Learning Sciences Research – Digital Promise

Learning Sciences Research

Learning Sciences focuses on the why, what, and how of learning in school and out-of-school. By partnering with educators to study and design new learning approaches, resources and policies, we make learning better.

We investigate how people learn and use research to improve opportunities for each learner.

Our Vision. The Learning Sciences Research Center of Excellence investigates how people learn and how to improve learning opportunities across formal and informal settings. We seek to generate knowledge that empowers learning across the lifespan, centering equity in our work, and focusing on how digital technologies can enable learning. We aim to embed research across all the activities of Digital Promise and its partners, working to deeply connect the strengths of our research team with the capabilities of our broader organization and its networks of external researchers, educators, and innovators.

We address a range of educational challenges, including:

  • How can early childhood programs co-design experiences to support young learners in historically underserved communities to engage in early STEM learning experiences that build on families’ strengths and local community contexts?
  • How can school districts systematically incorporate opportunities to teach computer science and computational thinking skills in inclusive and equitable ways?
  • How can media and technology be integrated into PreK-12 to support educators and enable students to develop a deep and meaningful understanding of STEM disciplines?
  • How can institutions of higher education apply research-based teaching practices and continuous improvement processes to achieve more equitable outcomes for historically-excluded students?
  • How can researchers help steer artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies toward their most ethical, equitable, and beneficial uses, while managing risks?
  • How can research partnerships, synthesis, and coordination promote sustainable relationships that have the potential for broader impacts and addressing learning problems at scale?

Our Expertise. As learning scientists, our core expertise is to investigate learning in authentic settings and at scale, including a focus both on the needs of individual learners and on how teachers, resources, and systems can enable learning. To conduct investigations, we bring together not only traditional qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method research skills, but also modern data science skills (e.g., learning analytics) and a commitment to equity and culturally responsive methods. The types of investigations we conduct span the spectrum from design-based research to evaluations of impacts to research syntheses. Our research and development work includes partnerships with students, families, teachers, and developers, to ensure innovations designed are meaningful, feasible, and sustainable in the communities we serve. View the expertise of each member of our team on our Researchers’ page. You can also learn more about our work in our Projects and our process and outcomes in our Publications.

Our Role in Digital Promise. We value the ways in which our unique context — within Digital Promise — creates opportunities to do more equitable research. Building on our organizational commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), we examine the limitations of traditional approaches and seek to strengthen every aspect of our research methods in order to reflect our DEIB values. We strive to form researcher-practitioner partnerships that enable us to ask relevant questions and make greater progress on problems of practice. The scope of Digital Promise’s Impact Goals challenges us to ask how we can focus our research to address the scale and sustainability of evidence-based innovations. Overall, being at Digital Promise makes a major difference in how we prioritize DEIB values in our research, how we form partnerships, and our ability to contribute research-based knowledge to policy, practice, and products.

Our Approach. We start by taking stock of major societal challenges where research can make a positive difference. We do this in conversations with our colleagues across Digital Promise, our partners in education, our funders, and our networks of researchers. We obtain funding through research proposals to federal, philanthropic, and corporate social responsibility sources, focusing on projects that can address specific research questions. For each project, we form a team that draws on the expertise of our staff and our extended capabilities for partnership within Digital Promise, with researchers outside of Digital Promise, and with practitioners and other partners. Almost all our research occurs in applied settings, which can be community centers, schools, homes, or institutions of higher learning. As we develop insights and innovations through our research, our focus on knowledge sharing includes conference papers and research journals, but goes far beyond scholarly publications. We build networks and communicate in accessible, reader-friendly formats. We participate in forums for practitioners and policymakers. We engage with partners to translate research into action—making it count.

Join us. We invite you to stay connected with our research by subscribing to the Learning Sciences Connections newsletter. Check out our job board for the latest opportunities to join our team.


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