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Experiments in Learning Series

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Interested in learning about what your colleagues are doing in the classroom to promote student inclusion, learning, and engagement? Join us for a monthly series to hear about innovative approaches used by Stanford instructors, and discuss how you might apply them in your own courses.


experiments in learning lunch series


Interested in facilitating a session?

If you are interested in attending these events, have a teaching approach you would like to share, or would simply like to join our mailing list, please email Kenny Ligda (


Spring 2024

  • Experiments in Assignment Design: Exploring Diverse Ways to Capture Student Learning 
    Tuesday, April 9 Jennifer Stonaker (Advanced Lecturer | Program in Writing and Rhetoric

    How do we design assignments that engage students, provide hands-on experiences, and support different types of learners? In Stanford's Notation in Science Communication, we do this by providing students with the opportunity to work in multiple different modes and genres of communication, from producing podcasts to designing museum exhibitions, that are used by professional science communicators. We also offer students the opportunity to “choose their own adventure,” working in a mode and genre that they find interesting and would like to learn. Join us to consider how you might implement similar types of assignments in your own course (communication-focused or not), and how to support students working on different types of projects within one course. We’ll also discuss how to approach assignment design when students have easy access to generative AI tools.

    Register for this event


  • Generating and Applying Classroom Research for Engagement and Inclusion 
    Thursday, May 2 Jennifer Crosby (Psych One Program Manager | Department of Psychology

    While an array of scholarship of teaching and learning exists, implementing and assessing research-backed practices can be challenging. In particular, what might be best for research, such as randomized research designs and consistency in all factors other than the specific intervention of interest, can be in tension with the realities of large classes and with efforts to equitably support the learning and course performance of all students. We’ll consider the pros and cons of various approaches to addressing these challenges we have implemented in Psych 1 and think together about additional possibilities in the context of diverse course formats.

    Register for this event


  • Seeing the Invisible: Molecules in Virtual Reality Monday, May 20 Alex Chang (PhD Student | Department of Chemistry) Understanding the theoretical concepts that explain observable phenomena is often challenging for students. This is especially true in chemistry, where molecules not only cannot be seen but also can behave in ways that defy intuition. In the general chemistry course CHEM 31A, we ran a virtual reality lab that leveraged tools from computational chemistry to immerse students in the world of molecules. Students were able to watch individual molecules vibrate, react, and respond to human interaction – actions that previously had been unobservable. Join us to hear more about this virtual reality lab and to consider how you might incorporate modern technology into your curricula.

Register for this event

Previous quarters

Fall 2023

  • Efficiently and Effectively Supporting Undergraduate Capstone Projects Tuesday, October 17 Penelope Van Tuyl (Associate Director | Center for Human Rights and International Justice
    As capstone requirements rollout university-wide, many of us have been exploring and discussing how faculty and staff can meaningfully and effectively support undergraduates at scale. The Minor in Human Rights has had a capstone requirement since it first launched in 2016, but as a rapidly growing program in its first five years, the Minor had to figure out how a small program staff could guarantee high quality advising and mentorship to increasing numbers of students with highly diverse intellectual interests. The main objective of this capstone requirement is to ensure that students get the most intellectual and personal growth possible out of the culminating projects they choose to pursue toward the end of their time at Stanford. To achieve this, the Minor offers students wide latitude to imagine a project that excites them, and puts a lot of effort into helping connect students with strong capstone mentorship from faculty advisors. However, the Minor realized very early on that the student services staff needed to be able to keep close tabs on student progress from the brainstorming stage through to final submission of the capstone work. The Minor took some of the important lessons learned about using Canvas during COVID distance learning, and developed an online capstone course that has allowed them to preserve the flexibility and individuation that their students deeply value, while streamlining administration for the staff who oversee student progress. 

    During this session, we show what the Human Rights Capstone course looks like on Canvas, explain how it is used to engage with students, and discuss some of the challenges the Center has contended with over the past two years as it piloted this tool.


Spring 2023

  • Metacognitive and Collective Self-Assessment For Black Feminist Pedagogy 
    Tuesday, May 30 
    Casey Patterson (PhD Candidate | Department of English
    The disciplines of Black, Women’s, and Ethnic Studies entered the university as expressions of student protest, when students were demanding “relevant education” and “education for liberation.” So how are we, as extensions of that protested authority, supposed to teach a curriculum which should always be premised on questioning us? In the design of my Winter 2023 class, “Black Feminism and the Sci-Fi of Octavia Butler,” I included two experimental assessment structures: a “Joint Assessment” process which adapted “contract grading” and “ungrading” frameworks to structure metacognitive self-assessment as an equal component of students’ final grades for the class; and a Collective Final Exam which called upon students to cooperatively define questions, methods, and answers to frame our learning for the quarter. In this session, we will review the implementation of such assessments, and discuss how each of us can develop allied methods in our own contexts.
  • Can We Create Assignments that Shape the Way Students Learn? 
    Wednesday, April 19 
    Katherine Preston (Associate Director | Program in Human Biology
    Instructors usually have ideas about how students should approach learning in their courses, and we sometimes even talk about those ideas in class or the syllabus. But graded work is the currency of the classroom, and the design of our assignments very effectively tells our students where to invest their time and attention, even when we have different priorities for them. How can we create assignments that go beyond the immediate goals of a class to help students practice the scholarly habits we value? Dr Preston will describe two assignments designed with this goal in mind. Join us to share your own successful assignments, as well as common barriers to implementing them.
  • “In This Class, I Have to Think!”: Learning through Decision-Making in a Sustainable Energy Course 
    Monday, May 8 
    Argenta Price (Lecturer | Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability; Science Education Research Associate | Physics Department
    Arun Majumdar (Chester Naramore Dean | Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability; Jay Precourt Professor | Mechanical Engineering & Energy Science and Engineering; Senior Fellow | Precourt Institute for Energy and Hoover Institution
    Kathryn Moler (Vice Provost and Dean of Research; Professor | Applied Physics and of Physics
    See the presentation slides (PDF) 
    In this session we will explore a potential mechanism for creating problem-based learning by following a decision-making framework. We use our experiment teaching a sustainable energy course as an example. Because students had to make many decisions, they learned necessary content and gained an appreciation of the complexity and ambiguity that is inherent in these types of problems.

