Harvard Catalyst Profiles

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Robert Louis Selman, Ph.D.


Brief Bio-sketch:
Robert L. Selman is the Roy E. Larsen Professor of Education and Human Development at HGSE. (He serves, also, as Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School.)

Bob Selman’s research and teaching focuses on the development and promotion of young people’s capacity to coordinate personal, social, and cultural points of view, to utilize culturally informed social strategies, and to be aware of how the personal meaning they make of social relationships influences how they deal with the tough choices they face in life. This conceptual framework serves, in particular, as a guide to both educational programs and preventive interventions that inform youth to take positive rather than negative risks in the best interests of their own health, education, and welfare, as well as to include and engage with others in their expanding universe of moral obligation.
Over the past 25 years, since he founded the Prevention Science and Practice program at HGSE and transferred his primary academic appointment from HMS, Selman has done practice based and translational research, including program evaluation, on students’ developing social awareness, most recently in three practice partnerships: in elementary grades using children’s and young adult literature to promote literacy and social awareness through student writing and exposure to culturally diverse literature (as described in The Promotion of Social Awareness, 2007): in middle grades, in collaboration with Word Generation, using discussion and debate oriented social studies curriculum to promote deep social and reading comprehension; and in secondary schools, with Facing History and Ourselves, using historical case studies of injustices that have occurred at different points in time in civil societies across the world to promote civic knowledge, skills, and engagement.
Selman has been: a trustee of Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, a Scholar in Residence at the Russell Sage Foundation, and the recipient of two Fulbright Fellowships. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, and the American Educational Research Association. He has consulted to Highlights for Children, Sesame Street, The Walt Disney Company, and Walden Media, among other media organizations.
Selman’s currently studies the impact of new digital social media on the lives of youth, and the affordances that engaging cross media story-telling provide as a vehicle for bringing the fields of entertainment, ethics, and education together in the design of practices, in both formal and informal contexts, that motivate youth informed social engagement of their own.

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Funded by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through its Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program, grant number UL1TR002541.