, as a class


Jonathan Zittrain, George Bemis Professor of International LawJonathan 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.” 

The benefits: An anonymous student interest poll showed that every student in the class wanted to shift to studying COVID-19 in groups. Students brought energy and enthusiasm to their work together, ultimately creating substantial reports examining issues like misinformation and digital contact tracing.... Read more about Grappling with a global pandemic in class, as a class

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

Import Content from another Canvas site (Canvas)

Canvas enables instructors to import content from existing course sites for use in new course sites (importing content from another instructor’s site requires the help of local academic support staff).

Case Studies in Formative Feedback at HGSE

 

Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Teaching and Learning Lab offers a number of case-studies on gathering and implementing student feedback, including during a course. 

 

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

Early Feedback (Bok Center)

The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning suggests tips for soliciting and reviewing student feedback early in the semester.

Research: Enhancing teaching and learning through dialogue: a student and staff partnership model

Researchers describe and analyze a model for developing student–staff partnerships to enhance teaching and learning, where students act as consultants providing timely and focused feedback to instructors on aspects of their practice, finding that face-to-face follow-up meetings produced the best...

Read more about Research: Enhancing teaching and learning through dialogue: a student and staff partnership model

Engaging students in a course postmortem dialogue


Alfred GuzzettiAlfred Guzzetti, Osgood Hooker Professor of Visual Arts, dedicates the final session of VES 52R: Introduction to Non-Fiction Videomaking—where students spend the term creating one nonfiction film on a subject of their choosing—to a class-wide postmortem discussion about all course elements. 

The benefits: Unlike online course evaluations that close with students’ responses to questions, Guzzetti’s postmortem is a two-hour, informal dialogue: “I ask, ‘Why do you think that? Was it worth spending two weeks on the introductory assignment? What did you get out of it?’ It’s a conversation.” The inclusive discussion allows him to address student critique about course structure and specific assignments, as well as the advantages, disadvantages, and motivations for potential changes.... Read more about Engaging students in a course postmortem dialogue

Elements of Effective Class Preparation

The C. Roland Christensen Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard Business School developed a series of questions to assist instructors in planning effective courses

Setting up effective feedback loops: The role of assessment in course transformation

McCarty and Deslauriers

Logan McCarty, Director of Physical Sciences Education, and Louis Deslauriers, Director of Science Teaching and Learning, adopted an active pedagogy for a large introductory physics course and saw significant gains in student learning and attitudes. Assessment played a role every step of the way

The benefits: By explicitly stating the course learning objectives and designing complementary in-class activities, they created effective feedback loops – the activities helped students assess their own understanding, and according to McCarty, “more importantly, the instructors got feedback on how students are learning.”

The challenges: Defining course learning objectives can “feel awkward. It feels artificial. And the value is not immediately apparent,” McCarty admitted. “But it is essential for creating effective assessments.”

Takeaways and best practices