Meredith L. Rowe has been promoted from associate professor to full professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Rowe joined the HGSE faculty in 2014 and has been a leader in the field of child language development.
“Meredith Rowe is the quintessential example of a scholar who seamlessly bridges the gap between research and practice,” said Dean James E. Ryan. “A leading expert in early childhood language and cognitive development, Meredith’s research is meticulous and creative, and it both deepens our understanding of the field and points the way toward fruitful interventions, some of which Meredith has also begun testing. Meredith is also a highly valued teacher, adviser, and colleague at HGSE, and her promotion to the rank of senior faculty is more than well-deserved.”
Rowe, an educational psychologist interested in environmental effects on learning, has focused on uncovering how variations in children's early communicative environments contribute to language development and in applying this knowledge to the development of intervention strategies for low-income families.
“A big challenge in education is to reduce income-related achievement gaps. There is growing evidence that these gaps are already very large when children enter kindergarten,” said Rowe. “I’ve been working to figure out ways to try and reduce these early disparities during early childhood. We do this from a variety of angles – through investigating the parenting factors that help promote early development, through creating intervention programs and providing information to parents, and more recently through developing curricula for high school students to prepare them for their future as parents. The aim is to help ensure that all children are ready to succeed when they arrive at school.”
The Rowe Lab at HGSE has had research funded by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a branch of the National Institutes of Health. Rowe’s work has been published in top journals such as Science, Child Development, Developmental Science, and Developmental Psychology.
A recent paper in Psychological Science by Rowe and collaborators at MIT showed how conversation – interplay between a parent or caregiver and a child – ignites the language centers in a child’s brain, according to a Usable Knowledge article. It was the first study to show a relationship between the words children hear at home and the growth of processing abilities of their brains. Rowe has also previously partnered with pediatricians at Boston Medical Center, publishing research to offer guidance to both pediatricians and parents about what kind of talk and interplay is important, and at what ages and stages of a child’s growth. For example, during the 18–36 months range as verbal and cognitive skills develop, parents can have more challenging conversations with their toddlers. Asking “what” and “where” questions, taking turns in conversation, and using more and different words are essential during this period.
Rowe earned her bachelor of arts in psychology and her master’s in human development from the University of Rochester before heading to HGSE where she earned a master’s in education on her way to a doctoral degree in human development and psychology in 2003. She completed postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Chicago, was named assistant professor of human development in 2009 at the University of Maryland, and joined the faculty at HGSE as an associate professor in 2014.
“HGSE is a very special place,” said Rowe. “It is a thrill and an honor to be able to continue my work in this environment with such wonderful colleagues and students who share in the goal of reducing disparities, and promoting learning opportunities for all children.”