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Faculty & Research

Richard Weissbourd

Senior Lecturer on Education

Richard Weissbourd

Degree:  Ed.D., Harvard University, (1987)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Phone:  617.495.2031
Vitae/CV:   Richard Weissbourd.pdf
Office:  Longfellow 328
Office Hours Contact:  Email the Faculty Member
Faculty Assistant:  Mark McNally


Richard Weissbourd is currently a senior lecturer on education at HGSE and at the Kennedy School of Government. He is also faculty co-director of the Human Development and Psychology master's program. His work focuses on vulnerability and resilience in childhood, the achievement gap, moral development, and effective schools and services for children. He directs the Making Caring Common Project, a national effort to make moral and social development priorities in child-raising and to provide strategies to schools and parents for promoting in children caring, a commitment to justice and other key moral, emotional and social capacities. As part of the Making Caring Common project, Weissbourd leads Turning the Tide, a national effort to reform college admissions that has engaged almost 200 college admissions offices in promoting ethical engagement, reducing damaging achievement pressure in high school and increasing equity and access for economically disadvantaged students. He is currently conducting research on how older adults can better mentor young adults and teenagers in developing ethical, mature romantic relationships. He is a founder of several interventions for children, including ReadBoston and WriteBoston, citywide literacy initiatives led by Mayor Menino. He is also a founder of a Boston pilot school, the Lee Academy, that begins with children at 3 years old. For several years he was a counselor in community mental health centers. He has advised on the city, state, and federal levels on family policy and school reform and has written for numerous scholarly and popular publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, CNN, The New Republic, NPR, and Psychology Today. He is the author of The Vulnerable Child: What Really Hurts America’s Children and What We Can Do About It (Addison-Wesley, 1996), named by the American School Board Journal as one of the top 10 education books of all time. His most recent book, The Parents We Mean to Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children's Moral and Emotional Development (Houghton Mifflin 2009), was named by The New Yorker as one of the top 24 books of 2009.

Click here to see a full list of Richard Weissbourd's courses.

Areas of Expertise

Runner Up, National Awards for Education Reporting 2012. Opinion in an Education-Only Newsroom: Promoting Moral Development in Schools, Harvard Education Letter, 28(1), Jan/Feb 2012. (2012),(2012)

Awarded One of Top 10 Education Books of All Time by American School Board Journal, for The Vulnerable Child (Addison-Wesley, 1996)

Best Editorial Award from Association of Educational Publishers for The "Quiet" Troubles of Low Income Children, Harvard Education Letter, 24(2), March/April 2008.

Book selected by New Yorker reviewers as one of the top 24 nonfiction books of 2009. Weissbourd, R. The Parents We Mean to Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children's Moral and Emotional Development (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).

Sponsored Projects


Building Trusting, Supportive Relationships at School (2021-2022)
Susan Crown Exchange, Inc

Research suggests that a positive, stable connection to at least one school or community adult—whether a teacher, counselor, sports coach, or other school or afterschool provider—can strengthen students’ social-emotional development and improve academic outcomes while decreasing various risky behaviors. The need for these relationships over the past year has become even more urgent, as the global pandemic has frayed or broken millions of students’ connection to school.Rather than leave these connections to chance, Making Caring Common, a project of the HGSE, has engaged K-12 educators over the last several years in its Relationship Mapping strategy to ensure that every student has a meaningful connection to at least one school adult. This strategy guides school adults in identifying students with whom they have caring, trusting relationships and, by default, enables them to identify students who lack these relationships. School staff then make a plan, based on this data, for connecting all students to a school adult. This strategy clearly meets a need; it’s been used by over 400 middle and high schools over the past four years. Since the outbreak of the global pandemic, as educators began struggling to stay connected to students, we also engaged thousands of educators in professional development focused on this strategy.Yet in our conversations with educators who have used our Relationship Mapping tool during the pandemic, it has become clear that rebuilding fractured school communities will require an even more robust and comprehensive approach. We propose a two-year project to strengthen and expand our relationship-mapping work with K-12 educators.One key new component of our work will be reversing our usual approach to relationship-mapping. In addition to asking school adults to identify students with whom they have trusting, stable relationships, our new tool will gather information from students about adults in the school community whom they respect and trust, including afterschool providers. Using this new tool and cross-referencing it with information gathered from our original relationship mapping tool, schools will be able to develop a more accurate and complex understanding of adult-student relationships. They’ll be able to identify circumstances, for example, where students believe they have trusting, respectful relationships with adults when those adults don’t perceive this connection; conversely, this tool may highlight instances in which adults perceive trusting relationships with students who themselves don’t perceive this connection. This tool will also include questions for students about the characteristics of the relationships they wish to have with adults, what specific types of support they are seeking from adults, what challenges they may experience in connecting to adults generally, and what adults might do to overcome these challenges. Information from this tool will provide school adults with a far more robust picture of students’ experiences with school adults that can guide them in creating environments that are “mentor rich,” that provide students with easier access to multiple adults who are more attuned to their challenges, needs, and hopes. We will also provide school adults and after-school providers with professional development opportunities and resources that guide them in creating mentor-rich environments and increasing their effectiveness in supporting students. These trainings will include guidance on cultivating and strengthening relationships, identifying mental health challenges and supporting students’ mental health, increasing students’ academic engagement, and guiding high school students in post-secondary planning.


