Education and the Campaign

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Similarly, the Bok Center encourages Harvard’s teaching staff to adopt new instructional methods and to move away from the traditional practice of what Losick calls the “sage on the stage.”

In March, The Crimson reported that the Bok Center will more than double the size of its 15-person staff and open a number of satellite offices across campus. Campaign literature has stated that funding for the Bok Center will be channeled toward improving “media literacy” among faculty and graduate students, developing the speaking and student engagement skills of College students, and generating and spreading best practices for teaching and learning.

While HarvardX and the Bok Center, the portions of the “Leading in Learning” initiative aimed at testing and honing ideas for new teaching models, have begun to develop, infrastructural changes are still yet to appear on campus.

However, an unofficial document penned by faculty and administrators at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences offers a glimpse into the vision for the new facilities of the school. The writers of the white paper champion variety and dynamism in physical spaces, calling for “curvilinear designs,” “transparent walls,” and “sunlit” spaces that blur the lines between spaces for teaching, research, and socializing.

In addition, FAS officials also plan to use “Leading in Learning” funds to expand the SEAS incubator and finance less clearly defined capital elements like new classrooms and teaching styles.

While FAS campaign literature broadly outlines goals to improve teaching and learning, however, the specific procedures necessary to improve teaching and learning are still unclear to some faculty members, Philosophy professor and chair of the Committee on General Education Edward J. Hall says.

“I do not have the sense that the faculty as a whole feels like, ‘oh, there’s this initiative that we are all implicitly a part of,’” he says. “Whatever the initiative is, it hasn’t been broadcast to the faculty in the way that’s going to have that type of impact.”

According to Hall, the campaign widely broadcasts its emphasis on lofty themes to donors through speeches and literature, but the faculty have yet to hear a cohesive message about how professors and students should interact with each other in and outside of the classroom due to new technology and practices.

"There's a certain vagueness which can probably be attributed to the fact that a lot of the people don't know where the technology is going and in what ways that technology will be applied to teaching and learning," Classics professor Richard F. Thomas said.

“‘Innovation’ carries a clear connotation of change for the better, change in some exciting new direction that’s going to lead us to do something we were doing before in a new and much improved way,” Hall says, referring to terms he has often hear in tandem with the campaign's goals. “If you’re being honest you need to show that what you are doing in the classroom is not merely different than what you had done before, but [that] it's really much more effective in targeting the goals of your class.”

Classics professor Richard F. Thomas agrees, saying that the campaign literature has been less specific than that of the previous campaign on goals related to teaching and learning.

“I think a lot of the language is very vague, abstract, and not very useful in many ways,” he says. “There’s a certain vagueness which can probably be attributed to the fact that a lot of the people don’t know where the technology is going and in what ways that technology will be applied to teaching and learning.”

QUESTIONS IN LEARNING

The campaign literature’s emphasis on the importance of new technologies and innovative learning environments raises concerns beyond the issue of clarity for some. While funds can ensure that touchscreens, mobile whiteboards, and egg-shaped tables find their ways into unconventional classrooms and that lectures are recorded and broadcasted for the entire world to view, some caution that the capital campaign’s touted “innovation” might not be effective and, in some cases, could even negatively impact Harvard education.

Although showrunners envision new classrooms that allow for a broader range of teaching methods, some say that the efficacy of these methods depends on whether Harvard’s teaching staff is prepared to utilize these new spaces and techniques.

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