The Faculty of Arts and Sciences Teaching and Learning Activity Catalog 2007-2011 Initiatives
N.B. This catalog is designed to pair with the PowerPoint presentation that Dean Smith presented at the FAS Faculty Meeting on December 7, 2010.
Sharing Best Practices
The Dudley Herschbach Teacher-Scientist Lecture Series
Named for the Nobel Laureate still an active emeritus member of the Chemistry Department, the Dudley Herschbach Teacher-Scientist Lecture series features a lecture by a leading scientist on pedagogy and science. This series has been exceptionally well attended by both faculty and students, and has resulted in thoughtful discussion with leading figures in research about the particular pedagogical challenges in the sciences. This fall, the Dudley Herschbach Teacher/Scientist Lecture series featured Bruce Alberts, Editor-in-Chief of Science and past president of the National Academy of Sciences, with an introduction by President Drew Faust. Dr. Alberts’ talk was titled "Why Harvard Needs to Lead a Redefinition of Science Education."
Peer Support in the Science Division
In the Science Division, Professor Rob Lue and a number of his colleagues have developed a program of in-classroom peer observation to help faculty enhance their teaching skills and effectiveness. Participating faculty members receive constructive feedback from peers who observe their teaching, and in turn observe the teaching of others. The program provides more direct feedback than is normally possible through the promotion process, and has been very well received by participants. This provides an ancillary benefit to departments by giving them a better understanding of how courses map to one another. Efforts are now being made to use this program as a model for efforts across academic divisions.
Humanities Center Events
The Humanities Center provides a locus for interdisciplinary discussions among Harvard faculty, faculty from other area institutions, graduate students, undergraduates, and the public. It currently sponsors lectures, readings, conferences, workshops, and ongoing seminars on a wide range of topics. It also supports informal occasions for the exchange of ideas and the sharing of scholarly and artistic work. The Humanities Center seeks to foster collaborations between the humanities, social sciences, and sciences in the belief that the humanities make a unique contribution in establishing - through interpretation and conversation - communities of interest and climates of opinion. Humanities Center lunches are particularly valuable opportunities for the sharing of teaching best practices across disciplinary boundaries.
Bok Center Events
The Bok Center mounts a wide range of events and services focused on teaching and learning. New to their offerings is a series of talks on teaching by FAS faculty and by area experts from outside the Harvard community. These talks are open to faculty and graduate students. Recent speakers have included Ken Bain (Vice Provost for University Learning and Teaching, Director, Research Academy for University Learning, and Professor of History, Montclair University), and Shigehisa Kuriyama (Reischauer Institute Professor of Cultural History).
New Faculty Institute
A program for new faculty began in the summer of 2004, and was substantially revised in 2008. In 2010, the program consisted of a half-day orientation, followed by a multi-day session in later summer.
The program begins with the New Faculty Orientation, a half-day seminar offered by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, organized in conjunction with the Bok Center. The program introduces new junior and senior faculty to the teaching culture at Harvard, answering general questions such as "Who are Harvard students?" and "What is expected in the classroom?" as well as specifics on the curriculum, grading and disciplinary procedures, and student life and demographics. It also provides a way for new faculty to meet each other and invited members of the Harvard community, including selected students, deans and veteran faculty. Follow-up sessions later in the year further explore related topics.
This is followed by the New Faculty Institute, organized and hosted jointly by the Divisional Deans and senior staff members of the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. Its goal is to ease the transition for faculty who are new to Harvard by providing pedagogical advice and practice teaching during an intensive multi-day session. In the NFI, participants join together in workshops and working meals, creating many opportunities for new acquaintances and collaborations. Sessions include hands-on practice for leading discussions, voice instruction, syllabus design, and presentations, led by senior and tenure-track faculty members, with specific help from administrators and Bok Center senior staff about teaching-related issues and Harvard’s policies on promotion and retention of faculty.
In 2008, a research management workshop was added to the NFI for new faculty who need to set up research groups and apply for grant funding in their first year. Senior faculty members discuss issues they face in establishing a laboratory or research group, and their role in mentoring graduate students productively. Grants administrators from the university and individual departments and provide an overview of how they help in finding funding, putting together grant proposals, and managing awarded grants.