Winter 2023

  • "Communicating to Learn: Teaching Students to Think, Write, and Speak like Experts" 
    Rajan Kumar (Lecturer | Director of Undergraduate Studies, Materials Science and Engineering) 
    Many instructors are eager to help students develop critical skills that extend beyond the classroom or the major. This is sometimes explained as teaching students to “think like an expert”, but how do we actually accomplish this goal? In this session, we explore the benefits of “communicating to learn,” and show how communication-based assessments and activities can promote critical thinking and foster deeper learning of technical content. 

  • "Teaching Complex Problem-Solving Skills Using a Framework of Decisions" 
    Argenta Price (Science Education Research Associate, Physics Department | Lecturer, Doerr School of Sustainability) 
    Complex problem-solving skills are necessary for experts in most disciplines, so students need opportunities to practice such skills in their undergraduate courses. In this session, we discuss how to design learning activities and assessments that require students to make these problem-solving decisions. 

  • "Trusting the Students: An Introduction to the Harkness Method" 
    John Barton (Director, Architectural Design Program) 
    As instructors, we use a variety of techniques to enhance student engagement, collaboration, critical thinking, and skill development in our courses. What if one of those techniques involved trusting students to curate their own knowledge and be the leaders in classroom? This session includes an introduction to the Harkness Method, including its history, a short exercise, and a Harkness discussion.

Autumn 2022

  • "What Does 'Research-Led' Teaching Mean in Practice?" 
    Elaine Treharne (Professor of English and, by courtesy, of German Studies and Comparative Literature) 
  • “I Never Knew I Could Study That”: Archival Research as the Key to Inclusion, Engagement and Belonging in the Classroom 
    Thomas Mullaney (Professor of History)  

Spring 2022

Winter 2022

Spring 2021

Winter 2021

Autumn 2020

  • Hands-On from Home: Tips for Running Virtual Labs and Other Activities in the Remote Environment 
    Facilitator: Jennifer Schwartz Poehlman, Chemistry 
    Watch the recording 
    See the presentation slides (PDF)
  • Humans and Viruses: An Ongoing Platform for Experimentation 
    Facilitator: Bob Siegel, Human Biology

Spring 2020

Winter 2020

  • Doing Before Knowing: How Students Learn to Direct by Directing  
    Facilitator: Michael Rau, Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS)
  • Team-Based Pedagogy  
    Facilitator: Marcelo Clerici-Arias, Economics
  • Expert-Level Decision-Making in the Classroom: How to help students move from thinking like novices to thinking like experts 
    Facilitator: Lisa Hwang, Chemical Engineering

Fall 2019

  • The Case for Applied Ethics: How Experiential Learning Can Help Students Develop Meaningful Principles 
    Facilitator: Tom Byers and Jack Fuchs, Management Science and Engineering
  • Active Learning is Not a Fad: Empowering Students to Learn 
    Facilitator: Pat Burchat, Physics
  • Situating the Student Scientist by Teaching environmental Justice and Equity Framing 
    Facilitators: Sibyl Diver (Earth Systems) and Emily Polk (Program in Writing and Rhetoric)

Spring 2019

  • Drawing Students into Arguments: How Mapping Argument Structure Improves Engagement and Analysis 
    Facilitator: Emilee Chapman, Political Science
  • The Power of Vulnerability in Fostering Student Learning and Belonging 
    Facilitators: Steven Roberts, Psychology, with his students, Valerie Wu, Jackson Richter, and Isaac Arocha
  • The Pi-Shaped Student: Learning Ethical Design in an Age of Technology 
    Facilitator: Ge Wang, CCRMA

Winter 2019

  • Engaging Students in Large Lecture Courses: Lessons from Psychology One 
    Facilitator: James Gross, Psychology
  • Students Mixing Silos: Using the Arts to Express and Explore Science 
    Facilitator: Sue McConnell, Biology
  • Seeing, Hearing, Tasting: How Students Benefit from Experiential Learning 
    Facilitators: Marisa Galvez (French and Italian) and Jesse Rodin (Music)

Fall 2018

  • Teaching with No Learning Outcomes: Against the Instrumentalization of the Classroom 
    Facilitator: Alex Nemerov, Art and Art History
  • Practicing Safe CS: How Interdisciplinary Learning Benefits Students (and Stimulates New Research) 
    Facilitator: Rob Reich, Political Science
  • The One-Unit Class: Creating Gateways to Humanities 
    Facilitator: Allyson Hobbs, History

Co-sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Dean’s Office of the School of Humanities and Sciences.


Please contact Kenneth Ligda for questions.

Kenny Ligda

Kenneth Ligda 
Associate Director, Faculty and Lecturer Programs