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Harvard Awarded Grant to Enhance Children's Learning from the Pew Charitable Trusts

The Pew Charitable Trusts has awarded Harvard University a two-part grant totaling $750,000 to enhance children's learning. The two recipients are the Harvard Project on Schooling and Children (HPSC) and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The funding, which will be distributed over three years, will enable the University to initiate an institutional strategy to enhance children's learning and strengthen institutions that educate them.

"We are delighted that The Pew Charitable Trusts will help us expand our efforts," said HPSC Executive Director Katherine Merseth. Merseth, the principal investigator of the grant, is a member of the HGSE faculty. "It is crucial that we focus on helping children learn and HPSC and HGSE are breaking new ground in this area," added HGSE Dean Jerome T. Murphy.

Harvard Project On Schooling And Children

The Harvard Project on Schooling and Children — one of five interfaculty initiatives at Harvard University — will receive $400,000 from the Trusts. HPSC brings together faculty members, research centers, and other agencies from Harvard University to stimulate, design, implement, and support activities that advance knowledge, educate practitioners, and serve institutions in the greater Boston area which seek to help children. "We plan to focus on three areas that are crucial to our overall agenda of harnessing the University's varied intellectual resources in the service of children," said Merseth. The HPSC portion of the grant will fund cross-disciplinary research, courses on children, and collaborative training programs.

Cross-Disciplinary Research

HPSC will continue its work in building bridges to connect faculty from across the University. The grant will help create research committees — comprised of members from the faculties of Arts and Sciences, Government, Law, Medicine, Public Health, Education, and Business — which will meet to discuss and examine issues affecting schooling and children.

"We will engage in discussions about the connections among individuals who work to serve children," said Professor of Education Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, who co-chairs the ecology of schooling task force with Harvard Medical School Professor Lisbeth Schorr. Lawrence-Lightfoot is also cochair of HPSC's Executive Committee.

A second interfaculty committee plans to examine evaluation practices used to understand the relationships among the several institutions that educate children, including families, schools, community networks, and social service and health providers.

The committees will disseminate their research findings through publications, conferences, and public forums. "The multidisciplinary nature of the collaboration will lead to new and important insights for researchers, policy makers, and practitioners," said Merseth.

Courses on Children

One of the HPSC Executive Committee's goals since its inception in 1993 is to foster a greater focus on children's studies at Harvard. The Project will now begin organizing and developing courses and curricula to meet this goal. Drawing on its mandate for cross-curricular involvement, HPSC will convene faculty from numerous academic fields and Harvard schools to plan and implement new interdisciplinary courses on children, at both the graduate and undergraduate level.

"There's a real need for courses on children to be developed by faculty from across the University," said Kurt Fischer, a professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "The opportunity to create these courses will benefit students and faculty alike."

Collaborative Training Programs

Finally, the Project will design and develop training programs for professionals who work with children. The HPSC hopes to bring together teachers, counselors, medical and mental health workers, and social service providers to participate in a cross-disciplinary program that stresses knowledge of curriculum and instruction, organizational structure, and management skills.

"We look forward to leveraging the professional development experience of the schools within the University. We will rely heavily on involvement from disciplines such as education, business, public health, medicine, and government to create a unique training program," said Merseth.

The Harvard Graduate School of Education

The Harvard Graduate School of Education will receive $350,000 from the Trusts to improve the ways the School is addressing issues of teaching and learning schoolwide. "We will implement a series of initiatives that are vitally important to our goal of enhancing children's learning," said HGSE Dean Jerome T. Murphy.

Transition Committee

The Transition Committee was appointed by Dean Murphy to implement recommendations made unanimously by faculty last May in the report, "Revitalizing Teaching and Learning at the Harvard Graduate School of Education." The committee is supporting changes under way in the transition to the new area of study, Learning and Teaching (L&T), from the Teaching, Curriculum and Learning Environments (TCLE) area. The committee is also creating study and research opportunities for students and faculty to explore issues of teaching and learning across the three major areas of study at HGSE: L&T; Human Development and Psychology; and Administration, Planning, and Social Policy.

Technology Task Force

The Technology Task Force is a working group of faculty and administrators from across the School who are exploring the impact of information and communication technologies on teaching and learning schoolwide. The task force is also investigating the potential influences of rapidly changing technology on the entire HGSE community. The group will focus on current activities at the School and will examine possible research and course development activities to strengthen teaching and learning through technology.

Teacher Education Committee and the Urban Superintendents Program

HGSE will also create a Teacher Education Committee and develop curricular materials for its the Urban Superintendents Program. The Teacher Education Committee will commence in 1995-96 and be charged with developing a set of recommendations to make teacher education a more central feature of the School. The Urban Superintendents Program will develop new curricular materials-including case teaching materials and videotapes-that reflect the important connections among knowledge, pedagogy, and context.

The Pew Charitable Trusts

The Pew Charitable Trusts, an international philanthropy with a special commitment to Philadelphia, support nonprofit activities in the areas of culture, education, the environment, health and human services, public policy, and religion. Through their grants, the Trusts seek to encourage individual development and personal achievement, cross-disciplinary problem-solving, and innovative, practical approaches to meeting the changing needs of a global community.

For More Information

Contact Susan Young at 617-495-0740


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