Jonathan 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.”
This issue of Into Practice is adapted fromInstructional Movescontent produced by the Teaching and Learning Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Barbara 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.
Rachel 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
Gretchen 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
Jal 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.
Student perceptions of online activities in a blended graduate seminar revealed the most effective to have four distinct design features: they promoted higher-order thinking skills and learner-learner interactions and provided personalized content and feedback on contributions.
Emily Dolan, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of the Humanities, co-teaches the graduate seminar Instruments and Instrumentalitieswith Professor and James McGill Chair in Culture and Technology Jonathan Sterneof 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.
This article supplies more examples of learning-community classrooms with discussions around the framework of learning communities (e.g., goals, learning activities, teacher roles, and power relationships).