Departmental Teaching Fellows, Practicums and Seminars
The Departmental Teaching Fellows program appoints experienced and creative TFs and TAs to focus on enhancing teaching in their disciplines by consulting with their peers within departments, advising individual instructors, and creating training programs, workshops, seminars, and other teaching-related projects. Departmental TFs also benefit from the professional development they receive in the form of training and mentoring from the Bok Center, collaboration with their departmental faculty and administrators, and collaboration with one another on multidisciplinary projects. These positions are equivalent to other teaching appointments, with the same compensation and time commitment as teaching one to two sections per semester in the department.
Many departments and programs offer teaching practicums and pedagogy seminars for graduate students, tutors, and faculty. The Bok Center, typically through its Departmental TF program, plays an active role in supporting those practicums and departments listed in bold below.
- Scientists Teaching Science (Astronomy 302; open to all science grad students)
- Scientific Teaching and Communication: Practicum (Chemistry 301hf)
- Introduction to Teaching of Modern Chinese Language (Chinese Ling. 200)
- SEAS Teaching Practicum (CS365; open to other physical-science students)
- Teaching Colloquium (English 350)
- Foreign Language Teaching Workshop (German 301)
- Colloquium on Teaching Practices (History 3920hf)
- Second Language Acquisition (Linguistics 200)
- Teaching Undergraduate Mathematics I (Math 300)
- Colloquium on Teaching Pedagogy (Music 250f)
- Instructional Styles in Philosophy (Philosophy 315hf)
- Teaching Psychology (Psychology 3550; for sophomore tutors)
- Instructional Styles in Psychology (Psychology 3555; sample syllabus)
- Structure of Russian for Instructors (Slavic 269)
- Teaching Practicum (Sociology 305)
- The Art and Practice of Teaching Statistics (Statistics 303hf)
Directors of Graduate Study
Since the beginning of his tenure in 2008, GSAS Dean Allan Brandt has made it a high priority to engage the Directors of Graduate Studies (DGS) as a community. They have met regularly as a group and in smaller interest groups, organized by fields and divisions. In addition, over the last two years GSAS has held a fall retreat that takes up substantive student issues, including student progress, employment strategies, and mentoring/advising, among others. As a result the DGSs have come to know and coordinate with the GSAS administration and, more importantly, one another.
Taking advantage of the fact that GSAS students typically stay close to Cambridge and Longwood for most of January, the Graduate School initiated a series of intellectual and professional development opportunities for graduate students, a program known as January@GSAS in AY 2009-10.
GSAS and affiliating units — ranging broadly across Harvard’s resource centers, and including the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the Graduate Student Council, the Office of Career Services, and the Harvard College Library — presented approximately 65 programs or events during the month of January that were specifically targeted at graduate students. Attendance at those events ran the gamut from 2 to 400; most offerings drew a comfortably intimate crowd of 10–15, though a good number drew into the higher double digits. From an innovative session on geographic analysis to a workshop addressing “the imposter syndrome” to a seminar on quantitative methods to a chamber music concert at Dudley House, the programs were an occasion for fellowship, skill-building, and career planning.
Among the offerings were mini-courses sponsored by the Graduate Student Council (GSC) and taught by graduate students themselves. A member of the GSAS Alumni Council offered a gift to support students who would develop short courses for fellow graduate students about their broad areas of research. The seven courses selected for this inaugural effort were fittingly varied, including The ABCs of Stem Cells; American Jewishness; Vistas in Mathematics; Cloth, Culture, and Cognition; and Why Resurrection? An Introduction to Belief in the Afterlife. Presenting aspects of one’s research to non-experts is a skill of considerable value to graduate students, and therefore these courses will be continued next year.
Overall, based on a survey of participants and feedback from instructors, January@GSAS was very well received, and GSAS plans to expand its offerings for January 2011. The programming will begin a week later, following evidence from the inaugural year that many students are away from campus during the first week after break.
Oral Communication Skills for International TFs
The Bok Center for Teaching and Learning continues to offer a wide variety of services and training opportunities for graduate students, including a number of offerings specifically for non-native speakers of English. GSAS helped support the launch of an innovative and well-received training course for international teaching fellows created by the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. The course, called Oral Communication Skills for International TFs, is designed to address the disciplinary communication needs of graduate students and future TFs who are not native speakers of English. It aims to help students develop the communication skills they need in order to succeed in their Harvard programs and in the American classroom. The course focuses on improving impromptu speaking skills, effective delivery of short talks, answering questions effectively, and engaging in small talk. It also offers the chance to practice general pedagogical strategies for teaching undergraduates.
The class meets twice a week for 12 weeks. Each participant meets individually for a half-hour with the instructor each week in order to receive focused and specific feedback and coaching on how to improve. And each participant meets once a week with an undergraduate course assistant to focus on communication skills relevant to his or her own improvement.
