Image of HKS faculty.

Teaching

Teaching at the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University (HKS) differs from teaching in a traditional disciplinary department (e.g., political science, economics, sociology). HKS is a professional school; we are training students who will for the most part not embark on academic careers. As a result, both our courses and our students are different from the courses one encounters in a typical graduate school department.

HKS courses are different

At HKS, most courses emphasize prescription, in the sense of finding ways to solve problems rather than simply describing them. We expect students to analyze a problem and then come up with a recommendation, if not for solving it then at least for a process by which to address it constructively. Inevitably prescription involves tradeoffs among conflicting values; HKS courses try to identify and incorporate the relevant values, though consensus is sometimes elusive. With most courses, cases and problem sets are the primary basis for class preparation and classroom discussion.

HKS students are different

  • Many of the students already have advanced degrees
  • Many of the students have held senior positions in government or NGOs
  • Approximately 40-45% of the student body is international
  • The students expect a high level of faculty contact
  • Most students view the faculty as teachers, but not as role models; they are not aiming for academic careers dedicated to research and teaching. Their goal is to be "doers" in the world at large, applying their skills and knowledge to solving problems in the public interest.

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