Innovation in Education

This page presents news about educational innovations developed and implemented
within MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.


The 2023 cohort with Prof. Helen Elaine Lee (left) and guide Pedro Moreira (center) at the Rio Museum of Art

MIT SHASS undergraduates study race, place, and modernity in Brazil

MIT undergraduates visit São Paulo for the Independent Activities Period (IAP) subject “Race, Place, and Modernity in the Americas.


Announcing the 2022 Levitan Teaching Award Winners

Five extraordinary MIT SHASS educators were honored with the 2022 Levitan Teaching Awards. Presented each year, the award distinguishes these instructors as some of the finest at the Institute. 


Stories and profiles

100% of MIT undergraduates study the humanities, arts, and social sciences — and our graduate students earn masters and doctoral degrees in seven world-class fields. MIT excellence, innovation, and multi-disciplinary initiatives makes all these studies and classroom experiences like no other. Explore a selection of class stories and student profiles.

Sunset with Soundwave overlay


The Sound of a Sunset

The MIT Digital Humanities Lab unveils its Sonification Toolkit. Created by MIT students in the Digital Humanities Lab, the Toolkit is a set of digital tools that enable conversion of almost anything — from data to drawings — into sound that is aesthetically satisfying and analytically illuminating.

Painting, Navajo cultural heritage


Exploring cultural inheritance

In a unique IAP workshop, MIT students explore and honor their personal histories

Planet Earth


The Power of the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at MIT

"From climate change to poverty to disease, the challenges of our age are unwaveringly human in nature and scale; and engineering and science issues are always embedded in broader human realities, from deeply-felt cultural traditions to building codes to political tensions."


Webinar Series | History of Now: Plagues & Pandemics

In the spring of 2020, as people around the world confronted the daily reality of the Covid-19 pandemic, many wondered how previous generations navigated similar crises. At MIT, an interdisciplinary team of humanistic faculty explored this question in a course that broke ground as a live, free MIT class, held in an open public webinar format so that anyone who wanted to attend could do so, from anywhere in the world.



Announcing the 2021 Levitan Teaching Award Winners

The James A. and Ruth Levitan Teaching Award, given annually by the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, honors the superlative teaching staff across the School. About the award, Dean Nobles says, "This prize honors instructors in our School who have demonstrated outstanding success in teaching our undergraduate and graduate students. These great educators, who are nominated by students themselves, represent the very best academic leadership in the School."

Patricia Saulis, Director, Maliseet Conservation Council


Two-Eyed Seeing

In this interview, Patricia Saulis, MLK Visiting Scholar and Executive Director of the Maliseet Nation Conservation Council, discusses drawing on both Indigenous and Western knowledge systems to develop more sustainable ways to live on the planet.

Christine Soh '20, computer science and linguistics


Christine Soh '20 | CS/Engineering + Linguistics

With her dual degrees, Soh is prepared to make new tools in computational linguistics. Potential applications include improving speech recognition software and making machine-produced speech sound more natural.

Detail, Delacroix painting, Liberty guiding the people


How to Stage a Revolution: History 21H.001

MIT history class explores the roots and complexities of revolutions across the globe. From early printing presses to changing fuel sources to the reach of global social media, the technological contexts of revolutions are intrinsic to understanding them.

Emma Teng, T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Asian Civilizations


Global Languages | Emma Teng, with colleagues

"Language and culture learning is a gateway to international experiences and an important means to develop cross-cultural understanding and sensitivity. Such understanding is essential to addressing the social and ethical implications of the expanding array of technology affecting everyday life across the globe."

Historian Juliette Levy


Digital Zombies and Virtual Reality: Juliette Levy on history in the digital classroom

"Weekly podcasts, a virtual reality experience involving Che Guevara, and a learning game with zombies are among the digital platforms a history professor has used to enhance her teaching and make the subject engaging, especially for large classes of hundreds of students."


