Learning Lab

The Bok Center’s Learning Lab is an intergenerational team and a studio space built to support creative approaches to teaching and learning.

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The Learning Lab team collaborates with Harvard faculty to explore, design and build materials, assignments, and activities for Harvard courses. These activities often involve unconventional modes of communicating, making, and creating – including data visualization, film-making, public speaking, 3D modeling, virtual reality, sculpture, dance and performance, and public service, among many others. Since students will often be engaging these media and tools for the very first time, the Learning Lab provides direct instruction to students through workshops and hackathons hosted in our Learning Lab Studio, a flexible space with dynamic technological capabilities and artmaking supplies.

Our Process

Connecting to the Learning Lab

1
Connecting

We begin each Learning Lab project by assembling an intergenerational team of teachers and learners: faculty members designing new courses, graduate students interested in instructional design, undergraduate students excited about learning new media. To get connected, contact us, come to a workshop, a hackathon, or just drop by.

Researching and sketching at the Learning Lab

2
Researching & Sketching

The next step involves developing our skills, our knowledge base, and our capacities. We pull together relevant research, evaluate new technologies, and locate best practices and models. Thinking together about what’s already out there, both within the classroom but also beyond, leads to innovative yet grounded prototypes for testing.

Prototyping and testing at the Learning Lab

3
Prototyping & Testing

Once we have something, whether it's a lecture or an assignment or a classroom activity, that we could imagine offering a student, we give it to the Learning Lab Undergraduate Fellows to test. The "LLUFs" offer us feedback on each iteration of the learning object, and this feedback drives the design process.  

Delivering and supporting assignments at the Learning Lab

4
Delivering & Supporting

Through the cyclical design and testing process, our graduate and undergraduate fellows develop the skills necessary to support the course or assignment when it is deployed in the classroom. They produce guides and models; they offer dedicated workshops for students on any unfamiliar skills or tools required for the course. And the Learning Lab’s Studio offers space to rehearse, perform and create in a wide variety of media.

Assessing and revising at the Learning Lab

5
Assessing & Revising

The Bok Center's Research and Evaluation team meets with faculty to develop targeted assessment protocols involving anything from special questions on course evaluations to focus groups. The resulting reports guide future revisions to the course materials and practices we develop.

Reporting and curating at the Learning Lab

6
Reporting & Curating

The final step involves telling the story of the project, making what we’ve learned visible so that we can steadily build on our discoveries and those of others. And this is why the Learning Lab operates with an unusual degree of transparency, publishing a constant stream of photos, videos, and text.

Our Recent Projects

  • John Huth and TFs

    John Huth's "Finding Our Way"

    The Learning Lab helped the staff of Science of the Physical Universe 29 film "assignment trailers" for students.

  • Expos20 "The Psychology of Success and Failure"

    Julia Hayden Galindo's "The Psychology of Success and Failure"

    The Learning Lab hosted final video presentations for students of EXPOS20 "The Psychology of Success and Failure."

  • MCB81

    David Cox's "Fundamentals of Neuroscience"

    Students from MCB81 filmed video presentations explaining neuroscience concepts in place of midterms and final exams.

Our Mission

Experiments in teaching can't happen in a vacuum – they are, simultaneously, experiments in learning, and learners need to be involved and central in the beginning, the middle, and the end. Central to the Learning Lab is the sense that teaching and learning are deeply intertwined – that, as John Dewey put it,

Teaching and learning are correlative or corresponding processes, as much so as selling and buying. One might as well say he [or she] has sold when no one has bought, as to say that he [or she] has taught when no one has learned. And in the educational transaction, the initiative lies with the learner even more than in commerce it lies with the buyer.

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We do not engage in the instructional design process in isolation from learners.

We do not engage in the instructional design process in isolation from learners. 

Of course, in practice, we engage in one-on-one consultations with faculty as we design learning objects, working with the faculty member's classroom experience as a good source of intuitions on ways students might respond the new idea we're pursuing, but our goal is to as quickly as possible deliver a working prototype to actual learners for feedback.
Incubating innovations involves support for teachers during the design phase.

Incubating innovations involves support for teachers during the design phase.

Incubating innovations in teaching and learning involves supporting not only the teachers during the design phase, but supporting both teachers and learners during the first year of the implementation phase as well.
We only know that teaching has happened once we know that students have learned.

We only know that teaching has happened once we know that students have learned.

If we only know that teaching has happened once we know that students have learned, then the process of assessing students' acquisition of knowledge, skills, and attitudes takes on special – even central – importance. For this reason, the Bok Center's Research and Evaluation Team is central to each Learning Lab project, pursuing the goal not of "judging" or "grading" the professor, but, rather, of assessing the Learning Lab's work in supporting the teachers and learners' activities.

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Join Our Team

With over two dozen staff and more than one hundred undergraduate and graduate student fellows, the Bok Center is building a community of people dedicated to enhancing teaching and learning at Harvard. Don't miss your opportunity to find out how you can contribute to our mission!

See open positions