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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

Establishing a rigorous and invigorating classroom


Robert Reid PharrRobert Reid-Pharr, Professor of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality and of African American Studies strives to create a “rigorous but not frightening” classroom experience for the course Gender, Sexuality, and the Archive, in which students take turns leading class discussion—presenting thoughts on, challenges to, and questions about course readings derived from essays they have written. With facilitation from Reid-Pharr, their peers then ask difficult questions of the discussion leader that begin to generate meaningful conversation. 

The benefits: Students leave feeling more confident... Read more about Establishing a rigorous and invigorating classroom

Engaging Students with Difficult Text Through a Flipped Classroom


Jay HarrisIn his general education courses, Jay Harris, Harry Austryn Wolfson Professor of Jewish Studies, posts two different videos prior to class for students to view: pre-reading videos contextualize and provide guidance for the week’s readings, and lecture videos replace Harris’s in-class lectures on the material. Students then send their questions and comments to Harris through Canvas, which he uses to build the class discussion.

The benefits: The pre-reading videos, in particular, give students a road map into the readings and lower the barrier for getting through difficult texts.... Read more about Engaging Students with Difficult Text Through a Flipped Classroom

Physically inhabiting new and different spaces


Virginie GreeneVirginie Greene, Professor of Romance Languages and Literature, transfers the theme of her Freshman Seminar course, The Grail Quest of Marcel Proust, to the classroom by holding every class session in a different location around the Harvard campus or in the Boston area. “Teaching a freshman seminar allows you to do something a little rash and provoke students. A knight going on a quest never stays in the same spot twice.” Whether they are exploring Sanders Hall, the Harvard Art Museum, or the Boston Public Library, classtime is split between exploring the space and discussing the week’s reading.

The benefits: By physically inhabiting new and different spaces,... Read more about Physically inhabiting new and different spaces

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

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.”... Read more about Enriching learning through student-led provocation

Bringing the best parts of a seminar into larger courses


Michelle Sanchez, Into Practice issueWhen enrollment for seminar After Luther: Faith, Will, Law, and the Question of Goodness doubled last year, Michelle Sanchez, Assistant Professor of Theology, was concerned that the depth and quality of the connections—with and among students and the texts they read together—would diminish. In response, she modified some logistical elements including assigning different pairs of students to circulate brief response papers before class and then lead discussion each week.

The benefits: This approach allowed for rotating perspectives and democratized the class by giving students space to be the... Read more about Bringing the best parts of a seminar into larger courses

Simple examples lead to deep engagement


Scot MartinThree years ago, Scot T. Martin, Gordon McKay Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering and Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, decided to “start from scratch” with his approach to teaching thermodynamics. In his course Thermodynamics by Case Study, he found that by focusing on every day, concrete examples (e.g., running, the function of the heart) and demanding an intense level of participation, he could help students unpack layer after layer to rediscover and truly understand the fundamental laws. 

The benefits: Martin mined eleven years of his student course evaluations and learned... Read more about Simple examples lead to deep engagement

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