Talk by Cameron Blevins launches MIT Digital History Seminar Series

“This seminar series is part of our ongoing exploration of computational methods and digital media for research and teaching in the history field. Writ large, this new series is a space for us to reflect on our engagement with the new MIT Schwarzman College of Computing" — Jeffrey Ravel, head of MIT History

CS+HASS SuperUROP debuts with nine research projects

In yearlong program MIT undergraduates apply computer science to research in humanities, arts, and social science fields.


SHASS announces 10 Research Fund recipients for 2018

The SHASS Research Fund supports research in the areas of humanities, arts, and social sciences that shows promise of making an important contribution to the proposed area of activity. The School is pleased to announce ten recipients for 2018.


Remarks by Michel DeGraff, upon receiving the 2016 MIT Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award

Michel DeGraff, MIT-SHASS Professor of Linguistics, is a founding member of Haiti's newly created Haitian Creole Academy (Akademi Kreyòl Ayisyen) and Director of the MIT-Haiti Initiative.


MIT-SHASS MOOC courses available on edX

Discover the MIT-SHASS courses available online at edX — free, for anyone, anywhere.


Testing Student Learning

Numerous strategies to improve student learning have been evaluated by J-PAL, and found to have widely different impacts. These different strategies also incur drastically different costs, and some programs therefore achieve learning gains with much greater cost-effectiveness than others.


MIT economist Parag Pathak engineers practical solutions to complicated education problems

For students in New York and Boston, who have a range of options beyond their neighborhood school, choosing a high school used to be a maddeningly complicated guessing game. Just a decade ago, it seemed like an intractable problem. But that has changed, thanks in part to a graduate student — now an MIT professor — named Parag Pathak.


Haitian educators and MIT faculty develop Kreyòl-based teaching tools

Six veteran educators from Haiti — two biologists, two physicists, and two mathematicians — were on campus recently to work closely with MIT faculty to develop and hone Kreyòl-based, technology-enhanced pedagogical tools for STEM education.


Linguist Michel DeGraff is revolutionizing education in Haitian Kreyòl and other local languages

With his MIT-Haiti Inititiave, MIT-SHASS Professor of Linguistics Michel DeGraff is creating a historic new model for reaching science-hungry students around the world who speak local languages. A revolution in education is underway that will touch populations across the globe. 


"Visualizing Japan" humanities MOOC nominated for the Japan Prize: Interview with Shigeru Miyagawa

“Visualizing Japan”—a massive open online course (MOOC) co-taught by Shigeru Miyagawa and others—has been nominated for the Japan Prize, a prestigious international prize awarded to educational broadcast and digital media programs selected from around the world.


Five MIT students win MISTI Excellence Awards

MIT SHASS-based MISTI, the Institute’s groundbreaking program in applied international studies, presented its annual Excellence Awards to five students on Friday, June 5, in a ceremony in Kirsch Auditorium. MISTI prepares students to become informed, engaged participants in work and research opportunities in more than 20 countries. Training includes everything from workplace etiquette to the language, politics, and history of the country.


MIT grad students organize summer institute to increase diversity in the philosophy field.

The academic pursuit of philosophy (like many other fields) has a serious diversity problem. To help remedy the issue, three MIT philosophy graduate students have organized an innovative program that brought a diverse cohort of undergraduates to the MIT campus this summer, where the students explored the full range of options for pursuing an academic career in philosophy.


How do we tell the story about climate change?

Meet five MIT Knight Science Journalism colleagues and one oak tree. By closely observing the phenology of trees and other plants — the seasonal changes in their physical characteristics — researchers are identifying a trend toward longer growing seasons. Winter is arriving later, and spring earlier.


MIT undergrads launch national competition

A national competition for high school students, founded and led by MIT undergraduates, held its inaugural conference in April 2015 at MIT. The competition was for research in the humanities, arts, and social science fields. 

Celebrating Einstein marks 100th anniversary of general theory of relativity

Wherever you may be on the space-time continuum, it’s time to celebrate. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, and to honor the occasion faculty from SHASS and Physics have organized "Celebrating Einstein," a series of panel discussions, performances, and other events that will take place throughout Cambridge this April as a special feature of the 2015 Cambridge Science Festival.

