Robert A. Lue, professor of the practice of molecular and cellular biology professor and faculty director of both HarvardX and the Bok Center, says that to meet this two-pronged challenge, Harvard must focus on supporting the development of teaching and learning techniques as well as strengthening faculty research endeavors.
“What we increasingly realize is that in the same way you can push the envelope in your scholarship, the faculty and colleagues realize you can push the envelope in teaching and learning,” Lue says.
But with competition from these more intimate and undergraduate-oriented institutions, says longtime Sociology professor Howard E. Gardner ’65, Harvard has a chance to look to others for ideas rather than being forced to conceive of solutions from scratch.
“We shouldn’t be too narcissistic and just look at ourselves in the mirror,” Gardner says.
The “Leading in Learning” priority includes investments in programs that foster faculty innovation and the communication of best practices, along with the creation of infrastructure to allow faculty to experiment and teach in novel ways.
FAS Dean Michael D. Smith emphasizes the school’s focus on building and expanding models of learning. These changes, he says, are necessary in part because of the modern skillsets and practices of the students who now populate Harvard’s largest school.
“Ten years from now, I think you’ll see many different kinds of teaching styles [and] learning environments,” Smith says. “You’ll see changes in our physical environment to help support that.”
EXPERIMENTING IN LEARNING
Driven by this mission to learn about learning, the early stages of the campaign have been defined by experimentation and expansion, a trend that worries those seeking articulation of what this change is meant to achieve.
Two of the most prominent initiatives, the two-year-old HarvardX and the Bok Center, are testing out different types of teaching methods and gathering information about how students best learn.
In some courses that are adapted for HarvardX, like Peter L. Galison’s “The Einstein Revolution,” faculty members screen lectures prior to class time, during which students engage with and discuss the material rather than listen to the professor speak. This, often referred to as the “flipped classroom” method, is designed to optimize the time that students spend with their professors in class.
Molecular and Cellular Biology professor Richard M. Losick says that using the flipped classroom model allows students to use class time for what is often referred to as “active learning.”
“There is material you can learn on your own and [you can use] the classroom for delving more deeply into concepts and for discussion about these concepts,” Losick says.