The Deeper Learning Dozen

About Us

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The Deeper Learning Dozen supports superintendents, through a community of practice, to transform their school districts to support equitable access to deeper learning experiences and outcomes for all students and adults, through changes in leadership, school and district systems, adult learning, and pedagogy. In addition we intend to learn from the collective experience of our districts and share with the field.



The Deeper Learning Dozen is our attempt to address the new opportunities and demands districts and schools face as they seek to create more access to deeper learning experiences for all young people and adults. It is both an action project and an effort to learn and share what we are learning with the field. It is first and foremost a design for a community of practice of twelve school districts. A community of practice is anchored by common values and aspirations, and ours are to give all students access to deeper learning. In other words, we are aiming for all students to have experiences that develop their mastery, identity, and creativity. We are not precious about these particular descriptors but we do find that they capture what others describe as important in contemporary education. We say more about what they mean to us in our white paper.

In that paper, we have also laid out our initial thinking of the changes that we think districts will need to undertake to move towards a goal of wall-to-wall systemic, equitable, deeper learning for both students and adults. We also lay out three overarching principles that we believe are at the heart of the needed changes: (In)Equity is Structural, Adult Learning and Student Learning are Symmetrical, and Leadership Accelerates Emergence. Over the next three years, we will be working with our districts to try to enact these ideas and also to refine and revise them in light of their experiences. For this community to sustain and grow, however, it needs allies beyond the founding twelve. If you would like to be part of this work in any way, we would love to hear from you.


Our Team


Jal Mehta

Jal Mehta is an associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His research explores the role of different forms of knowledge in tackling major social and political problems, particularly problems of human improvement. He has also written extensively on what it would take to improve American education, with a particular focus on the professionalization of teaching.

Jal is the author of The Allure of Order: High Hopes, Dashed Expectations and the Troubled Quest to Remake American Schooling (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013) and the co-editor of The Futures of School Reform (Cambridge: Harvard Education Press, 2012). He is currently working on two projects: In Search of Deeper Learning, a contemporary study of schools, systems, and nations that are seeking to produce ambitious instruction; and The Chastened Dream, a history of the effort to link social science with social policy to achieve social progress. He is co-editor of the Learning Deeply blog at Education Week, and in 2014 was the top-ranked junior faculty scholar in the Rick Hess Education Week rankings. He is also the winner of the Morningstar Teaching Award at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He was recently awarded a Radcliffe Fellowship and will be on sabbatical for the 2016-17 academic year.

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John Watkins

John Watkins has over thirty years experience in consulting, coaching, designing, facilitating, researching, and evaluating in school and school district improvement efforts. Currently, he is Co-Director with Jal Mehta, Professor at Harvard, of the Deeper Learning Dozen, creating a community of practice for superintendents who are committed to the transformation of their districts to support equitable access to deeper learning. Recently, he was the Pathway Coach Coordinator in the Linked Learning Office of Oakland Unified School District, supporting a community of practice for site-embedded Pathway Coaches, and before that a Pathway Coach with ConnectEd. John’s first career was as an Outward Bound instructor. He later became a high school art teacher before attending and earning his Doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy. His BA is from Amherst College in Art History. Along with his wife, Jessica, who is an English teacher in the Public Health Academy at Oakland High School, he loves to backpack, practice meditation and yoga, and garden.

Additional Faculty/Staff

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Alisa Berger

Alisa Berger teaches at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the Professional Education Program. She co-facilitates the Deeper Learning for All course which runs each summer. She also served as an adjunct lecture teaching the Deeper Learning course within the graduate programs at the school. Alisa is an independent consultant working with schools, districts and networks who are looking to design and implement innovative programs that better meet the needs of students and works to create a 21st century system that would support deeper and more engaging instruction for all students. Alisa is the co-author of the book How to Innovate: The Essential Guide for the Fearless School Leader, published April 2014. She was the founding co-principal at the NYC iSchool, a New York City public high school committed to rethinking high school for the 21st century. Previously, she has worked in the New York City central offices as a Director of Leadership and Organizational Learning, overseeing 250 schools in achieving their goal of increased student achievement by developing, aligning, and delivering cutting edge training and professional development. She was part of the design team for the Children First Intensive (CFI), a city-wide action research initiative designed to help build schools’ capacity to use accountability tools to differentiate, individualize, and improve instruction; as well as problem solving around school-based and systemic DOE issues to ensure that they do not interfere with schools’ effective operations. Alisa began her career in school administration as the founding leader of the Mott Hall II school, a small, progressive NYC public middle school. Alisa received her undergraduate degree from Barnard College, her MA in curriculum design from Teachers College, Columbia University and her MBA from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.


Kevin Walsh

Kevin Walsh has been a faculty assistant at Harvard Graduate School of Education for 3+ years, providing direct support to five core faculty members on a variety of courses and grant-funded projects. He is also currently a Master of Liberal Arts degree candidate in Creative Writing and Literature at Harvard University Extension School. Outside of Harvard, Kevin loves music and has been fortunate to tour and record all over the country in a few different bands.

Graduate Students


Amanda Dudley

Amanda is currently a Doctoral candidate in the ED. L. D. Program at Harvard University Graduate School of Education. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Texas A&M, Amanda Dudley has spent the last twelve years of her career as a teacher, teacher coach, and school leader. Most recently, she was the principal of the highest performing Title 1 school in Uplift Education, located in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. She draws most of her joy and conviction in her work from her experiences with scholars and teachers. During her time spent in both traditional public schools and charter schools, Amanda saw first-hand the disparities that exist in the educational opportunities for children in urban schools compared to those available to more advantaged children and is passionate about building a system that provides an excellent education for all kids. Her master’s degree in Urban Education Leadership from Southern Methodist University helped shape her belief that schools need to be designed to meet the specific and individualized needs of their communities. Ultimately, Amanda wants to expand her impact beyond one school and work to create transformative, innovative solutions for schools and school systems that meet the needs of the individual learner.

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Bobbi Macdonald

Bobbi Macdonald is currently a Doctoral candidate in the ED. L. D. Program at Harvard University Graduate School of Education. She is drawn to deeper learning as a framework for seeing every child and teacher as capable, creative, and desiring of living a meaningful inspired life. Formerly, Bobbi served as the Executive Director of the City Neighbors Foundation. Bobbi’s work for the past 15 years includes co-founding the City Neighbors Foundation, and designing and opening all three City Neighbors schools, creating structures for belonging, rituals that build a shared vision, and a unique cooperative governance model. City Neighbors Schools are project based, arts integrated, and Reggio Emilia inspired. In addition, Bobbi’s work includes creating physical environments that inspire loving relationships. Bobbi taught Pre-K and Kindergarten at the University of Illinois Child Development Lab, and the University of Maryland Center for Young Children. She received her Bachelor's Degree from the University of Illinois in Human Development and Family Studies, and holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, in Curriculum and Instruction. Bobbi believes in playfulness and joy as powerful levers for connecting and inspiring people to imagine wonderful places of learning together.

Thank you to Casey Fuess, Amelia Peterson, and Nicole Johnson, our previous graduate students who invested so much time and thought into the work of the Deeper Learning Dozen.

Contact Us

We would love to hear from you - please email us at:

Want to learn more about transforming school districts to support deeper learning for all?