David Dolev and Daria Johnson receive 2015 MIT Excellence Awards

MISTI associate director David Dolev and literature staff member Daria Johnson were both recognized for their exemplary efforts to strengthen and enrich the MIT community when they each received an 2015 MIT Excellence Award.


Political Science and EECS join forces for new "Elections and Voting Technology" course

Ensuring that elections are fair and equitable is fundamental to democracy—yet easier said than done, as MIT students discovered in a new class called "Elections and Voting Technology." The class is taught jointly by Charles Stewart III, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science, and Ronald Rivest, Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.


Bringing Science and Humanities Together - Promise and Perils

"What does it mean to converge science and humanities? why do we want to do this? and what would it take to succeed? Here I will sketch out the beginnings of an answer."

Six MIT undergraduates awarded Kelly-Douglas Traveling Fellowships

Travel beyond MIT to pursue an independent project in an HASS field, or to collaborate on a humanitarian project, can have a transformative impact on a student's life and career. 

2014 Levitan Awards
for Excellence in Teaching announced

Dean Fitzgerald has announced the recipients of the 2014 James A. and Ruth Levitan Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Warmest congratulations to these nine educators and colleagues, who represent the very best academic leadership in the School. 

Anthropologist Heather Paxson named 2014 MacVicar Faculty Fellow

Every year, the MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program recognizes a handful of professors who are exceptional undergraduate teachers, educational innovators, and mentors. This year’s awardees included Heather Anne Paxson, an associate professor of anthropology. 


Laura Meeker '14 | Engineering + Humanities 
Le Morte d'Arthur and the Engineer

In the fall of 2013, after having taught "Medieval Literature: Legends of Arthur" at MIT for six years, Arthur Bahr took a leap of faith. Instead of a final paper, he gave his students the option to turn in a creative project about Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.  “These are MIT students," says Bahr, Associate Professor of Literature."They’re makers. Mens et manus, right?”


SHASS convenes event with leaders in Science Engagement field 

This fall, MIT gathered 75 top practitioners from across the field at the "Evolving Culture of Science Engagement" event to take the measure of the potentials in the convergence of science, education, and entertainment.


Gallery of Digital Humanities at MIT

The work going on in digital humanities and new media is one expression of the innovation that characterizes the Humanities more broadly. Using computational tools and methods, MIT humanities scholars are opening new lines of research and discovery, revitalizing the study of objects from the past, and asking questions never before possible.


"Annotation Studio" translates an ancient literary practice into the digital age

Annotation Studio, a digital humanities project developed by HyperStudio, promises to improve upon traditional techniques for entering marginalia and side notes in books — enabling readers not only to annotate texts across media, but also to share comments with others and to enhance them with links, images, video, and audio.


Wi-Phi online video platform presents "philosophy's greatest hits"

A little philosophy could go a long way toward making the world a better place, says Damien Rochford, Ph.D. ’13, who has co-launched the Wi-Phi, an online, interactive philosophy website. The site presents more than a dozen short entertaining video animations to accompany talks by top scholars on such timeless questions as whether humans have free will, whether god exists, and what is it for a sentence to be true. The goal is for people to learn how to do philosophy, rather than simply learning what philosophers have thought, so the site focuses on developing critical thinking skills.

TOUR de SHASS expo showcases MIT's humanities, arts, social sciences

Several hundred MIT students gathered on September 5, 2013, for the inaugural TOUR de SHASS—a new academic expo showcasing MIT's wide range of fields and classes in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.

Emma Teng named one of Ten Outstanding Faculty 

Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity has selected MIT Professor Emma Teng as one of Ten Outstanding Faculty honored nationwide for her "passion for inspiring [her] students, as well as [her] dedication to [her] own personal values."

