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...
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.
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, classtime is split between exploring the space and discussing the week’s reading.
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 Modelingcourse. 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.
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.
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 Therapyyear-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.
Emily Dolan, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of the Humanities, co-teaches the graduate seminar Instruments and Instrumentalitieswith Professor and James McGill Chair in Culture and Technology Jonathan Sterneof 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.
This issue of Into Practice is adapted fromInstructional Movescontent produced by the Teaching and Learning Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Though 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.”
Students in Japanese art and architecture courses taught by Yukio Lippit, Professor of History of Art and Architecture, often encounter cultures quite different from their own. Lippit immerses them in those cultures through deep engagement with material artifacts, by examining roof tiles or carpentry, visiting the Japanese house at the Boston Children’s Museum, or participating in a tea ceremony.
Scott 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.
In 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.”
When 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.
Out 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 Realityand 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.