Into Practice Issues

Browse all past issues of VPAL's Into Practice Blog

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.

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Witnessing and practicing open-minded conversation


Aravinthan D.T. SamuelAravinthan D.T. Samuel, Professor of Physics, created The Science of Optics in the Visual Arts, an interdisciplinary freshman seminar that explores the mystery behind Renaissance-era innovations in realism that reached the standard of modern photography long before the camera. Samuel took advantage of the virtual classroom to bring world experts into the Seminar. “We ‘Zoomed’ to museums around the world including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and Mauritshuis in the Netherlands.” Students spoke with curators at the very museums that hosted artworks discussed in class and asked world experts about the methods and practices of artists including Vermeer, Ingres, and Van Eyck. “Together, we learned that the answers to many questions are uncertain because of gaps in the historical record. Historians of art and historians of science are continuing in debates that may very well last forever.” For Samuel, the class was a safe space to witness expert debates and examine questions from all points of view. “Settling debates would be terrific. But many debates are perennial with people on all sides. If students can nevertheless gain an appreciation of why someone with a particular background or set of experiences holds another contrasting view, they learn the more important art of intellectual empathy that will be useful in any academic pursuit.”... Read more about Witnessing and practicing open-minded conversation