Professors Todd Rakoff and Meira Levinson lead the inaugural Instructional Moves Live session, "Beyond 'The Paper Chase"'
Photos: Shawn Read
All educators use different pedagogical strategies and ideas in their classrooms. Since its launch in 2017, Instructional Moves (IM) has worked to bring the most successful of these strategies to light via a series of online videos featuring Harvard instructors discussing how their own “moves” can be useful in multiple settings.
“The core belief of Instructional Moves is that great teaching can be learned, particularly through seeing and deconstructing expert practice,” says IM project lead Joshua Bookin, associate director of instructional support services at HGSE's Teaching and Learning Lab. To date, the IM website has been visited by more than 25,000 people from over 150 countries, according to Bookin.
Now, IM has launched “IM Live,” a series of in-person teaching events that allow participants to observe and experience teaching styles in real time. Whether a particular instructor launches an improvisational or highly structured lesson, attendees will be able to experience, discuss, and learn the techniques that produce great teaching.
Introducing the inaugural event in November, Dean Bridget Long connected the project to its HGSE roots. “Instructional Moves began with a proposal from HGSE faculty members,” explained Long. “Great teaching can be learned, and we often learn best through direct experience.”
At the first event, titled “Beyond ‘The Paper Chase’: Learning from Legal Pedagogy,” participants embodied first-year, first-semester law students in a class with session leader Todd Rakoff, Byrne Professor of Administrative Law at the Harvard Law School and former dean of the J.D. Program.
Rakoff set the tone for future IM Live events by showcasing how his own high-leverage teaching strategies — including cold-calling and "turn-and-talks" — can build an interactive classroom community, with the event audience playing the role of the students. After the in-class experience, a short video of Rakoff teaching a first-year law class was shown, allowing the attendees to see Rakoff apply his techniques — and witness how they are received by real students.
Harvard Law School Professor Todd Rakoff speaks to an attendee of his Instructional Moves Live session
“Videos of great teaching can help instructors break down and analyze specific pedagogical principles and practices, which is really important, but nothing beats actually experiencing great teaching in real life,” says Professor Meira Levinson, IM principal investigator and faculty chair. “In IM Live, participants get to experience masterful pedagogy firsthand and then pull it apart to see inside the black box. It's the best of both worlds.”
And the future of the project is bright. An expanded version of the Instructional Moves website launched this fall with new resources and professional development opportunities. The goal is for the sites online offerings to continue to grow.
The IM team anticipates continued partnership with teaching and learning centers and other organizations at Harvard and around the world to help shape future faculty pedagogical development. And they are already considering future events, says Bookin, both at HGSE and at partner campuses around the world.
“We think that bringing educators together for a deep dive into teaching excellence is the best way to impact practice in a meaningful way,” says Bookin.