TF? The ‘Berg? PAF? QRD? OEB? OMG! A Glossary of Harvard Terms

August 25, 2020
image of Sever Hall Harvard

As we prepare to launch a new academic year, a lot has changed at Harvard—including the terms in which we speak about teaching. Now, in addition to asking how many pages of reading a professor assigns, we’re comparing notes on how they balance the synchronous and asynchronous components of their course, as if we’ve been forming our personal opinions about asynchronous learning for decades rather than mere months. Yet there’s an awful lot about teaching and learning at Harvard that can’t, or won’t, be renamed at the speed of Zoom. So much of what we do in the Harvard classroom gets planned, carried out, and remembered through a peculiar language that is peculiar to us: call it “Harvard-ese.” 

Last fall the Bok Center reached out to a group of instructors and students to crowdsource a Glossary of Harvard’s Teaching-Related Terms in the hope of capturing as much of this Harvard-ese as possible from the insiders who already speak it for the benefit of those who are just learning to. The glossary is meant to be a living document, and we hope that adding to it and updating it will build community—even when the buildings themselves are out of sight. If you’re missing Harvard—or, like us, think it’s important to demystify it—why not contribute to our Glossary of Harvard’s Teaching Related Terms yourself?