collaborative learning

Grappling with a global pandemic in class, as a class


Jonathan Zittrain, George Bemis Professor of International LawJonathan Zittrain, George Bemis Professor of International Law, adapted his digital governance course to incorporate what everyone was really focused on in mid-spring of 2020: the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of “compartmentalizing” between class and crisis, he reworked the syllabus to respond to students’ needs and evolving experiences. Zittrain replaced the final exam with collaborative reports in which students examined aspects of the pandemic through the lens of digital governance dilemmas. “The idea was to offer students an opportunity to apply what they learned in the course to problems that were on everybody’s mind.” 

The benefits: An anonymous student interest poll showed that every student in the class wanted to shift to studying COVID-19 in groups. Students brought energy and enthusiasm to their work together, ultimately creating substantial reports examining issues like misinformation and digital contact tracing.... Read more about Grappling with a global pandemic in class, as a class

Understanding pathophysiology with real-life vignettes

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. 

Barbara Cockrill, Harold Amos Academy Associate Professor of MedicineBarbara Cockrill, Harold Amos Academy Associate Professor of Medicine, uses case-based collaborative learning (CBCL) in her Homeostasis I course to help medical students explore real-life clinical scenarios they may face as practitioners. Case discussions start in cohorts of four students, formed at the beginning of the course, and focus on a series of questions. Discussion continues with the full class of 40 students, facilitated by Cockrill and other medical school faculty.

The benefits: Students say that having a concrete vignette to refer back to later in their training helps their learning “stick.”... Read more about Understanding pathophysiology with real-life vignettes

Research-based teaching using a collaborative learning approach


Manja KlemencicManja 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.... Read more about Research-based teaching using a collaborative learning approach

Implementing collaborative experimentation


Rachel Carmody, Assistant Professor of Human Evolutionary BiologyRachel 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.... Read more about Implementing collaborative experimentation

Incorporating social support and love into the classroom


Gretchen Brion-MeiselsGretchen Brion-Meisels, Lecturer on Education, focuses on ensuring that holistic support is apparent and felt deeply in her classroom. From listing mental health resources on all her syllabi to convening opening circles to build relationships at the start of class, Brion-Meisels incorporates ways of “checking in.” In her course Establishing Loving Spaces for Learning, students are asked to keep reflective journals and share them with a peer to engage in a conversation around their experiences. “Fundamentally, my biggest goal is to normalize the idea that everyone needs support. We’re all works-in-progress, learning and growing,... Read more about Incorporating social support and love into the classroom

Research: Teamwork That Works

This article provides tips on how to guide and structure students on group work assignments to make the most of collaboration. 

Engaging real-world stakeholders to provide feedback to students


Jal Mehta, HGSEJal David Mehta, Associate Professor of Education, directs students to use design thinking and interact with real-world stakeholders when making proposals to improve educational systems in his course Deeper Learning for All: Designing a 21st-Century School System. At the end of the semester, students present final projects to panels of educational experts ranging from superintendents to K-12 teachers to Harvard Graduate School of Education faculty. 

The benefits: This combination of approaches “really focuses people’s attention,” says Mehta.... Read more about Engaging real-world stakeholders to provide feedback to students

Structuring intellectual collaboration and play


Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of the Humanities, Emily DolanEmily Dolan, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of the Humanities, co-teaches the graduate seminar Instruments and Instrumentalities with Professor and James McGill Chair in Culture and Technology Jonathan Sterne of 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. 

The benefits: Students benefit from diverse perspectives when feedback on their work comes from “two sets of eyes” that don’t... Read more about Structuring intellectual collaboration and play

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