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Ed School Professors Present Innovations in Teaching

By Luke Pizzato, Contributing Writer

Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Robert Kegan and associate professor Meira Levinson mapped out a case for the relationship between education and improved social relations in a pair of lectures at Tuesday evening’s Askwith Forum.

The flagship event of the school’s “Teaching and Learning Week,” the discussion provided a thorough exploration of the mechanics of metacognition, which Dean of the School of Education James E. Ryan characterized as a central objective of the week’s reflections.

Both projects by Kegan and Levinson employed new digital technology that allowed for better group dynamics, which facilitate better teaching and learning.

Kegan, a psychologist whose research and teaching concern the theory of adult development, described his central research interest of the past 35 years as a psychological technique in which guided introspection reveals emotional and logical contradictions that create barriers for people’s pursuit of goals.

This technique, he argued, has helped his clients and students “grow in adult years, not just put on weight.”

Hoping to build on the popularity of his class on this topic, Keegan is preparing to offer the course online through edX this spring. The course has already registered more than 24,000 prospective students and is the first virtual course to be offered by the School of Education.

The new digital platform will allow Keegan to evaluate the effectiveness of his system and teaching strategies by examining the data that emerges from his online course, while also allowing for the application of his paradigm to “whole communities taking the course together.”

Levinson, a political philosopher and former middle school teacher whose work explores the relationship between education and civic engagement, described the application of her “normative case-studies” to the development of open conversation on a group’s core values.

Using a digital interface through which large groups of participants could voice their individual opinions without disruption, Levinson’s technique informed the group of the many distinct moral axioms of its members.

Levinson said that this approach allows a group member “to realize that when others take action with which we fundamentally disagree, it’s not that they have some horrible ideology that’s perverting their understanding.”

Levinson admitted that this discussion will not necessarily allow groups to reach consensus, but she said she hopes that allowing a  group to understand itself better will ultimately result in improved choices.

After the event, audience member Marcy M. Murninghan said she was excited by the speakers’ projects because they show how educational paradigms can teach how “we need to organize as citizens.”

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