Conversations@FAS (begins February 2011)
In the spring of 2011, Dean Smith will launch a series of faculty discussions, with a focus this year on teaching and learning. Proposed topics include approaches to activity-based learning, supporting pedagogical excellence, lessons from the Program in General Education, cultivating global perspectives, and teaching with collections. This series will be held annually and will be open to the Harvard community.
Supporting Pedagogical Innovation
Course Innovation Funds
The Office of Undergraduate Education in Harvard College oversees funds for the improvement of existing undergraduate courses or the creation of new ones. These funds are used to support courses that are innovative or improved in some distinctive way (new pedagogical approaches, for instance). Preference is given to proposals involving courses central to the overall undergraduate program (e.g. new courses in General Education) or to concentration needs (e.g. introductory courses in a concentration or those required by closely related fields, tutorials or junior seminars, etc.). Successful applicants must intend to offer the course on a regular basis. In most cases, on-going costs beyond the first year must be borne by the department or concentration.
Course Enhancement Funds
In addition to funding for course innovation, Harvard College also offers small sums of money for one-time special opportunities to enhance a specific course, for example, a guest lecture by a practitioner, attendance at a performance, or a short field trip. Ordinarily, no more than $2,500 would be given to any single course for all proposed enhancements.
Presidential, Library, and Museum Instructional Technology Fellows
Project funding under the auspices of the Presidential, Library, and Museum Instructional Technology Fellows (PITF, LITF, and MITF) programs is available for course development projects. The Academic Technology Group, the Harvard College Library, and the Harvard Art Museum are collaborating on a common application process in order to provide faculty and course projects with the best of their groups' services and resources. After reviewing the submitted proposals and conducting subsequent conversations, librarians, museum educators, and instructional technologists determine the most beneficial approach for projects designated to receive funding. Through this collaborative effort, the ATG, HCL, and the Museum provide enhanced support for faculty beyond course projects and increased exposure and access to other Harvard resources for teaching.
Harvard College Writing Project
The Harvard Writing Project (HWP) works with faculty and teaching fellows to develop effective ways of assigning and responding to student writing. The HWP has consulted with dozens of courses to foster better writing instruction throughout Harvard College. The HWP also collaborates with faculty and teaching fellows to develop writing guides tailored to specific courses or disciplines.
The Harvard Arts Initiative
With the support of President Faust and Dean of the Arts and Humanities Diana Sorensen, a new initiative to showcase the arts at Harvard was launched in AY2009-10. The initiative supports course development for Freshmen Seminars, as well as General Education and departmental courses either focused solely on art-making or incorporating a significant art-making component into their course of study. This initiative is one of the many activities created in response to the recommendations of the Harvard Task Force on the Arts, which affirmed the importance of art-making in allowing innovation and imagination to thrive on campus, and in educating and empowering creative minds across all disciplines.
Digital Humanities Initiative
The term “digital humanities” refers to the use of information technology in research and teaching about human society and culture. The Digital Humanities Initiative has been established to provide faculty with core technology resources and to convene conversations advancing awareness of innovations in information technology in humanities research and teaching. Under the direction of Alexander Parker, Director of Research Computing in the Humanities, the initiative has created an online guide to core technology resources, standards, and tools. The Digital Humanities Initiative also sponsored a number of campus events, including:
- The 2nd Digital Humanities Fair with 10 Harvard IT groups and over forty faculty attendees;
- The first publication of the Digital Humanities Resource Guide, and distribution to all Harvard humanities faculty;
- Submission of six digital humanities grant requests to Federal entities and foundations;
- The first Harvard Digital Shorts film series;
- The first "By faculty for faculty" tool talk series.
Online Teaching and Learning
Drawing on the results of two evaluation studies of the Extension School's distance education program, the Office for Online Teaching and Learning carries out research and professional development for the Extension School's distance education program. It is also the sponsor of the Open Learning Initiative, which provides a variety of Harvard courses online at no cost.
Graduate Seminars in General Education
These seminars for graduate students are dedicated to the discussion, development, and design of undergraduate courses for the new Program in General Education in partnership with a member of the faculty. Graduate students actively engage with faculty to consider central conceptual and analytic themes, course design and pedagogy, as well as other important decisions in the development and implementation of courses in general education. The courses resulting from these seminars have been well received in the Program in General Education. In May 2010, the GSAS launched a formal review of the Graduate Seminars in General Education program, now in its third and final year of funding. The outcomes of this review will be instructive, as we look to the future of how to best to support the development of new and innovative courses for the curriculum, including those in General Education.
