The Harvard Graduate School of Education has launched the Teaching and Teacher Leadership (TTL) master’s program — the last leg of its seven-year effort to reimagine how the school will prepare education professionals to attack the complex challenges facing learners of all ages, now and into the future. The launch of the TTL Program embodies the core commitment that drove HGSE’s curricular innovation: The school’s longstanding dedication to expansive, equitable, transformational opportunity for learners everywhere.
When the TTL Program welcomes its first cohort of students in 2022–23, it will join the four other programs that launched this year as part of HGSE’s redesigned master’s degree, which also includes coursework dedicated to broad foundational knowledge and specific domain- and role-based expertise.
A Focus on Teachers
TTL will represent a significant advancement in Harvard’s focus on teachers, exploring the most effective ways to prepare both teachers and teacher leaders and to create schools that can respond to the challenges the world faces today. Dual teacher certification pathways will build on the work of the Harvard Teacher Fellows (HTF) Program, founded in 2015 as an innovative model to prepare Harvard College students to become teachers, as well as the successful legacy of HGSE’s Teacher Education master’s program (TEP). And TTL’s leadership strand will prepare experienced teachers for new roles in schools. With those two elements together, HGSE is poised to expand and elevate teacher education at the university and in the field.
“This really is the capstone of our reimagining of the master’s degree for professionals seeking to have meaningful impact in improving education for communities around the world,” says Dean Bridget Long. “The creation of the TTL program is part of a tremendous effort to advance our training and engagement of aspiring educators while building on the lessons and success of our earlier programs. HGSE has long been committed to preparing innovative, equity-minded educators — and to charting pathways across the university for the study and practice of education, which is one of the central issues of our time.”
By consolidating multiple and previously separate teacher education pathways under one umbrella, TTL will provide holistic preparation for new and experienced educators, drawing on research-backed practices that are effective and inclusive. “TTL will expand and drive forward HGSE’s historic mission to change lives through education — to prepare our master’s students to design and lead transformative learning experiences. We’ve designed TTL to welcome the diverse range of students — with various levels of experience — who seek to contribute to society as educators. I’m especially excited about the benefits of mixing our pre-service teacher candidates with teacher leaders who come to HGSE with more experience and insight,” says Heather Hill, the Hazen-Nicoli Professor of Teacher Learning and Leadership and faculty co-chair of the new program.
The curriculum will give novice or early career teachers the chance to pursue Massachusetts initial licensure in secondary education, and students will have the option of applying to enter a teacher residency early in their program or applying to a pathway that takes a more gradual approach to learning to teach and includes more time on the HGSE campus. Meanwhile, experienced teachers in TTL will focus on instructional leadership, coaching, and teacher development. By integrating programs that have functioned separately in the past, TTL will create cross-HGSE opportunities for students and will break down some structural barriers that have limited exposure and collaborations across students and programs.
Nurturing Harvard College students as they explore education as a field and a practice has been a hallmark of HGSE’s work in recent years. “From [former Senior Lecturer] Kay Merseth’s pioneering Equity in Education course to the launch of HTF to the creation of the Secondary Field in Education Studies, HGSE has acted to spark undergraduates’ interest in teaching and learning, while making education a viable and supported career,” says Lecturer Noah Heller, director of the Harvard Teacher Fellows Program and a faculty member in the TTL Program.
HTF admitted its sixth and final cohort of students this fall, but its signature legacies will continue in the new program. “One of the proudest legacies of HTF is the outstanding Harvard alumni who are teaching throughout the country, as well as the postgraduate fellowship opportunity they helped define — one that offered a cohort model of remarkable aspiring teachers, content-specific coursework, and robust field experiences at partner schools. All of that will be rolled into the new TTL, and expanded to other talented candidates as well,” Heller said. Fellowships targeted specifically to TTL’s teacher licensure students will continue to provide substantive financial support and ensure that the program is accessible to Harvard College students.
“This really is an opportunity to grow and expand on what HTF has accomplished,” says Lecturer Victor Pereira, a member of both the HTF and Teacher Education faculties who will co-lead the TTL Program with Hill next year. “But it’s also a chance to advance and expand the work of TEP. Part of what both HTF and TEP did so well is that they recruited and supported amazing students that were committed to teaching. TTL allows us to draw on the features of both programs that helped make that support so distinctive.
“TTL carries forward the fieldwork structures that allow for a customized experience for new teachers, but the exciting part is that preservice teachers will now have a choice in how they will learn in the field,” Pereira continues. “The residency model — based on HTF’s fieldwork approach — will immerse preservice teachers in schools and classrooms, while the gradual-release internship builds off of TEP’s model.” TTL will also benefit from the remarkable partner network that TEP has built over the years. TEP’s legacies also includes a vibrant summer experience through the Cambridge-Harvard Summer Academy, which will continue under TTL.
The fact that TTL seeks to serve two interconnected populations — individuals learning to teach, and individuals with teaching experience who are preparing to be teacher leaders — is part of what makes the program distinctly valuable, says Hill. “Serving both groups in a single program is a huge advantage, since many of the skills our teacher-leaders develop during the program — providing instructional feedback, leading improvement efforts — will directly benefit our teacher education students,” she says.
The timing for such a step ahead in HGSE’s preparation of teachers could not be more significant. The pandemic — for all the suffering and inequities that it revealed — has prompted a wide reckoning about the importance of education, and of educators, Hill says. “It’s clear to everyone that the role of the teacher is critical. We’re motivated to ensure that teacher preparation at HGSE meets this moment.”
“Teachers are able to imagine and build a world far greater than the one that may exist outside their classrooms,” adds Heller. “They’re able to create sanctuaries from the injustices of society — transformative spaces where everyone is safe from violence, and democratic places where patterns of injustice are disrupted. I’m proud that HGSE is investing new resources in this critical work.”