Learning sciences

Learning sciences

Overview
The term Learning Sciences (LS) refers to an interdisciplinary field that works to further scientific understanding of learning
Learning
Learning is acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals and some machines. Progress over time tends to follow learning curves.Human learning...

 as well as to engage in the design and implementation of learning innovations, and improvement of instructional methodologies. Research in the learning sciences traditionally focuses on cognitive-psychological and social-psychological foundations of human learning
Learning
Learning is acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals and some machines. Progress over time tends to follow learning curves.Human learning...

, as well as on the design of learning environments.
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Encyclopedia
The term Learning Sciences (LS) refers to an interdisciplinary field that works to further scientific understanding of learning
Learning
Learning is acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals and some machines. Progress over time tends to follow learning curves.Human learning...

 as well as to engage in the design and implementation of learning innovations, and improvement of instructional methodologies. Research in the learning sciences traditionally focuses on cognitive-psychological and social-psychological foundations of human learning
Learning
Learning is acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals and some machines. Progress over time tends to follow learning curves.Human learning...

, as well as on the design of learning environments. Major contributing fields include cognitive science
Cognitive science
Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary scientific study of mind and its processes. It examines what cognition is, what it does and how it works. It includes research on how information is processed , represented, and transformed in behaviour, nervous system or machine...

, computer science
Computer science
Computer science or computing science is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and of practical techniques for their implementation and application in computer systems...

, educational psychology
Educational psychology
Educational psychology is the study of how humans learn in educational settings, the effectiveness of educational interventions, the psychology of teaching, and the social psychology of schools as organizations. Educational psychology is concerned with how students learn and develop, often focusing...

, and anthropology
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

. Over the past decade, researchers have also expanded their focus to the design of curricula, informal learning
Informal learning
Informal learning is one of three forms of learning defined by the OECD. The other two are formal and non-formal learning. Informal learning occurs in a variety of places, such as at home, work, and through daily interactions and shared relationships among members of society. For many learners this...

 environments, instructional methods, and policy innovations.

Domain Definition


As an emerging discipline, Learning Sciences is still in the process of defining itself. Accordingly, the identity of the field is multifaceted, and varies from institution to institution. However, the International Society of Learning Sciences (ISLS, http://www.isls.org/) summarizes the field as follows: "Researchers in the interdisciplinary field of learning sciences, born during the 1990’s, study learning as it happens in real-world situations and how to better facilitate learning in designed environments – in school, online, in the workplace, at home, and in informal environments. Learning sciences research may be guided by constructivist, social-constructivist, socio-cognitive, and socio-cultural theories of learning." ISLS has a large worldwide membership, is affiliated with two international journals: "Journal of the Learning Sciences", and "International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning", and sponsors the biennial Computer Supported Collaborative Learning conference and International Conference of the Learning Sciences on alternate years."

Although controlled experimental studies and rigorous qualitative research have long been employed in Learning Sciences, LS researchers sometimes utilize Design-Based Research
Design-Based Research
Design-based research is a type of research methodology commonly used by researchers in the Learning Sciences. Within Design-Based Research methodology, interventions are conceptualized and then implemented in natural settings in order to test the ecological validity of dominant theory and to...

 methods. Interventions are conceptualized and then implemented in natural settings in order to test the ecological validity
Ecological validity
Ecological validity is a form of validity in a research study. For a research study to possess ecological validity, the methods, materials and setting of the study must approximate the real-life situation that is under investigation. Unlike internal and external validity, ecological validity is not...

 of dominant theory and to develop new theories and frameworks for conceptualizing learning, instruction, design processes, and educational reform. LS research strives to generate principles of practice beyond the particular features of an educational innovation in order to solve real educational problems, giving LS its interventionist character.

History


Several significant events have contributed to the international development of the learning sciences. Perhaps the earliest history can be traced back to the cognitive revolution
Cognitive revolution
The cognitive revolution is the name for an intellectual movement in the 1950s that began what are known collectively as the cognitive sciences. It began in the modern context of greater interdisciplinary communication and research...

