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Jal Mehta Promoted to Professor of Education

His research focuses on the professionalization of teaching and what it would take to create high-quality schooling at scale.
Jal Mehta

Photo by Tim Llewellyn

Associate Professor Jal Mehta has been promoted to full professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Mehta’s research focuses on the professionalization of teaching and what it would take to create high-quality schooling at scale. He formally joined the HGSE faculty in 2008.

“I am thrilled to recognize Jal’s many contributions through this well-deserved promotion. His scholarship has brought new insights into issues related to schooling and pedagogy, and his most recent book, In Search of Deeper Learning, stands to push the field to think in more nuanced ways about reform and innovation in education,” says Dean Bridget Terry Long. “His teaching is exceptional, and students have praised him as an outstanding educator and mentor. He has already accomplished a great deal in his career and contributed much to this community. I am excited to see the impact of his work for years to come.”

  • Mehta joined the HGSE faculty as an assistant professor in 2008, the same year he was named an emerging scholar by AERA
  • He was a Radcliffe Fellow in 2016–2017
  • His latest book is In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High School

The result of a six-year study across 30 U.S. high schools and hundreds of classrooms, In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High School seeks to identify where and how powerful learning is happening in schools today. The book was written with educator Sarah Fine, Ed.M.’13, Ed.D.’17. Mehta is also the author of The Allure of Order: High Hopes, Dashed Expectations and the Troubled Quest to Remake American Schooling, which examines the last century of education reform in America and discusses why certain reform efforts — including No Child Left Behind — have been less than successful.

Mehta credits his family and his mentors — including his high school history teacher Mr. Lakin, his undergraduate thesis adviser William Julius Wilson, his dissertation adviser Sandy Jencks, and HGSE colleagues Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot and David Cohen — for their support and guidance over the course of his career leading to this milestone. “I'm overjoyed to have received tenure at HGSE,” he says. “HGSE has been a wonderful home for myself and my work. I love working with students who are so committed to equity and educational transformation.”

In 2014, Mehta’s students recognized his strengths as a teacher when he earned the Morningstar Teaching Award, presented annually to a faculty member for his or her generosity in providing time and support to students.

He’s also been recognized for his research, having earned grants and awards including the Emerging Scholar Award by the Educational Change SIG of the American Education Research Association and a Radcliffe Fellowship.

“My goal is to try to continue to develop the understandings and practices needed to transform our industrial-age school structures into the kind of humane, powerful, deep, and equitable learning organizations that our adults need and our students deserve,” Mehta says. “I will continue to do that in a way that is deeply mutually engaged with the field — working with students, teachers, community members, schools, districts, states, provinces, and ministries that are trying to make those shifts and learning with and from them about what is promising and what barriers continue to lie in our path. I see my work as thinking about the relational, adaptive, political, and human dimensions of change, foregrounding the importance of relationships, trust, and building cultures of rigor and joy in a world that has been overly focused on reductive and technical approaches to improvement.”

Prior to joining HGSE, Mehta spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Ed School. He earned his Ph.D. in sociology and social policy, a master’s in sociology, and a bachelor’s in social studies, all from Harvard University.

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