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Faculty & Research

Junlei Li

Saul Zaentz Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Education
Co-Chair, Human Development and Education Program

Junlei Li

Degree:  Ph.D., Carnegie Mellon University, (2003)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Office:  Longfellow 313


Junlei Li serves the co-chair of the Human Development and Education Program and the Saul Zaentz senior lecturer in Early Childhood Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

His research and practice focuses on understanding and supporting the work of helpers —  those who serve children and families on the frontlines of education and social services. Li studied and learned from a wide range of developmental settings with low resources but high-quality practices, including orphanages, childcare, classrooms, and community youth programs. He developed the “Simple Interactions” approach to help identify what ordinary people do extraordinarily well with children in everyday moments and made that the basis for promoting positive system change.

Li frequently delivers keynote presentations and workshops for national, state, and international conferences focused on improving practices, programs, and policies for children, families, and professionals, with a particular emphasis on early childhood development. He teaches about improving human interactions and supporting adult helpers. He serves on boards and advisory panels, including Child Care Aware of America, Parents as Teachers, Turrell Fund, Head Start National Center for Family and Community Engagement, and various initiatives at the U.S. Administration for Children and Families. Li’s work is significantly influenced and inspired by the pioneering work of Fred Rogers (creator of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood). He previously served as the Co-Director and Rita M. McGinley Professor for Early Learning and Children’s Media at the Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College.

Click here to see a full list of Junlei Li's courses.

Sponsored Projects


National Center for Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (NCPFCE) (2022-2025)
Saint Vincent College

The Fred Rogers Center seeks research and professional development consultation and implementation from Dr. Junlei Li and his research team at Harvard Graduate School ofEducation to support the Fred Rogers Center’s activities in relation to the Head Start National Center for Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (NCPFCE). Project activities, during the contracted period, include the following:Support the design and delivery of presentations and training workshops for the NCPFCE.• Support the design and delivery of training workshops for family engagement specialists, family services staff, and other project partners.• Provide review and synthesis of family engagement and child development research to support the design and the overall project.


Proposed Approach for Early Relational Health Field ScanP (2021-2022)
The Burke Foundation

The Developmental Relationships Lab at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) will conduct a field scan of early relational health (ERH) to synthesize the core principles and strategies that can advance the care and services for children (birth to age three) and their families. To execute the scan, our team of researchers will identify and build on existing and upto-date research reviews and analyses, and interview select researchers, practitioners, policymakers, funders, families, and other stakeholders, including those working in New Jersey communities served by the Burke Foundation. Specifically, we propose to:1) Conduct a review of existing reviews to better understand the current state of research regarding supporting children birth to age three and their families;2) Summarize how ERH is currently defined, situated, and substantiated within the early childhood ecosystem and related areas and fields;3) Profile initiatives and interventions with strong ERH components to better understand the principles underlying their success;4) Connect these core principles and the initiatives’ potential outcomes and impact (including return on investment when applicable);5) Explore how ERH is communicated (e.g., existing messaging campaigns and tools), understood, and misunderstood by those outside of the ERH field (e.g., existing communication research about ERH).The knowledge and insights garnered from this process will be developed into a concise report, with an emphasis on articulating enduring, tested, and broadly applicable principles underlying the promising and impactful initiatives and interventions with strong ERH components. We will provide a set of actionable recommendations for the Burke Foundation and other stakeholders to promote ERH through improved practices, programs, and policies.

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