Caspar Hare | MITx offer first intro philosophy MOOC 

"Analytic philosophy gives you a way to think about [challenging] questions in a rigorous and organized way. In a very concrete sense, it teaches you life skills, because most of the problems you face in life do not have an instruction manual."

Seven undergraduates awarded Kelly-Douglas Traveling Fellowships  

An important dimension of the Kelly-Douglas Fund is support for undergraduate education in the humanities, arts and social sciences; travel beyond MIT to pursue a project in an HASS field, or to collaborate in a humanitarian project, can have a powerful and lasting effect on students.

Anthropologist Graham Jones receives the 2013 MIT Edgerton Award

“Graham is a talented scholar with an unquenchable passion for teaching. His deep intelligence, breadth of knowledge, and commitment to excellence are apparent in everything he does.”

2013 Levitan Awards for Excellence in Teaching announced

Dean Fitzgerald has announced the recipients of the 2013 James A. and Ruth Levitan Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Warmest congratulations to these seven educators and colleagues, who represent the very best academic leadership in the School. 


MIT Philosophy has extraordinary success placing PhD grads in top tenure-track positions

Consistently ranked among the top ten philosophy departments in the country, MIT’s small Philosophy section—just 12 full time professors—has extraordinary success in placing PhD graduates in tenure-track positions at top philosophy programs nationwide. The Leiter Reports placed MIT second in grad student placement. (New York University, a program nearly twice as large, was first). Because obtaining a faculty position in philosophy is notoriously difficult—often 700 applicants for every appointment—many are wondering: what is the secret of MIT’s outsized success?


School Within a School: MIT's Concourse learning community 

The single best thing about college for MIT Professor of History Anne McCants was "exploring ideas ravenously."  It was like being in a candy store for four years,” she says. Now, as newly appointed director of Concourse, a learning community for MIT freshmen, McCants says her goal is to give today’s students the same heady experience of intellectual adventure and discovery within the context of a supportive group. 


DeGraff awarded $1m NSF grant

Michel DeGraff, Associate Professor of Linguistics, is the Principal Investigator for a five-year project that will help develop classroom tools to teach science and math in Haitian Creole for the first time. 

detail, Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Medievalists explore the art of being interdisciplinary

MIT medievalist Arthur Bahr describes the Babel Working Group's conference, “Cruising in the Ruins" at which scholars from several fields explored large, compelling questions—as a way of advocating for more cross-discipliinary work, and the proposition that today's great universities could generate even better research and pedagogy by encouraging a “rhythm of disciplinary attachment and detachment." 

Ta-Nehisi Coates is 2012-2013 MLK Visiting Scholar

Acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates will join the School community for the 2012-13 academic year as a MLK Visiting Scholar in CMS/Writing.  

Shigeru Miyagawa


Shigeru Miyagawa receives President's Award from the OCW Consortium

MIT linguistics professor Shigeru Miyagawa has been selected to receive the President's Award for OpenCourseWare Excellence (ACE) for his contributions to the global OpenCourseWare and Open Education movements. Miyagawa, a key member of the faculty team that nurtured the development of MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW), has contributed a significant amount of his own course materials to the site, and has traveled extensively to spread the practice of openly sharing educational materials globally. 


Broadhead, Kaiser, Rose named 2012 MacVicar Faculty Fellows 

Four professors have been named 2012 MacVicar Faculty Fellows for their outstanding undergraduate teaching, mentoring and educational innovation. Three are from SHASS: William Broadhead, the Class of 1954 Career Development Associate Professor of History; David Kaiser, the Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science; and Nancy Lin Rose, the Charles P. Kindleberger Professor of Applied Economics. The fourth professor honored is Leslie Pack Kaelbling, the Panasonic Professor of Computer Science and Engineering.  


Gallery | The MIT SHASS MacVicar Faculty Fellows

Photographs, research areas, and commentary from SHASS faculty who are among the Institute's finest educators

building 10


Meet the MacVicars of MIT SHASS

The SHASS MacVicar Faculty Fellows discuss the significance, the goals—and the sheer fun—of teaching MIT students.  

