Harvard University

  • AB, Biology, 2002
  • EdM, Human Development & Psychology, 2011
  • EdM, Learning & Teaching, 2014
  •  EdD, Human Development & Education, 2017


Dr. Maleka Donaldson is a college professor, published author, educational researcher, and former classroom teacher. She has worked in the field of education continuously since 2005. She began her career in education as a teacher in early childhood classrooms, and later assumed roles as a K-12 tutor, curriculum designer, and science teaching specialist. With a desire to deepen her understanding of how children learn, she commenced graduate study at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, engaging in coursework on human development, psychology, learning sciences, sociology, and advanced qualitative and quantitative research methods. While earning her doctorate, she simultaneously held several different roles: teaching fellow for numerous graduate-level courses; researcher at Project Zero and at the READS Lab; tutor in the HGSE Writing Center; and advisor, mentor, and senior leader in Harvard College residential life.

Dr. Donaldson’s dissertation centered on the daily experiences of Kindergarten teachers, utilizing the research methods of interviewing and portraiture to explore how teachers respond to young children’s mistakes during instruction. As a graduate student, she won numerous fellowships and awards from a variety of organizations, including the American Educational Research Association, the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Phi Delta Kappan, and more.

Dr. Donaldson regularly presents her work in various venues, including more than 40 refereed conference presentations and 35 invited appearances over the past 10 years. Her written work appears in peer-reviewed journals, including the Harvard Educational Review, The Journal of Educational Research, AERA Open, Theory Into Practice, and more. In addition to published articles, she has sole-authored a book entitled From Oops to Aha: Portraits of Learning From Mistakes in Kindergarten (2021). The book is a result of years of intensive observations and careful analysis, examining instruction in the classrooms of four public school Kindergarten teachers. By sharing this set of compelling life stories, Dr. Donaldson offers an in-depth look at the ways these teachers respond to mistakes in their early childhood classrooms. In the book, she juxtaposes the wide range of micro-level teacher-child interactions that occur when young students make mistakes, while also illuminating how factors beyond the teachers’ control shape their approaches to teaching and contribute to structural inequities.

Dr. Donaldson is an Assistant Professor of Education and Child Study at Smith College, where she teaches courses in the learning sciences and elementary STEM methods. Prior to this position, she served as Assistant Professor of Early Elementary Education at the University of Hartford, leading seminars and methods courses for preservice teachers pursuing state licensure in Early Childhood and Elementary programs.

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