Learning effectively through teams

Matt Andrews, Edward S. Mason Senior Lecturer in International DevelopmentMatt Andrews, Edward S. Mason Senior Lecturer in International Development at Harvard Kennedy School, is the faculty director of the Building State Capability program in the Center for International Development at Harvard and trains students in Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) for solving complex policy and management problems alongside his co-instructor, Salimah Samji. PDIA is a step-by-step approach – developed over years of applied action research - that helps students break down a problem into its root causes, identify entry points, search for possible solutions, take action, reflect upon what has been learned, adapt, and then act again. It is “a dynamic process with tight feedback loops that allows students to build their own solution to a problem.”  This approach is most effective, Andrews believes, when “learning happens in groups.” 

Tapping the power of virtual reality to enhance public speaking

Candace BertottiCandace Bertotti, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, teaches The Arts of Communication, a class focusing on public speaking. To help students overcome their fear of speaking in front of others, Candace incorporates virtual reality (VR) into her classroom. Students put on VR goggles and are instantly transported to the front of a large virtual crowd awaiting their speech. Students experience a range of audiences and audience reactions. It's realistic—and feels safe.... Read more about Tapping the power of virtual reality to enhance public speaking

Interdisciplinary learning through accessible, intentional technology

Hong Qu, Adjunct Lecturer in Public PolicyHong Qu, Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy, taught Data Visualization virtually last spring to over 70 students from different Harvard Schools, levels of experience, and corners of the world. To foster a close-knit community among students from diverse backgrounds, Qu intentionally curated a set of online tools and learning exercises to generate an “ambient telepresence.” For instance, he assigned group data visualization projects to promote peer learning and used VoiceThread for assigned peer critiques. During synchronous class time, students were invited to sketch with Qu using Jamboard on the shared screen—a novel form of participation to draw out the inner artist/designer in every student. “I wanted to give them a sense that we’re spending time with each other in this very challenging period to learn as a community, to work together on group projects, and to achieve organic connections and authentic relationships between all our unique places during this pandemic."

Engaging with course material and serving communities at the same time

Linda BilmesLinda Bilmes, Daniel Patrick Moynihan Senior Lecturer in Public Policy, created the Harvard Kennedy School’s first-ever field lab, which combines in-class learning with real-world project work in local and state governments. Since its inception in 2005, the course has involved hundreds of students from across Harvard graduate schools. It is an advanced course focused on public finance, operations and budgeting. Each year, Bilmes and her teaching team receive dozens of applications from mayors and city managers. She and her team select a small number of intellectually challenging projects with buy-in at the highest level. The selected partners describe their projects to students at the start of the term; projects range from addressing homelessness to municipal debt. Then students go on site visits... Read more about Engaging with course material and serving communities at the same time

Engaging students in a field-based, problem-oriented, experiential course

Jorrit de JongJorrit de Jong, Lecturer in Public Policy, combines practice, research, and engagement with learning and teaching in his course Innovation Lab: Public Problem Solving in Massachusetts Cities, in which students participate in a field-based, problem-oriented, and experiential setting, immersed in local city governments. Students observe, first-hand, the work of public servants—going on inspection tours, triaging cases, analyzing geo-spatial data, reconciling competing priorities and politics—and then pitch proposals to city mayors, usually building on the work of previous students.

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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Using faculty videos in required courses to engage students at all levels

Pinar DoganLike many instructors of required courses, Pinar Dogan, Lecturer in Public Policy and SLATE Faculty Liaison for Pedagogy, teaches her section of Markets and Market Failure to students with significantly divergent levels of prior knowledge of microeconomics. Seeking a way for students “to end up at the same place even though they started at very different places,” Dogan partnered with SLATE to develop videos of Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) faculty experts explaining the relevance of math-intensive or potentially dry concepts (e.g., fixed costs or price elasticity) to public policy. 


Applying the science of behavior change to lesson planning

Todd Rogers_Into PracticeTodd Rogers, Professor of Public Policy, teaches students in MLD304 The Science of Behavior Change to leverage insights about human decision making and develop interventions through carefully constructed class activities and facilitated discussion, such as randomized experiments and think-pair-share brainstorms, respectively. One activity, developed and refined in collaboration with Professors Brigitte Madrian and Jennifer Lerner, requires that students work in groups to write an appeal asking online workers to donate their compensation to charity.

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.

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

Dan LevyDan 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-IbanezJosé 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 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.’”