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HGSE’s Commitment to Master’s Education

A Message from Dean Bridget Long

Sent to students on April 26, 2019

Dear Students,

As you prepare for the end of the semester, I want to take a moment to recognize everything you've accomplished as a student at HGSE. It has been a tremendous year, and I wish you all the best as you work to finish strong. I also want to share news about an exciting academic initiative that you may have heard about and have actually helped to shape in various ways during your time here. 

For the last several years, our school’s faculty and senior leadership have engaged in a major effort to re-envision master’s education at HGSE. We have undertaken this work from a position of strength: the current master’s degree program is strong, boasting an incredibly talented and motivated group of students, programs that rate highly among employers and as measured by student satisfaction, and graduates who go on to productive, impactful careers. However, the current configuration of our master’s degree was mostly established in 2004, and since that time, there have been dramatic changes and developments in education — from shifting demographics and the rise of new school and postsecondary models, to the evolving use of technology and advancements in neuroscience and learning design. The current initiative aims to consider what master’s education should offer our students and the field now — and for years to come. 

As described in detail below, the newly-designed degree engages students in foundational learning experiences, programmatic study that reflects the education sector today, and the option to specialize through a concentration. Before getting into the details of what is underway, there are several points I want to emphasize. First, this has been, and continues to be, a long and comprehensive process. The newly-designed degree will not fully launch until summer 2021, though we’ve been steadily incorporating new features and opportunities into the existing master’s programs as soon as they are developed. Second, while we expect to reorganize areas of study in an effort to more clearly signal what students will learn and the roles for which they are preparing, we will carry forward the wide array of interests represented by our current master’s programs. In fact, we expect to increase the options available to students who want to specialize in a particular area of or context in education. Additionally, it is important to note that the letters of the degree, the Ed.M., will not change. 

As we consider future possibilities for the master’s program, we recognize the importance of holding dear the wonderful and unique strengths of the current programs. In fact, our work has been heavily influenced by feedback and ideas from students and alumni — both what works well and what needs improvement. We have used survey data, held focus groups and design challenges, and sought student feedback as you’ve engaged in new courses and co-curricular experiences, such as the How People Learn course, Global Visiting Fellow seminars, and the 3D Dinners. Moreover, we have collected information from partner organizations, practitioners in the field, and employers to inform our considerations about how to best prepare students to effectively address challenges in education. Just as we urge our colleagues in the field to continuously evaluate and adapt their practices and policies, HGSE must do the same. Of course, this is not the first time we’ve taken action to improve our academic and co-curricular offerings for master’s students. Over the years, we have added a long list of new courses on topics such as race and equity, technology, and entrepreneurship, and we have increased pathways to resources at other Schools. Still, the deep engagement that has been a part of the current initiative has led us to some exciting ideas for the future.

One strength of the current degree program is that you have the opportunity to gain the core knowledge, skills, and habits of mind necessary to be effective educators in a range of contexts and roles. As we re-envision the degree program, we are looking for ways to better ensure each and every student experiences the full richness of what HGSE has to offer. Another hope of our faculty, and many of our students, has been to try to extend the time students have at HGSE. Unfortunately, high cost makes a two-year program prohibitive, but we are exploring ways to use the summer more effectively as well as to provide more on-campus programming during January and May. 

As demonstrated by this multi-year, ongoing effort to give our master’s students an unparalleled experience, our faculty and staff are as committed as ever to preparing students to live out the mission of the school: to change the world through education. In the coming months and years, you will hear more about this undertaking as we increasingly engage community members in the work of designing, piloting, and launching new aspects of the program, so stay tuned for invitations to participate. In addition, please see these answers to frequently asked questions and continue to visit this page for updates in the coming months.



Bridget Long, Ph.D.
Dean and Saris Professor of Education and Economics
Harvard Graduate School of Education

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