Understanding the Scalability of Parenting Strategies Designed to Promote Key Virtues (2021-2023)
John Templeton Foundation

Making Caring Common proposes a two-year project to examine the take-up and implementation of evidence-based strategies-- routines, practices and activities-- that support the development of three key virtues in children—empathy, gratitude, and diligence. While parents and caregivers are frequently offered strategies and activities intended to promote these virtues by nonprofit and commercial organizations and parenting experts, rigorous data is distressingly scarce about whether and why parents actually take-up specific strategies and about if and how they use them over time. To answer these questions about usage, we propose to assess various engaging, evidence-based activities, practices, or routines designed to promote these virtues in 7-to-10-year-old children. We will conduct this research with 270 families, each engaging in an evidence-based strategy for eight months (nine strategies, 30 families per strategy).This study will generate vital information about which evidence-based strategies that promote these virtues are more or less likely to be used on a large scale and whether there are demographic and family factors that contribute to which strategies work for whom. While this study focuses mainly on take-up and implementation, we will also collect data on parents’ perceptions of the impact of strategies on both children’s and their own beliefs and behaviors related to the three virtues. We will disseminate our results and activities widely to parents, caregivers, practitioners, and researchers via myriad channels, including reports, blog posts, partnerships with organizations working with parents and caregivers and prominent media outlets such as Cartoon Network and Disney.


Weissbourd, R., Way, N., and Bracket, M., (2021, Feb. 9) The pandemic is fueling a crisis of connection. The next surgeon general should tackle both. The Hill.,(2021)

Weissbourd, R., Batanova, M., Lovison, V., and Torres, E. (2021, Feb.) MCC Report, Loneliness in America: How the Pandemic Has Deepened an Epidemic of Loneliness and What We Can Do About It,(2021)

Weissbourd, R. (2020, Dec. 11) To Build It Back Better, Learn to Talk Across the Political Divide. Nations Well.,(2020)

Weissbourd, R. and Cashin, A. (2020, Feb. 20). ParentsÂ’ obsession with raising happy kids is a big problem. Boston Globe.,(2020)

Weissbourd, R. (2020, May 5) 5 ways to teach our children empathy in these challenging times. Washington Post.,(2020)

Weissbourd, R., Barnard, B., and Anderson, T.R. (2020, May 29) Will the Pandemic Revolutionize College Admissions? Wall Street Journal Saturday Review,(2020)

Weissbourd, R., Batanova, M., McIntyre, J., and Torres, E. (2020, Jun.) How the Pandemic is Strengthening Fathers' Relationships with Their Children,,(2020)

Weissbourd, R. and Cashin, A. (2019, Dec. 16). HereÂ’s How to Raise Healthy, Well-Adjusted Teens. Thrive Global.,(2019)

Weissbourd, R. and Barnard, B. (2019, Sept. 5). The college admissions process is ‘unconscionably unjust.’ Here’s one way to help change that. Washington Post.,(2019)

Weissbourd, R. and Cashin, A. (2018, Oct. 16) 5 ways parents can help kids understand consent and prevent sexual assault. Washington Post.,(2018)

Weissbourd, R. (2018, Oct.). “Let’s take a Stand Against Sexual Harassment in School,” Educational Leadership.,(2018)

Weissbourd, R. and Gardner, H. (2017, Sept. 6). The fundamental things we arenÂ’t teaching our kids. Washington Post.,(2017)

Weissbourd, R. (2009). The parents we mean to be: How well-intentioned adults undermine children's moral and emotional development. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.,(2009)

The Vulnerable Child: What Really Hurts America's Children and What We Can Do About It,(1996)

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