Katherine Cadwell: About Me
“There’s a radical – and wonderful – new idea here…that students can and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of other people’s ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on the world. It’s an idea with revolutionary implications. If we take it seriously.” - Deborah Meier (1955)
I have been involved in teaching and learning for my entire professional life. My 38 years working with
students and teachers have enriched my life beyond measure. If I have garnered anything from the past
three decades in working with young people it is this: that “the one that does the work does the
learning.” Students must be engaged in asking deep and meaningful questions about what they are
learning, and they must have an authentic voice in our classrooms and communities.
Recently, I was given an extraordinary gift; I was awarded a Rowland Foundation Fellowship for the
2016- 2017 school year (. http://www.therowlandfoundation.org/ ) My initiative was to investigate the
ways that the Harkness Pedagogy can be used at the classroom level to create the fundamental shift to
student-directed learning that must be at the heart of school transformation. This work continues to be the
focus of my professional practice in my school and throughout Vermont.
I am fiercely committed to inquiry and equity in my practice, I believe that unless classroom practice for
students and teachers is redesigned, the danger is that New Vermont Education Quality Standards, Flexible
Pathways and PLPs will be little more than “check off lists,” and significant and persistent disparities between
groups of students – the “achievement gap” – may widen. Unless strategies and structures that encourage
students to take charge of their own education are implemented, young people will not have the skills and the
dispositions to take ownership of PLPs. Without guided practice and clear models, teachers will not know how
to work in new and innovative ways.
I firmly believe that we must undo what previous schooling has done to inhibit curiosity and the creative
thinking of students. “If we want to engage students in thinking through our content we must stimulate their
thinking with questions that lead them to further questions. We must resuscitate minds that are largely dead
when we receive them. We must give our students what might be called “artificial cogitation” (the intellectual
equivalent of artificial respiration)” (Paul, Martin, Adamson, 1989).
The Harkness Pedagogy places students at the center of the educational process; it fundamentally shifts the
dynamics of the teacher-student relationship and places ownership and initiative for learning on the student. In
this pedagogy, students drive the discussion by asking deep, probing questions to investigate meaningful
content, working collaboratively to search for knowledge, understanding and application.
I am committed to working with students and teachers to integrate strategies for student centered teaching and
learning into classroom practice so that students and teachers develop new partnerships and students learn to
participate to effectively drive their own learning. See my TED TALK “Students Sneed to Lead the Classroom,
Not Teachers” here and a documentary “Coming to the Table: Dialogue for School Transformation” here .
Other things about me:
I have a BA from Middlebury College in Sociology/Anthropology and a MA in Curriculum and Instruction
with a cognate in International Studies from the University of Denver. I am currently enrolled in a MA
program in Classical Studies at St. John’s College, Santé Fe, New Mexico. I have been teaching at Harwood
Union High School since 1981. In 2016, in addition to the Rowland Fellowship, I was awarded the
Foundation for Excellence in Education award for Vermont and the Gilder-Lehrman History Teacher of
the Year for Vermont. I currently work as a half-time teacher and half-time teacher coach to infuse the
Harkness Pedagogy into teaching and learning at our school. I teach graduate classes for teachers in
Harkness Pedagogy and how to infuse this work into the public school classroom.
I am one of the founders of PH International, which I started in 1985 when I was teaching at Harwood. PH
International’s mission is to build a strong global community by fostering civic engagement, cross-
cultural learning, and increased opportunities in the digital age. . PH pursues this vision by conducting
innovative programs for youth, professionals and communities around the world that uses in-person and
online engagement, practical skills development and coalition building to support global collaboration,
learning and advancement. As part of my work with PH International, I have done extensive travel and
teaching abroad and taught English in the Republic of Georgia for an academic year. I continue to consult
with PH International and work to offer professional training opportunities for teachers and students in
the countries of the former Soviet Union.
When I am not reading, meditating or engaging in schoolwork (which is my first love, I admit) I love being
in the out of doors. My two children, Celia and Parker, both went to Harwood Union High School, where I
teach, and my husband Jared serves as the chairperson of the Fayston Select Board and is active on the
Board of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns. I appreciate the unconditional support of my family as
I engage in this amazing and challenging work.