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Harvard Graduate School of Education

Creating Cultures of Thinking: Learning to Leverage the Eight Forces That Shape the Culture of Groups, Classrooms, and Schools

Sep 16—Dec 15
USD 525

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Learn how cultural forces influence thinking and how you can create a culture that supports deeper learning.


Effective teaching takes more than good planning and instructional design; it also requires attention to the culture of the classroom. But how do we create culture? How do we mold it so that it supports students’ development as thinkers and individuals capable of deep understanding?

In this online course, participants learn how to create “cultures of thinking,” communities where a group’s collective as well as individual thinking is valued, visible, and actively promoted every day. Participants will explore the eight cultural forces present in every group learning situation—language, time, environment, opportunities, routines, modeling, interactions, and expectations—and how they influence the group’s cultural dynamic. Using these eight forces as levers of transformation, participants will looks at practical ways they can create a culture of thinking in their classrooms and across their schools and organizations.

Course Details

This online course, developed by Project Zero’s Ron Ritchhart, begins with a one-week orientation, during which you will explore the online platform and get to know fellow members of the learning community. Six two-week content sessions follow, with an average time commitment of about 3-4 hours per week. In each session you will:

  • Learn new ideas
  • Review and reflect on key ideas from the previous session
  • Plan for trying and/or fully implementing course ideas in the classroom
  • Work on a project or curriculum unit
  • Reflect and share feedback with a coach and peers

Enrollment is by team, which promotes a deeper and richer learning experience and will help you sustain your use of core ideas after the course concludes. Team members will collaborate on most of the assignments, including the development of a project. Teams meet face-to-face every two weeks.

Although the sessions are structured and coach-facilitated, all the online interactions in the course are asynchronous. You and your team can decide when to work on the course materials as long as you submit the assignment(s) on or before the due dates.

This online course is not linked to a degree program. Academic credit is not available. You will be eligible for a digital certificate representing 45 professional development hours upon successful completion.

View the course outline for additional information on course sessions.

Online Course Schedule

Please review the course schedule to ensure that you and your team will be able to participate fully in the course, taking into account your local holidays and vacations. The average time commitment is about three to four hours per week.

  • Session 1 (Orientation week), February 25 - March 3
  • Session 2, March 3 - March 17
  • Session 3, March 18 - March 31
  • Session 4, April 1 - April 14
  • Session 5, April 15 - April 28
  • Session 6, April 29 - May 12
  • Session 7, May 13 - May 26


  • Discover the mechanisms that create group culture and learn how to leverage these forces to build a culture of thinking
  • Reflect on your guiding expectations for students’ long-term development as learners

Who should attend

This course requires enrollment by teams of 3-6 people. Teams should be able to try out course ideas with students/learners in classrooms or other learning environments. Teams should also be able to meet locally, in person, at least once every two weeks to engage in group-based activities.

  • Teams may include school leaders and teachers, preK to university.
  • Team members can be colleagues from the same workplace or be drawn from across schools or organizations.

(Please note: Course examples will focus on K–12 contexts.


Daniel Wilson is the Director of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), where he is also a Principal Investigator, a Lecturer at the HGSE, Faculty on the Doctorate for Educational Leadership at HGSE, and the Educational Chair at Harvard’s “Learning Environments for Tomor...

Next dates

Sep 16—Dec 15
USD 525

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