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How Great Teaching is Taught

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Practice makes perfect in all arenas, but for educators, low-stakes opportunities to practice their craft — to find out which teaching strategies will actually be effective in real classroom settings — are few. Instructional Moves, an innovative online platform to model and nurture excellent teaching in higher education‚ fills a large gap. With a guiding philosophy that says great teaching can be learned, Instructional Moves gives university instructors around the world a chance to do just that: learn how the best teachers do what they do, by virtually stepping into their classrooms to see what works, and why.  

Instructional Moves is an HGSE project to share and celebrate great university teaching — and how to do it — at Harvard and around the world.

Developed by HGSE's Teaching and Learning Lab, under the direction of Professor Meira Levinson — and with support from the Harvard Institute for Learning and Teaching — Instructional Moves features videos of Harvard University professors in action, with commentary about their teaching moves from the instructors and their students. Alongside the videos are tips for implementation, research that validates the particular moves being shown, and resources for further consideration. The intent is that these high-leverage teaching practices — on topics ranging from effective lecturing and the use of humor in the classroom to equitable discussions and teaching through problems — will spread.

The videos have now been viewed by more than 25,000 people in over 150 countries, and online partnerships with teaching and learning organizations within and outside of Harvard continue to extend the reach. The use of IM for in-person professional development continues to grow as well, with a growing number (now more than a dozen) of colleges and universities using IM resources in their teacher training, the launch of a new “IM Live” seminar series at Harvard, and developing plans for face-to-face institutes.  

The momentum here is exciting, showing how Instructional Moves is helping to elevate university teaching at a time when instructors are more eager than ever to reflect on their teaching practices — and when Harvard as a whole is seeking to lift up and spread good practices. “We will continue to partner with teaching and learning centers and other organizations here at Harvard and around the world to support faculty pedagogical development using our resources,” says Levinson. – Timothy Butterfield

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