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Human Development and Psychology

In Human Development and Psychology, you will learn how to support healthy development across cultures and across the lifespan, and how to apply this knowledge in schools and other education-related settings.

Knowledge of human development is highly gratifying and valuable in itself; it can also greatly enhance your ability to make a meaningful difference in children’s lives. To run an effective after-school program for adolescent urban youth, for example, teachers and mentors need to understand the specific challenges of adolescent development as well as cultural variations in child-adult relationships. To operate a successful business or organization, a good manager must work with employees to identify and break down psychological obstacles to change. And what about raising kids? Does our societal emphasis on “happiness” prevent parents and teachers from raising caring, courageous, and ethical children?

In the Human Development and Psychology (HDP) master’s program, you will work closely with an extraordinary faculty comprised of prominent voices in early childhood development, organizational psychology, emotional, cognitive and moral development, trauma and child advocacy, and much more. Students also have opportunities to do internships and research that will enable them to better integrate theory and practice and to become more effective teachers, leaders, researchers, and advocates.

Child Advocacy Strand

In addition to the general HDP program, we offer a separate Child Advocacy strand that includes a year-long child advocacy internship. This strand is designed not only for students who want to work with individual children and families, but also those who want to influence systemic change on the institutional and policy levels. Interested students should apply directly to the Child Advocacy strand.

Message from the Director

The program in Human Development and Psychology has a long history at Harvard and is one of the core programs at the Graduate School of Education.   We are passionate about understanding how people develop over time and what that means for schools and other educational settings.  We also have a strong interest in the wide variety of contexts in which development occurs.

Researchers in HDP cover a wide range of ages and topics; from early language development, emotional, social and moral development, to the dramatic changes in cognitive skills in early elementary school, to studies of adolescent and adult development.  Research focuses on schools in diverse locations and settings in the U.S. as well as development in international contexts. The program offers a variety of perspectives on the complicated nature of developmental change. We think you will find lots of challenging ideas, and we are always open to new perspectives that will challenge us to continue to develop our own thinking.

You will also find in the HDP program a strong commitment to research that is often applied and practical in its aims. We are proud of the ways in which HDP researchers have contributed to advances in understanding how children learn and grow, and we are proud of the courses we offer that help students acquire strong research skills and apply them to practice. Whether you hope to be able to produce research, wish to be a more informed consumer of educational research, or want to apply research and theory effectively to your practice settings, we think you will find HDP to be a richly gratifying program that helps you take the next step in your career.

We hope you will share in our excitement about the study of human development and psychology.
 

Richard Weissbourd
Director of Human Development and Psychology Program
Senior Lecturer

Program Highlights

HDP is a one-year, full-time master’s program that immerses future practitioners and researchers in the latest theories and discoveries related to child, adolescent, and adult development. Here are some of our program’s greatest strengths:

Applied Research – Effective research doesn’t occur in a vacuum. As an HDP student, you will continually consider how research can strengthen practice. 

Thought Leaders – HDP is one of the longest-running programs at HGSE, recognized globally for the influential research and writing of our faculty, which includes Guggenheim Fellows, MacArthur Prize recipients, and award-winning authors. Our faculty member’s expertise is matched only by their accessibility as student mentors and advocates.

Cohort Community – In the HDP program, you will join an extraordinary cohort of students representing a rich diversity of personal and professional backgrounds. The energy, curiosity, and compassion of HDP students, and their common commitment to understanding the deepest puzzles of development, create an exhilarating learning environment that forms the basis of lifelong friendships and professional relationships.

Curriculum

The HDP curriculum balances structure and flexibility. Over two semesters, you are required to complete 8 courses for a total of 32 credits. HDP courses cover subjects as varied as language and literacy development, educational neuroscience, prevention science and practice, early childhood education policy, assessment, gender and relationships, moral and civic development, and development across cultures.

General HDP Program Requirements

To ensure that you receive a broad and comprehensive immersion in both theory and practice, we require the following course distribution:

  • 1 cultural, social and emotional development course
  • 1 cognitive and language development course
  • 1 research methods and data analysis course
  • 3 additional courses related to Human Development and Psychology
  • 2 elective courses either at HGSE or at Harvard or MIT through cross-registration

Child Advocacy Strand Requirements

Students in the child advocacy strand work closely with strand director, Betsy Groves, to craft a study plan that reflects their individual backgrounds and goals.

Students must complete 32 credits to graduate:

  • Core course (4 credits)
  • H-387 Child Advocacy Seminar/Internship (year-long, Groves)
  • One research methods and data analysis course (4 credits)
  • One overview course related to child development/risk and protection (4 credits)
  • Two courses related to systems that impact children and families (4-8 credits)
  • Electives (12-16 credits)

Read more about the child advocacy strand requirements

HDP Internships

The Cambridge/Boston area is a hub for innovative organizations doing important work in child development and advocacy. Recent HDP internship sites include:

Cross-Registration

The study of human development and psychology is interdisciplinary by nature and many HDP faculty members hold joint positions with other Harvard graduate schools. Like all HGSE students, you are free to cross-register at all Harvard graduate schools and even nearby MIT.

Faculty

It’s undeniable that many HDP students come to HGSE expressly for the chance to work closely with our remarkable faculty. Professor Howard Gardner is the father of the multiple intelligences theory and leads a research project into the nature and impact of good work. Program director Richard Weissbourd’s book The Parents We Mean to Be was selected as one of The New Yorker’s best nonfiction books of 2009. Professor Robert Kegan and his colleague Lisa Laskow Lahey revolutionized organizational psychology and personal development through their immunity to change approach. Learn more about the extraordinary wealth of knowledge and experience that’s available to HDP students through our faculty.

Joseph BlattCatherine ElginKurt FischerHoward GardnerTina GrotzerBetsy McAlister GrovesPaul L. HarrisHelen HasteNancy E. HillRobert KeganJosephine M. KimNonie K. LesauxGigi LukCharles Nelson, IIIDavid H. RoseMandy Savitz-RomerRobert L. SelmanCatherine SnowJon R. StarTerrence TivnanRichard Weissbourd
Students

The HDP program attracts accomplished and service-minded students from a broad range of backgrounds and professional interests. Many of our students have undergraduate degrees in psychology and are interested in pursuing clinical practice or research. Other HDP students come from the nonprofit sector, looking to deepen their impact as providers and advocates for children and adults. Still others are working in the education sector as teachers, administrators, and policy researchers. The diversity of student backgrounds is reflected in their research interests, which include the development of compassion and gratitude in children, the challenges faced by immigrant children and corporate leadership coaching.

Alumni

HDP graduates are putting their Harvard degree and experience to work at all levels of the education sector — public and independent schools, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies — as well as pursuing careers in public health, social services, child advocacy, and social policy. HDP alumni are in a range of roles including kindergarten teachers, doctoral students in clinical psychology, public television producers, admissions directors, school-based child advocates, and education policy analysts.

Apply

Visit HGSE admissions to learn more about application requirements and deadlines, and to get important information about financial aid. Applications are due in January of the academic year you plan to enroll. Note that the Child Advocacy strand has its own application.

Contact

If you have questions about the admissions process or want to learn more about the benefits of the Human Development and Psychology program, please contact our admissions liaison Jamaal Barnes at askjamaal@gse.harvard.edu or 617-495-3414. If you have specific questions about HDP program requirements or the Child Advocacy strand, please contact program administrator Mary Kiesling at mary_kiesling@gse.harvard.edu or 617-496-1568.


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