Teaching Through Problems

Lecturing interactively and facilitating discussions may be the primary modalities for instruction, but they are certainly not the only ones. Teaching through problems is increasingly practiced on college campuses and in secondary classrooms. These classrooms engage students in relevant, discipline-specific puzzles, frequently shifting instructors to the periphery as students collaborate to realistically apply textbook concepts and reach new understandings.

Teaching through problems videos are organized into five submodules according to the specific learning exercise employed: Case-Based Collaborative Learning (CBCL), Case Teaching, Simulations, Project-Based Learning, and Team-Based Learning. Supplemented by classroom footage and student testimonials, featured faculty share strategies and philosophies for designing, facilitating, and helping students make meaning from immersive, hands-on learning activities.

Featured Faculty

  • Our goal with cases is to have students come in and do the hard part of learning in the classroom, which is the application, the thinking, the wrestling with the material.

    - Barbara Cockrill

  • My approach when I stay with a student, is never to try and trick the student...I stay with the student because I'm genuinely interested in what the students have to say. And I want to make sure that we all as a group fully understand their reasoning.

    - Julie Battilana

  • The challenge of this kind of teaching and the fun part for me is that it's largely unscripted. We know the goals and objectives for the session...but we don't know exactly what the groups are going to come up with for hypotheses. So managing that conversation is a little challenging, but it's fun because no two sessions are exactly the same.

    - Richard Schwartzstein

  • Even before playing, I'm trying to get them to develop an anticipatory mindset. Like an expert or grand master chess player, they can start to think in twofers -- one, two moves at a time -- and at the same time, anticipate questions from other parties at the table.

    - Brian Mandell

  • I thought it'd be nice if I could somehow return to my students the ownership of learning, so that they're not learning because I tell them it's good for them but because they actually want to.

    - Eric Mazur

Julie Battilana

Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Business Administration (Harvard Business School), Alan L. Gleitsman Professor of Social Innovation (Harvard Kennedy School)

STUDENT GROUP

Graduate

SCHOOL

Harvard Business School, Harvard Kennedy School

COURSE

Power and Influence

COURSE DETAILS

Fall 2018, 85 students, second year course

Barbara Cockrill

Harold Amos Academy Associate Professor of Medicine

STUDENT GROUP

Graduate

SCHOOL

Harvard Medical School

COURSE

Homeostasis I

COURSE DETAILS

Spring 2018, 40 students, first-year requisite

Brian Mandell

Brian Mandell

Mohamed Kamal Senior Lecturer in Negotiation and Public Policy

STUDENT GROUP

Graduate

SCHOOL

Harvard Kennedy School

COURSE

Advanced Workshop in Multiparty Negotiation and Conflict Resolution

COURSE DETAILS

January Term, 2019; 60 students

Eric Mazur

Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics

STUDENT GROUP

Undergraduate

SCHOOL

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

COURSE

Physics as a Foundation for Science and Engineering

COURSE DETAILS

Spring, 2019; 60 students

Richard Schwartzstein

Ellen and Melvin Gordon Professor of Medicine and Medical Education

STUDENT GROUP

Graduate

SCHOOL

Harvard Medical School

COURSE

Homeostasis I

COURSE DETAILS

Spring 2018, 40 students, first-year requisite