2011 Levitan Awards for Excellence in Teaching Announced   

The School's Teaching Award Selection Committee has announced the recipients of the 2011 James A. and Ruth Levitan Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Warmest congratulations to these educators and colleagues, who represent the very best academic leadership in the School.


A champion of Kreyol for Haitian schools

Linguist Michel DeGraff is on a quest to give Haitian Creole its due as a respected language — and to help Haitian schoolchildren learn in their native tongue.

vanished game

Smithsonian and MIT/CMS launch online mystery game

The Smithsonian Institution and MIT's Comparative Media Studies program have announced the April 4, 2011 launch of vanished, an 8-week online/offline environmental disaster mystery game for middle-school children, designed to inspire problem-solving and collaboration through science.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mbiti, May, and Fox are 2010-11 MLK Visiting Scholars 

Two new MLK Visiting Scholars are joining the School community for the 2010-11 academic year: Isaac Mbiti in Economics, and Reuben Buford May in Anthropology. Following a year of inspiring teaching and acclaimed performances, Donal Fox, MLK Visiting Artist in Music and Theater Arts for 2009-10, will be continuing for a second year.  

Sensing the Unseen
A year of exploration

This yearlong seminar, which explores how social sciences and humanities scholars study the unseen, is organized around six species of the subject: The Elusive, The Unaccounted, The Occult, The Invisible, The Evanescent, and The Obscure.

2010 Levitan Awards for Excellence in Teaching Announced

The School's Teaching Award Selection Committee has announced the recipients of the 2010 James A. and Ruth Levitan Awards for Excellence in Teaching.


Comparative Media Studies Celebrates 10th Anniversary 

In ten years, CMS has grown from a modest proposal by Professor Henry Jenkins and Dean Philip Khoury into a preeminent international program with the most talented media graduate students; with partnerships established with governments, film producers, Pulitzer Prize winners, and others; and groundbreaking projects that shape the future of everything from childhood education to government accountability. Celebrations begin April 23rd.

Norvin Richards

Norvin Richards named 2010 MacVicar Faculty Fellow

MARCH 9, 2010 — "Four professors were honored for outstanding undergraduate teaching, mentoring and educational innovation when they were named as the 2010 MacVicar Faculty Fellows: Annette (Peko) Hosoi, of mechanical engineering, Krishna Rajagopal, of physics, Rajeev Ram, of electrical engineering and computer science, and Norvin Richards, of linguistics and philosophy." — MIT News    


Why do some charter schools do so well?

MIT economists researching why some Boston charter schools have been able to produce stunning results. What they discover could serve as a lesson for America’s struggling public schools.



Mens et Manus et Mundus:
MIT Global Council plan for international education


A September 2009 report from the MIT Global Council outlines an historic opportunity to deepen international learning at the Institute, and to make international education a core component of an MIT education. 

Anne McCants

Anne McCants Receives the Kennan Award

Anne McCants, MacVicar Faculty Fellow, Professor of History and Section Head, has received the Elizabeth Topham Kennan Award, given only periodically, by Mount Holyoke College, to an outstanding alumna educator. McCants received the honor on the occasion of her 25th reunion at Mount Holyoke.

First Annual Levitan Awards for Excellence in Teaching Announced

The first annual James A. and Ruth Levitan Award to honor extraordinary teaching has been presented to these members of the School community: Faculty members Chris Capozzola (History), Sally Haslanger (Linguistics and Philosophy) and Stefan Helmreich (Anthropology); Lecturers Laura Harrington (Music and Theater Arts), Martin Marks (Music and Theater Arts), and Douglas Morgenstern (Foreign Languages and Literatures); and Teaching Assistant, Brandon Lehr (Economics).  

leaves of tree

School's Disciplines Ranked High

MIT ranks ninth among 604 universities from around the world included in the 2008 Times Higher Education-Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings released today. The School's humanities, arts, and social science disciplines also rank high.