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Why It Matters

Harvard’s education faculty answer the question that lies at the heart of their work

May 28, 2015
Harvard Graduate School of Education campus scene

Over the last year, Usable Knowledge has asked faculty members at the Harvard Graduate School of Education to grapple with the question of why their work matters — and to share reflections about what motivates them. Their answers — recorded in minute-long videos — are a reminder of the vital role that education plays in addressing the broad, complex challenges of today’s world. The videos also remind us that education researchers are driven by the same fundamental desire to make a difference — to make things better — as teachers, principals, policymakers, and every other practitioner working in the field.

Watch the Why It Matters video series, with individual segments below.  

Dean James Ryan

“It’s really the law that determines whether schools are segregated or integrated; it’s the law that determines whether schools are equally funded or unequally funded.”

Professor Nancy Hill

"Parents want help; they want strategies to know how to engage schools. Teachers want help; they want to know how to engage families from different ethnic and economic backgrounds.”

Professor Fernando Reimers

“In my research, I’m looking at how different countries define the purposes of schools, what they try to teach in schools, and how they do it, because I think we can learn from those comparisons.”

Assistant Professor Karen Brennan

“Computers and computational media are all around us, but we interact with them primarily as consumers, rather than as creators or designers. Computation is an incredibly powerful medium for self-expression and for problem solving.”

Lecturer Elizabeth City

“Children are capable of great things, and usually the limitations on what children are able to do are the limitations of the adults who serve them and the systems in which the children and adults are embedded.”

Senior Lecturer Rick Weissbourd

“If you look at what’s going on in our culture, what you see is that kids are defining success in life by how much they’ve achieved and by how happy they are. Any just society is going to depend on kids who are also community-minded, justice-minded, who have empathy, not only for people who are like them but for people who are different from them.”

Associate Professor David Deming

A career in research “allows me to answer these kinds of questions about how we should allocate scarce public resources — what are the policies and programs that really work for kids — while also staying true to my inner nerd.”

Professor Paul Reville

"My life's work has been animated by a fierce commitment to the notion of achieving equity in our society."

Professor Andrew Ho

“My research is always about whether a test score is trustworthy, and for what purposes a test score deserve trust.”

Professor Mandy Savitz-Romer

"I watched far too many students become disengaged in school, because they didn't see a future for themselves, or they didn't know why they were there."


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