Instructional Services Support Team (ISST)
The Instructional Support Services Team, which consists of representatives from the library, the museums, the Bok Center, and the Academic Technology Group, offers a wide range of services to faculty developing Gen Ed courses, ranging from guidance on a developing writing assignment, suggesting innovative pedagogical approaches for a particular lesson, integrating technology, or integrating access to museums or libraries into the substance of a course.
Supporting Learning Everywhere:
Undergraduate Research Experiences
The Office for Undergraduate Research Initiatives was opened in 2010 to help Harvard College students navigate the broad array of institutional, domestic, and international research opportunities that are available to them, and to develop connections among stakeholders in the academic research landscape: schools, academic departments, the housing communities, and student organizations. The office’s website is a portal entry to the world of research for Harvard College students, providing policy information as well as links to academic departments, centers, and programs (both at Harvard and beyond) that offer formative and substantive experiences during the undergraduate years.
The Program for Research in Science and Engineering is a particularly successful undergraduate research program at Harvard College, which is being used as a model for programs across the divisions. PRISE is a summer research program for Harvard undergraduates providing excellent research experiences across Harvard Schools, as well as social support over the summer by building an engaged community of peers.
Public Service Opportunities
The Harvard Public Service Network (PSN) was developed to raise the level of discourse on campus about undergraduate public service, and to improve services available to all students and student-led public service groups. PSN staff provide guidance, support and resources to over 50 student-led service groups and also operate the Center for Public Interest Careers. Staff members provide advice to students pursuing public service internships and careers. A number of grants and fellowships relating to public service are available through the PSN. The PSN also produces the Public Service Directory and Bi-annual Report on Public Service.
Learning in the Houses
The residential House system is a cornerstone of the undergraduate experience at Harvard. Houses at Harvard aren’t just buildings. Through the work of House Masters, resident deans, tutors, and many others, the Houses are vibrant learning communities for our students.
The Houses provide particularly rich opportunities for informal learning. Examples include Physics Night at Leverett House, CS50 tutorials that will meet in 4 different Houses, student engagement in sustainability efforts and the Food Literacy Project, opportunities for performance, master classes, and art-making, as well as concentration, peer, and pre-professional advising.
Supporting Curricular Innovation
Major Curricular Innovations:
The Program in General Education
Harvard has long required that students take a set of courses outside of their concentration in order to ensure that their undergraduate education encompasses a broad range of topics and approaches. The Program in General Education was launched in Harvard College in the fall term of 2009, replacing the Core Curriculum that was in place for more than three decades. The new Program in General Education seeks to connect in an explicit way what students learn in Harvard classrooms to life outside the ivied walls and beyond the college years. The material taught in general education courses is continuous with the material taught in the rest of the curriculum, but the approach is different. These courses aim not to draw students into a discipline, but to bring the disciplines into students' lives. The Program in General Education introduces students to subject matter and skills from across the University, and does so in ways that link the arts and sciences with the 21st century world that students will face and the lives they will lead after college.
The Report of the Task Force in General Education stated that "pedagogy is an integral aspect of the general education program we envision. Large lectures can be an effective means of instruction, but general education courses should strive to create a learning environment in which the relationship between teachers and students, and between students and students, is interactive." Faculty have embraced this vision and offered creative and innovative classroom experiences. For example, in "For the Love of God and His Prophet: Religion, Literature, and the Arts in Muslim Cultures," students approach Islam through the arts and then uncover doctrinal and theological dimensions. They design their own Arabic calligraphy using a wide variety of media from stained glass to knitting, compose their own poems and set them to music, and design their own mosque for an urban American landscape. Guest speakers included a Sufi "rockstar." In "Molecules of Life," students explore the roles of molecules in a number of ways. These include hands-on activities like extracting DNA from a strawberry and role-playing scenarios. In "The Physics of Music and Sound," students explore music and sound using physics on an "as needed" basis. Class involves many physical demonstrations and interactive discussions, and students take on a final project of their choosing. One project in the spring of 2010 was the building of a giant megaphone. “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter," which debuted in fall 2010, brings together Harvard researchers and world-class guest chefs, with lectures, interactive discussions and demonstrations that explicate the physics of soft matter as it applies to modern cooking techniques. Weekly lab sections engage students in hands-on scientific exercises exploring phenomena like foams and emulsions, phase changes, and the importance of temperature. Edible labs, which take place in the new Northwest Science Building, use "recipes of the week" to demonstrate the scientific principles.
