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J-Term Offers Unique Learning Experiences

Instead of heading to their hometowns or off on a vacation over winter break, more than half of HGSE’s master students opt to stay right here at Harvard. Why? Because during January Term (J-Term), students are given the opportunity to engage in a variety of unique learning experiences, most of which aren’t offered during the regular school year.

“The Ed School wants to make the learning experience as rich as possible,” says Matthew Miller, associate dean for academic affairs. “The creation of January Term a few years ago gave [us] a way to add a range of courses and noncredit learning opportunities, which is especially valued by many of our master's students who are typically here for [only] one action-packed year.”

From January 2–27, between the end of Winter Recess and the start of Spring Term, students can take advantage of a variety of for-credit and noncredit learning opportunities including courses, seminars, learning and personal development workshops, events, and lecture series.

With two courses and 10 modules to choose from, students could earn credit in courses such as Native Americans in the 21st Century: Nation-Building I, Active Learning in Museums, and Data Wise: Using Data to Improve Teaching and Learning. Additionally, this was the first year HGSE offered noncredit special topics seminars geared toward active and experiential learning. Among the 11 seminars were Creating an Inquiry-Based Community in a Public School Classroom, in which students visited a Brookline, Mass. classroom to observe inquiry-based learning; Developing Your Media Presence, in which students created two-minute videos promoting their work and themselves; and Mindfulness Practices for Leading and Learning, a course which even garnered Dean Kathleen McCartney’s participation.

For many students, J-Term is an opportunity to take a breather from the traditional structure of the school year, and also to delve into a topic simply because it interests them.

“We've heard our students find it to be a powerful and very different learning experience to focus intensively — to take a deep dive — into only one course each day in a two-week period, rather than juggling four or more courses as students would do during the fall or spring semesters,” Miller says. “We know our students want to make every opportunity count during their degree programs. This is one way we can help them do that.”