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First Ed.L.D. Cohort Uses Electives to Strengthen Skills

After a year of core coursework in learning and teaching, leadership and management, and politics and policy, second year Ed.L.D. students chose electives this fall from across the university, including Harvard Business School (HBS), Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), and Harvard Law School (HLS). These electives complemented a single required core seminar in high-leverage design.

“Many students are taking courses at three different [Harvard] schools,” says Faculty Codirector Elizabeth City, Ed.M.’04, Ed.D.’07. “They are seeking specific skills they need in order to transform the education sector.” Among the 25 members in Cohort 1, 18 took at least one course at HBS in the fall and 17 took at least one at HKS.

While Ed.L.D. students all share a passion for system-level change, their elective choices reflect their diverse interests. “Our students are taking 25 different paths,” City explains. “Different students require different experiences, and these electives allow them to create a personalized curriculum that provides them with the knowledge and skills they need.”

In choosing his courses, Broad Foundation Fellow Joe Doctor, focused on those he believed would best prepare him for his third-year residency and immediate work beyond Harvard. “I asked myself, ‘What do I need now to prepare me for the work I want to do?’” Doctor says. “What could I grab from this amazing buffet of opportunities that’s going to make me more powerful in the work ahead?”

Enrolling over one third of the cohort, the most popular elective this fall was Building and Sustaining a Successful Enterprise taught by Professor Clayton Christensen and Senior Lecturer Chester Huber of HBS. Using models and case studies, the course aims to help students understand the root causes of organizational challenges and strategies to resolve them. Among the course’s central topics is Christensen’s theory of “disruptive innovation.” This framework has proven valuable to Ed.L.D. students as they consider launching new organizations and initiatives.

Given Ed.L.D. students’ commitment to increasing their personal leadership abilities, several enrolled in Exercising Leadership: A Cross-Cultural and International Perspective taught by HKS lecturer Dean Williams. In the course, students consider the difference between leadership and authority and how to operate as leaders through a cross-cultural lens.

“The course further strengthened my ideas about what exercising leadership looks like, as well as how difficult it has been to exercise leadership historically,” says Thompson Fellow Samantha Cohen. “It has led me to think about my own leadership skills in both new and transitional situations.”

Cohen adds that she has learned tremendously from others in the course, who have held a variety of leadership roles around the world. “My classmates have held political offices, served in the military, and worked for political parties,” she says. “Yet, we learn from each other that the challenges we face are human challenges and that the perception of differences fuels so many problems that we see in education and other sectors.”

Students will continue with elective choices in the spring semester along with a required core class in which they will review a relevant knowledge base (research literature and effective practices from the field ) in preparation for their residency placements.