With the freshman class entering in the fall of 2006, FAS established secondary fields as part of the curriculum. A secondary field provides the opportunity for guided and recognized work in a field outside of the concentration. Undergraduates can now declare a secondary field of study in 46 areas of study, and as of 2007, secondary fields appear on undergraduate transcripts. Because secondary fields build on existing departments and programs, secondary fields provide a curricular mechanism for responding to growing student interest in emerging and interdisciplinary fields.
Secondary fields have also been instituted in the graduate student curriculum.
Interdisciplinary Foundation Courses
First developed in the life sciences and now in development across divisions, new interdisciplinary foundational courses teach fundamental concepts in real-world contexts, while lessening the pressure on students to specialize early.
Language Bridge Courses
Arts and Humanities Dean Diana Sorensen, who is also James F. Rothenberg Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of comparative literature, spearheaded development of the Foreign Language Advisory Group, a collection of language teachers from across the University who meet monthly to explore professional development opportunities and new language initiatives and innovations. For the past three years, Sorensen and her group have worked to expand the language curriculum to include “bridge” courses involving history, art, and culture, which are taught in a foreign language. These courses build connections between language instruction and the content courses traditionally taught in English. Students now can take courses on China’s Cultural Revolution, taught in Mandarin, or learn about the history and politics of the Islamic world in a class taught in Arabic.
Changes to Curricular Planning:
Resetting the Clock for Declaration of Concentration
In 2006, Harvard College reset the timing for the declaration of undergraduate concentration from the end of the spring term of the freshmen year to the end of the fall term of the sophomore year. This shift allows students further opportunity to explore course offerings, as well as additional time for advising in preparation for the declaration of a concentration. Shifting from a 6-semester to a 5-semester concentration program prompted a thorough review of each concentration’s undergraduate curriculum and provided an opportunity for renewal and affirmation.
Multi-year Curricular Planning
In academic year 2009-10, the academic divisions and SEAS began a process of multi-year curricular planning that looks across departments, divisions and Schools. This effort made explicit the teaching effort required to mount the planned curriculum, taking into account sabbatical leaves and the timing of the offering of concentration requirements.
Crossing Disciplinary Boundaries:
The Faculty of Arts of Sciences has launched a number of units and programs that support interdisciplinary curricula, pulling faculty from across departments and Harvard Schools. Examples include:
- Committee on African Studies
- Ethnic Studies (secondary field)
- Global Health and Health Policy (secondary field)
- Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology (Harvard’s first cross-school department)
- Public Policy (secondary field) (under development)
- GSAS Graduate Consortia
Nurturing Faculty Commitment to Teaching
Faculty Activity Reports
Faculty activity reports now elicit extensive information about teaching, in addition to scholarship and service, and this information is used to set faculty salaries in consultation with department chairs. The reports are pre-populated with information about the courses taught, including graduate and undergraduate enrollments. The faculty provide additional information about their teaching, scholarship and citizenship. Teaching is also explicitly discussed in appointments and promotions deliberations and is a significant factor in these decisions.
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences is committed to fostering the professional development of its tenure-track faculty. This commitment includes the recent dissemination of information to clarify the tenure process and an initiative that encourages FAS departments and all tenure-track faculty to create plans for the development of tenure-track faculty as teachers, scholars, and members of the academic community.
The FAS encourages a “team” approach to faculty mentoring, the gathering of several colleagues into a professional network for each tenure-track faculty member. Tenure-track faculty can call on different colleagues for information or advice on a variety of issues. In the fall of 2009, an initiative was launched to strengthen the professional development of assistant and associate professors, as teachers, scholars, and members of the academic community. A guide was assembled that recommends steps that departments and individual tenure-track faculty can take to formulate programs for professional development.
The College Fellows Program
The new College Fellows Program provides teaching-intensive post-docs for recent PhD graduates. The program matches exceptional new PhDs with departments to meet important curricular needs through a national search. The program not only helps departments meet their teaching needs, but also brings tomorrow’s stars into these classrooms. Each College Fellow is matched with a faculty mentor in the department in which they are teaching.
Teaching Awards and Recognitions
The FAS awards a number honors that recognize excellence in teaching and advising and each are publicized. These include the Harvard College Professorships, the Roslyn Abramson Award, the Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Prize, the Joseph R. Levenson Memorial Teaching Prize, the John R. Marquand Award for Exceptional Advising and Counseling, and the Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Award.