Harvard Launches Program Aimed at Building Better Quality Teachers

Harvard campus

A new Harvard program will help train K-12 teachers to be the best they can be.
Image: Marcio Jose Bastos Silva / Shutterstock

The benefits of a superior education are most often related to personal gain: higher wages, better economic mobility and, generally, a better life.

Education is highly valued at Harvard University, which offers a culture-enriching experience of intense learning combined with low student to faculty ratios and connections that will last a lifetime. It’s no surprise that the university’s alumni network is comprised of many accomplished individuals including Mark Zuckerberg, J Christopher Flowers, Bill Gates, and Natalie Portman.

To help improve the quality of teachers in struggling public schools in the United States, Harvard University is launching a new training program for teachers that will combine instruction in teaching processes with practices in the classroom under the guidance of a mentor. It’s hoped that this program will serve as a national model. Beginning in January 2016, two dozen Harvard seniors will participate in a three-year fellowship designed to combine pedagogy – studying the methods of teaching from industry experts through extensive practice in the classroom under mentor supervision. Next year, fellows will teach two or three classes a day while working with an on-site mentor, receive training from a faculty advisor, and take an online Harvard course. After working part time, the fellows will be put on full time, but will go back to the university for retreats, conferences, and summer courses.

They also have the option to take six more credits to earn a Master’s degree for about $10,000, compared to $45,000 for Harvard’s traditional Master’s program. “Thanks to $18 million from private donors who wish to remain anonymous, the program is free to fellows,” Lyndsey Layton notes in the Washington Post.

According to James E. Ryan, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the university has three goals: to improve the quality of classroom teachers in urban schools, to construct a model that can be successfully used elsewhere, and to present teaching as a worthwhile career to Harvard students and their peers who don’t usually think of K-12 teaching in the same manner as law, medicine, or business.

The university plans to study the fellowship over time. “People are going to want to see how this goes. The hope is if this program is vibrant and successful, it will encourage replication,” said Ryan.

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