Into Practice Issues

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Designing solutions in response to real-world problems


Martin BechtholdMary TolikasMartin Bechthold, the Kumagai Professor of Architectural Technology at the Harvard School of Design, and Mary Tolikas, Chief Innovation Officer at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Visiting Lecturer on Engineering Sciences at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, work together to teach Independent Engineering Design Project I & II, a small, seminar-size course for second-year students in the Master in Design Engineering program. Students spend the academic year designing prototype solutions to real-world problems about which they are passionate. Throughout the two semesters, students work towards understanding the complexity and dynamics underlying the problem and, by collaborating with relevant stakeholders, they explore visionary solutions and iterate on prototypes that would best address their challenge. Analyzing and quantifying potential impact is central to solution development. Early in the course, students are placed in self-selected “affinity groups,” based on shared interests. Students use these groups throughout the term to bounce ideas from and relay feedback. They also receive regular feedback from faculty advisors throughout each stage as they continue to evolve their project.

Developing cultural and linguistic competencies through music


Taiwo EhineniTaiwo Ehineni, Preceptor of African Languages, emphasizes the importance of “cultural frames” in language learning, or the ecologies in which the language is developed and used. “When students come to take my language class, it is an opportunity to introduce them to Nigeria.” One way this is accomplished is by using songs and music, which express culturally resonant ideas through creative uses of language. Ehineni teaches Yoruba as well as West African Pidgin. Class begins with students singing a song in Yoruba together while Ehineni plays the drums. Then they generate a vocabulary list based on the song they sang together, examine the grammatical use of the word in the lyrics, and look up the meaning.... Read more about Developing cultural and linguistic competencies through music

Exploring creativity in the (virtual) classroom


David Atherton, headshotDavid Atherton, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, taught Creativity, a general education course which explores the nature of creativity and the role it plays in our lives, remotely in spring 2021. The course was originally designed before the COVID-19 pandemic and was proposed in response to undergraduate students’ desire for more creative expression, spaces for reflection, and connections to their personal lives in the classroom. “Once the pandemic hit, the goals felt more critical than ever.” Atherton and a team of teaching fellows collaborated with the Bok Center to design the course, grounding it around four core questions. Every week, students were given a creative assignment coupled with an analytic reflection about how their creation connected to the course readings. The course’s capstone project invited students to apply the course themes and create something that would impact someone in their lives, beyond the context of the course. Students included a final reflective essay that explained their project goals.

Practicing complex, new skills in a supportive environment


Linda KaboolianLinda Kaboolian, Instructor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, teaches Negotiations for public health students who will continue to practice these skills in everyday and high-stakes settings all around the world. “I’m a social scientist,” she explains, “so I’m very concerned about how to modify practice as a negotiator to be relevant to the context you’re working with.” Kaboolian underscores the importance of understanding the power dynamics and cultural context at play before negotiating. She designs stylized cases steeped in research on culture and scaffolded in complexity, building from one-on-one discussions to multi-stakeholder, multi-issue dilemmas.

... Read more about Practicing complex, new skills in a supportive environment

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