Eleanor Duckworth

Honorary Degree Citation

Eleanor Duckworth

Eleanor R. Duckworth. Cognitive psychologist. Observer of children’s learning. Teacher of teachers. Education activist. You studied philosophy as a member of Colby’s Class of 1957 and psychology and pedagogy at the Université de Paris and Université de Genève. You were a student of renowned Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget. For many years you translated his lectures for English-speaking audiences and taught courses on his scholarship, and you developed key ideas from Piaget into new methods and insights. You have held appointments in North America and Europe, and you have lectured and consulted across the globe, from teaching third graders in Québec and college students in Nova Scotia and Geneva to serving as a researcher and lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1981 you joined the faculty of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, where you were Professor of Education and served as chair of the Learning and Teaching Area, director of Teacher Education Programs and, now, in retirement, as Research Professor. Your contemporary lectures on education in the United States address the shortcomings of education policy labeled as school reform. You maintain that current policy deprives students of a good education and teachers of their professional dignity. You help fellow educators appreciate that children’s minds have their own logic and integrity. You have written: “What I love to do is teach teachers. I love to stir up their thoughts about what they learn, about how on earth anyone can help someone else learn, and about what it means to know something.”

By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Eleanor R. Duckworth, the degree of Doctor of Education, honoris causa. The hood with which you have been invested and this diploma which I place in your hand are visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled. 

Conferred May 26, 2013

More about Eleanor Duckworth

Eleanor Duckworth ’57 is widely considered one of the leading progressive educators today. After earning her philosophy degree at Colby, she studied with child psychologist Jean Piaget, developed the clinical interview method into a teaching approach now called “critical exploration in the classroom,” and has fought the use of standardized assessment tests for schoolchildren for more than 30 years. A faculty member emerita at Harvard University, Duckworth has conducted teacher education and program evaluations in countries around the world. She is a coordinator of Cambridge United Justice for Peace and a performing modern dancer.

Commencement 2013 Q&A with Eleanor Duckworth ’57
Eleanor Duckworth’s convocation address at the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s 2012 commencement

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