Stimulating Students to Think

Thalidomide: The pros and cons

This case study, contributed by the Cornell Center for Teaching Excellence, is intended to show that two enantiomers can have different effects on the body, and how the same drug can be used to treat different diseases or symptoms.  It is also intended to help students begin to understand the process of FDA approval for drugs.  This problem could be used in an organic chemistry class or in a class for non-science majors.

Floor Plan

This is an activity for Lioudmila Zaitseva's Elementary Russian class. She goes through a floor plan illustration on the board and calls on volunteers to label the parts, then place a corresponding image in the specific zone of the plan. This is a fun way for students to remember their vocabulary, basic verbs, and basically conduct a general review.

Name Five

Kellie Carter Jackson, a Harvard College Fellow, created the game “Name Five” for her AAAS118 class. In the beginning of the class, she goes around the room and asks students to list five notable people of different ethnicities to help students understand the world and the power dynamics within it.

Cells vs. Buildings

Created by Kostia Bergman, Erin Cram, Wendy Smith, Scott Dobrin, Presque Isle, and Judith Roe, this lesson for an intermediate Cell Biology course encourages students to take a big-picture view of the cell by comparing cells to buildings in order to think about the dynamic processes within cells. The lesson utilizes a jigsaw and quick write.

Protein Function Follows Form: Two-Lesson Activity

Created by Moriah Beck, Masih Shokrani, Karen Koster, William Soto, David McDonald, and David Swanson for the National Academies Northstar Institute for Undergraduate Teaching in Biology, this activity spans 2-3 classes and uses lecture, clicker questions, jigsaws, and group discussions to teach the relationship between protein structure and function.

Open Review Discussion

Students used a platform called Open Review (, developed by the members of the Harvard physics department, which is a PDF annotation tool that is tailored to discuss scientific publications openly. Every week, students read two publications related to research in the Harvard Physics Department and used Open Review to discuss them online and learn about the academic research.

Daily ER18 Immersion

Guanchang Qian made every section and every day an active learning experience for her ER18 students to enhance not only students’ learning experiences, but also the students’ relations with their instructor. She exposed students to ER18 material every day through daily emails and supplementary readings.

Public Opinion Polling Challenge

This activity created was by Benjamin Schneer, a graduate teaching fellow for GOV30, to help students understand methods in public opinion polling. Schneer provided a dilemma for students to resolve using information about public opinion polling found in their textbook or online resources. Students enthusiastically participated in this active learning exercise to incorporate classroom knowledge in a practical setting.