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Faculty & Research

Louisa Penfold

Lecturer on Education

Faculty Co-Chair, Arts and Learning

Louisa Penfold

Degree:  Ph.D., University of Nottingham, (2019)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Office:  Longfellow 413
Faculty Coordinator:  Colleen Laude


Louisa Penfold is a Lecturer and the Co-Chair of Arts and Learning at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her research and practice focus on contemporary art, early childhood education, and play-based learning across schools, museums, and public spaces. 

Prior to joining HGSE faculty, Penfold undertook a collaborative doctoral award studying the design of children’s play spaces in modern art museums. Run as a partnership between Tate and the University of Nottingham (UK), this 4-year action research study explored how young children’s learning can be integrated into art museum curatorial practices. She has also previously worked as a learning curator at the Ipswich Art Gallery, Australia, and as a research fellow on the Serpentine’s Changing Play program. From 2020-2022 Penfold worked with Professor Catherine Snow as a Postdoctoral Researcher at HGSE on the Boston Universal Pre-K study, researching the roll-out of 4-year-old preschool education across community-based settings. 

Penfold runs Art. Play. Children. Learning., a blog for parents on cultivating children’s creativity through modern and contemporary art. She has been awarded fellowships and grants from the Smithsonian Institute, the Ian Potter Foundation, and Graduate Women of Queensland Fellowship Fund. Penfold’s writing on children’s art education can be found in publications including MIT’s Journal of Design and Science, The Journal of Childhood Studies, Curator: The Museum Journal, and The Australian, among others. She is represented by the Curtis Brown Literary Agency. 


Areas of Expertise

Penfold, L & Odegard, N (2021), ‘Making kin with plastic through aesthetic experimentation’, Journal of Childhood Studies. Vol. 46 (2), p. 51-63.

Penfold, L & Turner, L (2020), ‘Reflecting on children’s play at the Whitworth Art Gallery.’ In Hackett, A.; MacRae, C. & Holmes, R. in Working with Young Children in Museums: Weaving Theory and Practice. Routledge.

Penfold, L (2020), ‘Connecting young children’s learning processes with art museum practices’ in Shaffer, S. International Perspectives on Children in Museums. Routledge.

Penfold, L (2019), ‘Material matters in children’s creative learning.’ MIT’s Journal of Design and Science. Issue 5 - Essay in Exploration: Resisting Reduction.

Penfold, L (2017), ‘Art as Experience,’ Educational Review, 69(4). P. 523.

Piscitelli, B & Penfold, L (2015), ‘Child-centered Practice in Museums: Experiential Learning through Creative Play at the Ipswich Art Gallery,’ Curator: The Museum Journal, 58 (3). P.263-280.