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Brennan Named Professor of Practice

Karen Brennan, whose work seeks to foster excellent teaching and learning experiences in computer science, assumed the rank of professor of practice on July 1
Karen Brennan
Photo: Jill Anderson

Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean Bridget Long has announced the promotion of Karen Brennan, a researcher of learning environments focused on computational fluency — and the driving force that is powering a vibrant network of educators dedicated to what Brennan has called “creative computing.” Brennan assumed her role as professor of practice on July 1, 2022. 

"I am delighted to announce that Karen Brennan has been promoted to professor of practice at HGSE, a recognition of her outstanding record and contributions, among them her work as a learning designer focused on computational thinking and her creation of a teacher professional learning network,” said Long. “I am thrilled that she will continue to contribute to HGSE and the field of education with her research, teaching, and many other activities for years to come." 

Brennan first joined the HGSE faculty in 2012 as an assistant professor with a research focus on how the design of learning environments can support young people's development as computational creators. Her research — housed within her Creative Computing Lab — has continued this focus, with attention on how to maximize learner agency through design, personalization, connection, and reflection. Brennan has developed and led numerous design projects, including the ScratchEd Online Community, with over 27,000 registered users and 2.6 million visitors, and the Creative Computing Curriculum, with half a million downloads and translations into numerous languages.

"The central aims of my research and teaching are understanding and designing for the powerful learning that is possible when people have opportunities to create in supportive learning communities," says Brennan. "Although my research has focused on the context of K–12 computer science education, with a commitment to advancing equitable participation in computing, the need for these learning experiences goes beyond the discipline of computer science. The biggest challenges we're going to face as a society, the challenges really worth solving, will depend on collective action that is grounded in individual creative agency. To build this capacity and face these challenges, we need teachers and we need kids to believe in their own and others' possibilities as learners. My long term commitment is to produce scholarship that enables practitioners, researchers, and policymakers to design, study, and support opportunities for learner agency within learning communities, across disciplines, within and beyond the classroom."

In addition to her research and her practice-facing field growth, Brennan is an impactful member of HGSE's core teaching faculty. Her course, Designing for Learning by Creating, is among the most popular at HGSE and enrolls about 120 students per semester. In 2017, she was presented with the Morningstar Family Teaching Award which recognizes a member of the HGSE faculty for their excellence in teaching and advising throughout the year.

"I deeply appreciate that I have had, as a researcher and educator here at HGSE, the kind of freedom and support that I wish for all learners," says Brennan. "I am profoundly grateful to this community, as well as to my partners in research and teaching, here and around the world, for all of the inspiration and collaboration over the past 10 years — and I am incredibly excited about everything we will create next, together."

Brennan completed her Ph.D. at the MIT Media Lab in 2012, where she was a member of the Lifelong Kindergarten research group and the team that develops the Scratch programming environment.


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