Student case pedagogy: Learning from their own experience

Ron HeifetzRonald Heifetz, Co-Founder of the Center for Public Leadership and King Hussein bin Talal Senior Lecturer of Public Leadership, uses experiential teaching methods like student case analysis—where students collaboratively develop and analyze cases drawn from their own work experiences—to promote deeper engagement and stronger retention of leadership concepts.

The benefits: Teaching leadership as practice in the Harvard Kennedy School’s MLD 201 Exercising Leadership: The Politics of Change and MLD 364 Leadership from the Inside Out: The Personal Capacity to Lead and Stay Alive requires not only

Blended Learning: Using interactive online modules before class to enhance learning in class

Dan Levy

Dan Levy, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Faculty Chair of the Strengthening Learning and Teaching Excellence (SLATE) Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School, developed a series of online modules for Advanced Quantitative Methods I, work made possible by teaching fellow Teddy Svoronos and SLATE staff member Mae Klinger. The modules contain interactive videos, diagrams, and practice problems; an end-of-module quiz; and an anonymous feedback survey.

Defining learning objectives: Pre-semester, and all semester

Tony Gomez-Ibanez

José A. (Tony) Gómez-Ibáñez, Derek C. Bok Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy, who holds appointments at the GSD and HKS, defines the learning objectives of his course (see his video course description) prior to the start of the semester and references them to frame each individual class session: “I use the first five minutes to place each class in the course – ‘The last class we talked about X and today we want to see how those ideas might apply to Y.’”

The benefits: Deliberately and specifically identifying what students should come away with each class places the focus on the learning process, rather than the specifics of a particular unit topic or case – Gómez-Ibáñez teaches economics, infrastructure, and transportation policy, primarily employing the case method.

Learning from learning management systems: New ways to engage students through Canvas

Applbaum, Mayne, Robichaud

Arthur Applbaum, Adams Professor of Democratic Values, Quinton Mayne, Assistant Professor of Public Policy, and Christopher Robichaud, Lecturer in Ethics and Public Policy piloted the new University-wide learning management system, Canvas, in their spring 2015 courses at the Harvard Kennedy School.

The benefits: Digital teaching and learning tools enable new approaches and modernize existing techniques to engage students:  

Applbaum asked “three daily questions” in online discussion forums to give his students more immediate feedback and pre-seed classroom conversations.

Mayne built an integrated page for each class session to involve students in the vision, goals, and pre-work expectation of that meeting, to get them excited about the upcoming conversation, and to free up class time for in-person discussion and interaction

Robichaud captured outside-class conversations and interactions between students by creating online dialogue via blog posts, news items, chat functions, and “reflections” postings, which had the added benefit of encouraging participation by shy students.

The challenges: There is always a learning curve in the adoption of a new system, and thoughtful organization of the course site to support learning goals takes time. Some tools may not feel as intuitive as others, depending on prior experience.