FAS

Helping students see themselves as scientists


Kevin EgganWhen 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


Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of the Humanities, Emily DolanEmily 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 videoconferencing, trips to each campus, online documents, and other tools. 

Enhancing student learning through field experience


Gonzalo GiribetGonzalo 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.

Enriching learning through student-led provocation


This issue of Into Practice is adapted from Instructional Moves content produced by the Teaching and Learning Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Timothy McCarthyThough Timothy Patrick McCarthy, Lecturer on History and Literature, Public Policy, and Education, plays an integral role in class discussions for his course Stories of Slavery and Freedom, students are responsible for leading the majority of classes through an exercise McCarthy refers to as “provocation.” “The provokers do not come in and give a summary of what we’ve read or a mini lecture about the top-line themes that might emerge from the assigned readings. I really want them to find some way to literally provoke us into conversation, get the juices flowing, and try to get all the students to think about something urgently at the outset of class.”

 

 

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Moving from passive learning to active exploration of the physical world


Scott EdwardsScott Edwards, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Curator of Ornithology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ)makes extensive use of the museum’s ornithology collections in his courses and brings specimens into his lecture sessions to engage students in close analysis during weekly three-hour labs. Edwards models “ways of making meaning” by looking to specimens as key evidence for testing claims and theories.

 

Using ethnographic research to improve students’ qualitative literacy


Mario SmallIn distinguishing fact from opinion, quantitative information is often seen as more reliable, but Mario Luis Small, Grafstein Family Professor of Sociology, wants students also to see the value of qualitative data for assessing such claims. In his course Qualitative Network Analysis, he requires students to analyze empirical research (including their own ethnographic cases) with a qualitative lens and thoroughly evaluate “authors who believe they’re making a defensible claim about some aspect of society.”

 

Transforming your syllabus to reach and engage students


Katharina PiechockiWhen Katharina Piechocki, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, prepares for a course she has taught before, she significantly changes the syllabus to stay relevant in a rapidly-changing world, respond to students’ (and her own) growing interests, and take advantage of events outside the classroom.  

 

 

Balance of agency and flexibility helps students develop their own artistic process


Nora SchultzOut of appreciation for Professor Shultz’s commitment to flexibility in artistic expression, this issue of Into Practice employs a slightly modified format. 

Nora Schultz, Assistant Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies, encourages experimentation and a diversity of readings for her courses Shape Shifting Your Reality and Object Matter of Jelly Fish: Sculpture Course. Her goal is to create a “structure that gives students the awareness and 'space' to develop their unique creative processes.” One assignment, for example, involves students visiting “The Onion” sculpture by Alexander Calder outside of Harvard’s Pusey Library and then creating a short dialogue between the sculpture and its surrounding buildings. Schultz also encourages students to add to the course reading list and has found that student-provided readings can significantly shift the discourse. 

Inviting guest instructors to teach entrepreneurial theory and practice


Jacob OluponaJacob K. Olupona, Professor of African and African American Studies and Professor of African Religious Traditions, collaborated with students from Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013 to develop a team-taught course on entrepreneurship that would appeal to learners across the University. “They felt entrepreneurship was important and central to what people are doing.” Entrepreneurship in Africa is organized topically (e.g., agriculture, energy, healthcare) around the unique challenges and opportunities to launch and grow an enterprise in the African context. Course sessions are led by an interdisciplinary mix of invited Harvard instructorsfrom arts and sciences, business, education, law, and public health, as well as business leaders from Africa.
 

Interactive lecturing: High-leverage teaching practices to energize students


This issue of Into Practice is adapted from Instructional Moves content produced by the Teaching and Learning Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. 

Paola ArlottaPaola Arlotta, Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, creates an environment of active inquiry, experimentation, and brainstorming by employing interactive lecturing in her course, Got (New) Brain? The Evolution of Brain Regeneration. An approach which spurs discussion that “often spans multiple fields of study.”

 

 

Encouraging students to engage with one another to solve problems (and problem sets)


Cassandra ExtavourCassandra G. Extavour, Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and of Molecular and Cellular Biology, is one of six co-instructors for LIFESCI 50(A & B) Integrated Science, an intensive two-semester course created by Andrew Murray, Herschel Smith Professor of Molecular Genetics, covering methods and concepts from biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. They design class discussion and assignments as problems that require students to rely on one another to solve. "We let them know it's normal to not be able to answer everythingon the problem sets on their own. We've structured them that way. They learn to engage with classmates, or with us, to work it out."

Mastering course content through creative assignments


Elena KramerMissy HolbrookElena Kramer, Bussey Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and Noel Michele Holbrook, Charles Bullard Professor of Forestry, co-teach General Education course OEB 52: Biology of Plants through lectures, labs, field trips, and weekly quizzes that students use to combine concepts into a creative project at the end of the semester. The prompt, “Trace the rise of the sporophyte,” results in the production of resources like videos, art pieces, fashion magazines, original songs, poems, and children’s books that students present in an arts festival during the final class.

One person’s story as entry to complex historical issues


Gabriela Soto Laveaga, Into Practice Gabriela Soto Laveaga, Professor of the History of Science, illustrates how combining nineteenth century documents with oral histories can help unpack complex current issues and disrupt certain assumptions on topics such as undocumented border crossings, addiction, and disease along our southern border. All topics are covered in HISTSCI 140 - The Border: Race, Politics, and Health in Modern Mexico, in which she challenges students to expand their own perspectives on these current themes through a variety of assignments including an oral history of an individual.

Working with local communities to engage with global issues


Maria Luisa Parra-VelascoMaría Luisa Parra-Velasco, Senior Preceptor in Romance Languages and Literatures, requires her advanced Spanish language learners in Spanish 59: Spanish and the Community to complete four hours a week of engaged scholarship with local organizations as part of their language learning experience. Through classroom discussions, travels from Cambridge to Chelsea (for example), meaningful interactions, and conversations in Spanish with members of the Latino community, they explore powerful concepts like “the borderlands” as related to global migration, changes in local demography, and in-between identities.

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