.

In the United States, an important effort to create a graduate program in the learning sciences took place in 1983 when Jan Hawkins and Roy Pea
Roy Pea
Roy Pea is David Jacks Professor of Learning Sciences and Education at the Stanford University School of Education. He has extensively published works in the field of the Learning Sciences and on learning technology design, and made significant contributions since 1981 to the understanding of how...

 proposed a joint program between Bank Street College and the New School for Social Research. Called "Psychology, Education, and Technology" (PET), the program had a planning grant supported by the Sloan Foundation. In the end the program would have required new faculty, though, and the institutions involved never established such a program. Roger Schank
Roger Schank
Roger Schank is an American artificial intelligence theorist, cognitive psychologist, learning scientist, educational reformer, and entrepreneur.-Academic career:...

's arrival at Northwestern University in 1988 helped start the Institute for Learning Sciences. In 1991, Northwestern initiated the first learning sciences doctoral program, designed by and launched by Roy Pea
Roy Pea
Roy Pea is David Jacks Professor of Learning Sciences and Education at the Stanford University School of Education. He has extensively published works in the field of the Learning Sciences and on learning technology design, and made significant contributions since 1981 to the understanding of how...

 as its first director. The program began accepting students in 1992, and after Pea became dean the program directorship was taken over by Brian Reiser. Since that time, a number of other high quality graduate programs in Learning Sciences began to appear around the world, and the field is continuing to be recognized as an innovative and influential area for education research and design.

The Journal of the Learning Sciences was first published in 1991, with Janet Kolodner as founding editor. Yasmin Kafai and Cindy Hmelo-Silver took over as editors in 2009. The International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning was established as a separate journal in 2006, edited by Gerry Stahl and Freiderich Hesse. These journals, while relatively new in the field of Education research, rapidly escalated and continue to place in upper ranks of the Educational Research section of the SSCI
SSCI
SSCI may refer to:* Social Sciences Citation Index* Southern Society for Clinical Investigation* Systems and Software Consortium, Inc.* United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence...

 impact factor rankings.

The Institute for the Learning Sciences hosted the first International Conference for the Learning Sciences (ICLS) in August 1991 at Northwestern University (edited by Lawrence Birnbaum, and published by the AACE but no longer available). The first biennial meeting of the ICLS also took place at Northwestern University, in 1994. The International Society of the Learning Sciences was established in 2002.

What distinguishes the Learning Sciences from other related fields?


By integrating multiple fields, the learning sciences extends beyond other closely related fields in distinguishable ways. For example, the learning sciences extends beyond psychology
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

, in that it also accounts for, as well as contributes to computational
Computational
Computational may refer to:* Computer* Computational algebra* Computational Aeroacoustics* Computational and Information Systems Laboratory* Computational and Systems Neuroscience* Computational archaeology* Computational auditory scene analysis...

, sociological and anthropological approaches to the study of learning. Similarly, the learning sciences draws inspiration from cognitive science
Cognitive science
Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary scientific study of mind and its processes. It examines what cognition is, what it does and how it works. It includes research on how information is processed , represented, and transformed in behaviour, nervous system or machine...

, and is regarded as a branch of cognitive science; however, it gives particular attention to improving education
Education
Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts...

 through the study, modification, and creation of new technologies and learning environments, and various interacting and emergent
Emergent
It may also mean:* Emergent , Neural Simulation Software* Emergent , a 2003 album by Gordian Knot* emergent plant, a plant which grows in water but which pierces the surface so that it is partially in air...

 factors that potentially influence the learning
Learning
Learning is acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals and some machines. Progress over time tends to follow learning curves.Human learning...

 of humans.

