Robert Kegan

Robert Kegan

Dr. Robert Kegan is nothing short of the academic ambassador of human development. As a Harvard-trained developmental psychologist, Kegan is best known for championing the idea that there is life after adolescence; that adult mental development need not end at age twenty; that adults may, indeed must, continue to develop throughout adulthood. He single-handedly transformed epistemology, often considered a dry, academic exercise, into a dynamic event by helping us understand that it is not what we think, but rather how we think.

In addition to being the first William and Miriam Meehan Professor of Adult Learning and Professional Development at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Kegan sits as the Educational Chair for the Institute for Management and Leadership in Education, co-directs both the Change Leadership Group and a joint program with the Harvard Medical School to transform the teaching of medicine. He is also working on a project funded by the Gates Foundation to develop a leadership training program for school and district leaders. A founding member of Integral Institute, Ken Wilber has drawn on his work extensively.

Kegan's love of and dedication to development and education emerged from a potent mix of his powerful intellect, the Vietnam War, draft policies and an unearthed desire to marry the rigor of cognitive psychology with the reality of subjective experience.

Raised in a Jewish middle class family in Minnesota, Kegan came of age in the midst of the explosive 1960s. Add to the mix lonely war protests at Dartmouth College, for which Kegan was despised by many of his classmates and professors, and graduating the year in which Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated and thousands of American soldiers and innocent Vietnamese civilians went to their death. These times were the crucible that forced Kegan to reflect, and ultimately move beyond, the given arrangements of his culture (a move beyond "third order consciousness", as he would later call it).

Then, Kegan was drafted. This wasn't just disruptive to his plans; it was disruptive to his developing values. Unwilling to serve in the war, Kegan chose to teach kids and get a deferment, which was rescinded for three years in a row, but contested each year by Kegan with the support of the head of his school.

This is how he stumbled into his love for teaching. He became fascinated with the minds and hearts of these children and the ways in which they developed (or failed to do so). This fascination eventually brought him to Harvard, where he thrived in a self-designed, interdisciplinary doctoral program in psychology and education which allowed him to pursue the creation of a "richer developmental psychology that was both powerfully descriptive from the outside, but also powerfully descriptive from the inside" that he's known for today.

Since receiving his Doctorate at Harvard in 1976, Kegan has been awarded honorary doctorates by four other top-ranked schools in the Northeast, and has been the recipient of numerous other awards and fellowships. He is a Fellow at both the Massachusetts Psychological Association and the Society for Values in Higher Education, and is a Member of three Editorial Boards for the Harvard Education Letter, the Journal of Adult Development and the Journal of Research in Child Development. His books, How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation; The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development, and In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life, have all been translated and published throughout the world.

He is also a father, a husband, an airplane pilot, a poker player, and the unheralded inventor of the "Base Average", a more comprehensive measure of a baseball player's offensive contributions.

Kegan's Body of Work:

(2000) How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation (with L. Lahey)

(1994) In Over Our Heads: the Mental Demands of Modern Life

(1982) The Evolving Self

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