How to develop the ability to learn by entering Harvard? (article with video)
How to develop the ability to learn by entering Harvard? (article with video)




10 Required Student Skills at Harvard University

Skill # 2: Learning Ability

Talking about the first important skill of a Harvard student setting goals, I mentioned that each semester the student chooses only 4 courses. It is likely that after the experience of studying 10-11 subjects per semester at school and university, this number will seem to you negligible. Do not let the numbers mislead us, let's figure it out!

We turn to my personal example and look at the courses that I take this semester. 

Indeed, there are only four courses, each of which occurs only once a week for 1 hours. What happens during these meetings, and why do I believe that learning on your own will help you stay on track?

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Screenshot of a page listing current courses in a Harvard student profile

The purpose of classroom lessons and class meetings, depending on the course and content, is reduced to the synthesis, discussion and application of information for solving practical tasks, receiving feedback from classmates or an expert professor in the field of your subject. Therefore, any such three-hour meeting involves significant preparation, which sometimes exceeds the duration of the busy by 2-3 times. Let's look at the examples so that the volumes and format of homework are clear.

Of my 4 subjects I will take 2, since their combination will show the variability of tasks. So, each student has access to an interactive timetable, where all courses are organized, and you can see in advance the goals of the entire course, reporting tasks, the schedule for each week, as well as the preparatory task for the next lesson and the requirements for its implementation.

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Screenshot of a course page on Harvard's online platform

In the same system, by the way, for the convenience of the student, the dates and dates of all reporting tasks are synchronized in one calendar, updates or important information about the course are sent (it is immediately duplicated in the mail).

The first example. Neurodevelopment Course

So, by Monday for the course “Typical and Atypical Neurodevelopment” H126, you need to find and read the materials that you see in the photo.

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Homework for the lesson "Typical and atypical neurodevelopment"
In general, this is about 60-70 pages of scientific text about various methods for conducting neuro research, the pros and cons of each, etc. What does it mean to read? This means synthesizing this material and understanding all the pros and cons, the scope of each, the significance of technology flaws in the analysis of research results.

How do a professor and a group of his assistants check how well you have learned the material? Usually, before classes, you must send a reflection paper through the same electronic system. Reflection paper is a small essay (1-2 pages long) in the academic style, in which the student demonstrates an understanding of the material and discusses how this knowledge is applicable to his professional field. An essay submitted on time, in compliance with all the rules of academic writing and citation, will allow you to get a good mark for the final grade for the course, as well as to be more involved and prepared to participate in the discussion on the same topic in the upcoming lesson and ask the professor more profound and thoughtful questions.

An example of the second. Course for Entrepreneurs

And now, for the sake of diversity, I will give an example of the tasks and organization of training at the Entrepreneurship in Education Marketplace course. Unlike the previous course, which ends with a research project based on the material studied, this entire course is a group business project, and each session is an obligatory stage of the project. As a result, by the end of the semester, student teams (2-3 people each) create a business plan for the company and sell their business to nominal investors.

At the first meeting, each student makes a presentation of their competencies and areas of interest, so that as a result everyone can choose the desired partners and unite into teams. At each subsequent lesson, the teams provide the result of one completed stage - they present an elevator Speech (“speech in an elevator” for a potential investor in 20 seconds ”), marketing analysis, financial analysis, etc. All of these assignments in written format are also uploaded before class, graded by assistants and a professor. In the classroom, after a public presentation of a particular stage, other students and professors ask questions and provide feedback for further refinement in the framework of group or independent work.

In addition to teamwork, this course also includes individual work, which also involves the study of theory and synthesis. For the next class, for example, in addition to brainstorming a business idea and writing an "elevator speech", one should read chapters of textbooks in the field of entrepreneurship, several cases and discuss them in an interactive format with other students through the application.

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Harvard Quest Page Screenshot


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Task screenshot with discussion in perusall 

From these examples it follows that the ability to learn independently is critically necessary to cope with the voluminous tasks and requirements of the course. The ability to learn independently is a complex skill that synthesizes a huge number of other additional skills, namely critical reading, time management, systemic thinking, the ability to understand and clearly follow instructions, and others. Some of these skills are transfers, i.e. applicable in various fields of personal, academic and professional life. We will discuss them separately.

In the meantime, I recommend that you enroll in one of the most popular and interesting courses on Coursera “Learning how to learn”With Barbara Oakley in English. It will allow you to understand what is going on in your brain as you study and will provide useful tools for increasing your personal effectiveness. And by the way, it's also free!


Author: Evgenia Efremova, graduate student at Harvard University  
and academic director of Global Ambassador     

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