Many Learning Sciences researchers employ design-based research
Design-Based Research
Design-based research is a type of research methodology commonly used by researchers in the Learning Sciences. Within Design-Based Research methodology, interventions are conceptualized and then implemented in natural settings in order to test the ecological validity of dominant theory and to...

 methodology
Methodology
Methodology is generally a guideline for solving a problem, with specificcomponents such as phases, tasks, methods, techniques and tools . It can be defined also as follows:...

. The growing acceptance of design-based research
Design-Based Research
Design-based research is a type of research methodology commonly used by researchers in the Learning Sciences. Within Design-Based Research methodology, interventions are conceptualized and then implemented in natural settings in order to test the ecological validity of dominant theory and to...

 methodology
Methodology
Methodology is generally a guideline for solving a problem, with specificcomponents such as phases, tasks, methods, techniques and tools . It can be defined also as follows:...

 as a means for study is often viewed as a significant factor distinguishing the Learning Sciences from many of the fields that contribute to it. By including design-based research
Design-Based Research
Design-based research is a type of research methodology commonly used by researchers in the Learning Sciences. Within Design-Based Research methodology, interventions are conceptualized and then implemented in natural settings in order to test the ecological validity of dominant theory and to...

 within its methodological toolkit, learning sciences qualifies as a "design science", with characteristics in common with other design sciences that employ Design Science (methodology)
Design Science (methodology)
Design Science is an outcome based information technology research methodology, which offers specific guidelines for evaluation and iteration within research projects....

 such as engineering
Engineering
Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of...

 and computer science
Computer science
Computer science or computing science is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and of practical techniques for their implementation and application in computer systems...

. Learning sciences is also considered by some as having some degree of overlap with instructional design
Instructional design
Instructional Design is the practice of creating "instructional experiences which make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing." The process consists broadly of determining the current state and needs of the learner, defining the end goal of instruction, and...

, although historically the two communities have come about in different ways and at times emphasized different programs of research, as described in a special issue of the journal Educational Technology in 2004.

However, it should be emphasized design-based research
Design-Based Research
Design-based research is a type of research methodology commonly used by researchers in the Learning Sciences. Within Design-Based Research methodology, interventions are conceptualized and then implemented in natural settings in order to test the ecological validity of dominant theory and to...

 research methodology is by no means the only research methodology used in the field. Many other methodologies--including computational modeling, experimental and quasi-experimental research, and non-interventionist ethnographic-style qualitative research methodologies--have long been and continue to be employed in learning sciences.

Associations and Journals


Major Research Centers


Alphabetical Listing of Graduate Programs that Specialize in the Learning Sciences


See also

  • Cognitive Science
    Cognitive science
    Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary scientific study of mind and its processes. It examines what cognition is, what it does and how it works. It includes research on how information is processed , represented, and transformed in behaviour, nervous system or machine...

  • Computer-supported collaborative learning
    Computer-supported collaborative learning
    Computer-supported collaborative learning is a pedagogical approach wherein learning takes place via social interaction using a computer or through the Internet. This kind of learning is characterized by the sharing and construction of knowledge among participants using technology as their primary...

  • Artificial intelligence
    Artificial intelligence
    Artificial intelligence is the intelligence of machines and the branch of computer science that aims to create it. AI textbooks define the field as "the study and design of intelligent agents" where an intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its...

  • Educational psychology
    Educational psychology
    Educational psychology is the study of how humans learn in educational settings, the effectiveness of educational interventions, the psychology of teaching, and the social psychology of schools as organizations. Educational psychology is concerned with how students learn and develop, often focusing...

  • Cognitive psychology
    Cognitive psychology
    Cognitive psychology is a subdiscipline of psychology exploring internal mental processes.It is the study of how people perceive, remember, think, speak, and solve problems.Cognitive psychology differs from previous psychological approaches in two key ways....

  • Malleable intelligence
    Malleable intelligence
    Malleability of intelligence describes the processes by which human intelligence may be augmented through changes in neuroplasticity. These changes may come as a result of genetics, pharmacological factors, psychological factors, behavior, or environmental conditions...