First Lectures in College Teaching

This is part of my presentation at the Harvard teacher training seminar on 13. September 2005. The original presentation included 14 movie clips of lectures which ranged from examples produced in the film to actual lecture clips of calculus classes given at Harvard. The clips served as a discussion basis on "the first minutes of a classroom". On this page, I have 5 sequence examples taken from actual movies. What effective teaching elements can you identify in those clips? What is ineffective?

Teacher training resource

Date: 13. September 2005
by: Oliver Knill, Harvard University
A Beautiful Mind (QT)

Mathematician John Nash (Russel Crow) gives his first multivariable calculus lesson at MIT around 1951. He throws the book into the garbage and presents a problem which is above the level of a beginning multivariable calculus student.

Paper Chase (QT)

Charles Kingsfield (John Houseman) gives his first lecture at the Harvard law school around 1970. He picks a student and questions him on a preclass assignment.

Kinsey (Let's talk about sex) (QT)

Biologist Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson) gives his first lecture on human sexuality at Indiana University around 1948. The teacher starts the lecture while entering the room.

The Emperors Club (QT)

Classics professor William Hundert (Kevin Kline) gives his first history lecture at a liberal arts college. (no date). The teacher learns the names of the students and asks a student to read a sentence from an inscription at the back of the room.

Mona Lisa Smile (QT)

History of Arts teacher Kartherine Ann Watson (Julia Roberts) teaches her first lecture at Wellesley College. The students know all the material already.

Added as a bonus on February 2006:
Simpson Epsiode V, Simpson goes to College (QT)

Simpson attends the first physics lecture, laughs to the wrong jokes.

Back to Olivers Homepage, 13. September 2005