Howard Gardner, Tom Dingman, Katie Steele, and Dick Light review an activity that is frequently used during Harvard's Reflecting on Your Life program.
In June 2013, the Teagle Foundation awarded Harvard College a $250,000 grant to conduct the Project on Purpose and Values in Education (PAVE).
The inspiration for the project was Harvard’s interest in seeing its students develop into good citizens of the world. The Freshman Dean’s Office, in particular, led efforts at Harvard College to offer co-curricular programming that would enable students to consider their purpose and values. Staff at the Freshman Dean’s Office, in collaboration with faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, developed Reflecting on Your Life. The goal of Reflecting on Your Life is to give first-year students time outside the classroom to pause and think about what really matters to them and why. We ask the students ‘big questions’ that are intended to help them discern their values, purpose, and goals.
After running Reflecting on Your Life for six years, we started to wonder how other colleges and universities encourage the moral growth of their students. What activities did others use to prompt reflection on values and purpose? Did anyone require their students to participate in this kind of initiative? Under the guidance of Howard Gardner, the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Learning and Cognition, Harvard College submitted a grant proposal to the Teagle Foundation entitled “Promising Programs for the Civic and Moral Education of Today’s College Students.” That original proposal evolved into what is now known as the Project on Purpose and Values in Education.