Activity-Based Learning

Overview ›      Course Examples ›

In Activity-Based Learning courses, students do public service, fieldwork, community-based research and internships in conjunction with in-class work. ABL pedagogy aims to enrich students’ academic experience and learning outcomes by connecting theory with practice, and concepts with methods, using data and insight they obtain through engagement with the larger world. The Bok Center serves as a hub for ABL instructors to share ideas for pedagogy and assessment.

Since 2005, over 1600 students in more than 30 different courses (consisting of more than 80 different course offerings in 16 departments and programs) have participated in activity-based learning. Some courses place students in specific community settings; over 50 non-profit organizations throughout greater Boston have collaborated with ABL courses, often in conjunction with Harvard's Phillips Brooks House Association and Public Service Network programs.

In a major assessment of the ABL pilot project in 2007 the primary findings included:

  • A large increase in students finding the course interesting (compared to non-ABL courses)
  • ABL students rated courses either 4/5 or 5/5 as “academically enriching” and for “increased understanding of subject matter”
  • ABL students reported the following specific effects:
    • they developed a sense of purpose beyond grades
    • they learned from others as a collaborative class community
    • they constructed meaning [from] the integration of experience and education.

More about ABL

Course Examples


The following courses have self-identified as incorporating activity-based learning pedagogy for some or all of their students. If you know of other courses that should be listed here, or for more information on the Bok Center's support for activity-based learning courses, contact John Girash at girash@fas.harvard.edu.

Fall 2014 ABL Courses

Spring 2015 ABL Courses

Additional Courses expected to be offered in 2015-2016