Human Development and Education
Connect pioneering research with practice and policy in human development at every stage — helping you support the unique needs of all learners.
The Human Development and Education (HDE) Program prepares you to support the unique needs and growth of all learners — whether you are interested in exploring a direct service role, starting a nonprofit organization, engaging in clinical or counseling work, or pursuing doctoral research. By linking theories and pioneering research with practice and policy about child, adolescent, and adult development, you will have opportunities to examine different developmental domains — including cognitive, emotional, social, moral, and neurological — as well as design strategies and interventions to promote healthy development.
"We know much about the science of human development, but we are just beginning to figure out how to communicate and enact it to actually better the world. Our program helps our students gain a deeper understanding of learning and growth across diverse contexts, as they explore their professional roles in supporting human development for children, families, and communities."
Junlei Li, Faculty Co-Chair
After completing the HDE Program, you will have a deeper understanding of the following competencies that explore how:
- Learning and development are lifelong processes, with a predictable sequence at the population level and significant variation at the individual level
- Learning and development are active and interactive, driven by maturity and experience levels
- Ecological factors — including families, teachers, schools, communities, neighborhoods, and culture — influence learning and development
- Evaluation of evidence and research from human developmental science can inform effective change strategies to lead, design, and implement intervention, prevention, and support efforts
- Engagement in continuous learning can emerge from reflective practice, community involvement, and evaluation of intervention, prevention, and support efforts
The HDE Program is designed to help you gain the knowledge and skills essential to promoting healthy development for all learners. A minimum of 42 credits are required to graduate with an Ed.M. degree from HGSE.
The main elements of the 2022–23 academic year are:
- The Foundation courses (14 credits) — How People Learn, Leading Change, Evidence, and Equity and Opportunity — in which students gain core skills central to the profession of education.
- This program commences with How People Learn, an immersive online course that runs June–July and requires a time commitment of 10-15 hours per week.
- You will continue Foundations with Leading Change, Evidence, and Equity and Opportunity on campus in August.
- Your Equity and Opportunity Foundations experience culminates in an elected course, which will take place during terms when electives are available.
To fulfill the program requirement, students must take a minimum of 12 credits specific to HDE, including the following:
- The HDE Program Core Experience (4 credits), is a combination of required coursework, program-wide events, and small group experiences. It is designed to help you develop the capacity to bridge research and practice across human development contexts. Whether your professional trajectory leads you to focus on children, families, communities, or organizations, there are "through lines" (ways of thinking and connecting) from the field of human development that can expand our vision and understanding. For example, understanding individual development within the larger ecological contexts or recognizing human relationships as the driver for many different developmental outcomes. The program experience provides opportunities to discuss and reflect on your insights and professional goals with peers and the teaching team.
- Research methods and applied professional skills courses (4 credits), you will choose from a list of qualitative, quantitative, and skills-based courses. Course subject matter may include statistics and data science in education and organizations, participatory action research for educational justice, and ethnographic methods.
- Human development, age/context/domain-specific courses (4 credits), tailor your coursework to your chosen career pathway by selecting from a rich and diverse set of courses that deepen your knowledge in a specific age category, context, or domain. Course subject matter may include early childhood development, developmental psychology, preventative and developmental group counseling, college student development, or language and literacy development.
- The remaining credits are taken via elective coursework, which includes the opportunity to specialize in a Concentration.
Explore our course catalog.
Note, all information and courses are subject to change.
School Counseling Strand
Students can get licensed as a school counselor by taking two years of sequenced coursework and fieldwork through our School Counseling Licensure Pathway. Year one consists of pursuing an Ed.M. in the HDE Program and our School Counseling Strand. The School Counseling Strand begins the pathway to Massachusetts licensure in school counseling and prepares K–12 school-based counselors-in-training with the skills necessary to promote positive, healthy academic and social emotional development with an emphasis on prevention and social justice.
Year two consists of our Certificate of Advanced Study in Counseling program, which allows students to pursue Massachusetts initial licensure as a school counselor or school adjustment counselor. Through this curricular sequence and field-based placement, graduates will be prepared to enter K–12 schools as counselors, leaders, and advocates.
Students will work closely with faculty associated with their area of study, but students can also work with and take courses with faculty throughout HGSE and Harvard. The faculty co-chairs for HDE are Junlei Li and Meredith Rowe. View our faculty directory for a full list of HGSE faculty.
The HDE Program prepares you for a variety of career pathways, including:
- School counselor (K–12)
- Curricula developer
- College or university administrator
- Afterschool program, camp, or youth organization director
- Researcher (university centers, nonprofit/for-profit think tank)
- Local, state, or federal government program administrator
- Field-staff or program manager at domestic or international non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
- Consultant, trainer, facilitator, technical assistance provider
Supporting the unique needs of learners is a critical element of our Human Development and Education Program. HGSE’s curriculum offers you the opportunity to gain the insights and preparation you need to promote social-emotional growth. Here are examples of the HDE experience and the impact its community is making on the field:
The Intellectual Contribution Award recipient for Human Development and Education reflects on her time at HGSE and looks toward the future.
Matthew Grimes, Ed.M.’21, finds his dream job doing DEI work with the MLB.
Cohort and Community
You will join an extraordinary cohort of students representing a rich diversity of personal and professional backgrounds. As an HDE student, you will engage in events and professional development opportunities that build community — including discussions about career pathways, conversations with faculty members about their research interests, and other community events. You will find that your cohort members exhibit energy, curiosity, and compassion, as well as a common commitment to understanding the deepest puzzles of development and addressing the greatest practical challenges. This community results in an exhilarating learning environment that forms the basis for lifelong friendships and long-term professional networks.
The application for admission to HGSE’s Ed.M. programs is now open.
Connect with Admissions
If you have additional admissions-related questions, please contact Lauren Barlow