Learning Sciences: A Virtual Round-table (Week Five)


Three experts discuss learning sciences in week five of a seven week long virtual round-table discussion.


Last week, we asked the editors of Reflections on the Learning Sciences about common misconceptions about learning sciences

This week, we ask:

What are some barriers to innovation in the realm of learning sciences?


Michael A. Evans, North Carolina State University

Martin J. Packer, Universidad de los Andes, Colombia

R. Keith Sawyer, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Michael A. Evans

One obvious barrier, at least in the US, is that there are still an insufficient number of departments of learning sciences in schools of education. What I mean is that there is somewhat of a bottle neck for opportunities for newly graduated learning scientists to procure positions as, for example, faculty or research scientists in schools of education or research and evaluation institutes. Another barrier to innovation is that the learning sciences still needs to identify its identity that clearly establishes its contributions to educational research more broadly. In fact, one purpose of this book was to make this issue one of the most prominent for the field as it moves past its first quarter century.

Martin J. Packer

This is precisely a question that learning science researchers are exploring. Their interest in design, and design research, extends into the exploration of obstacles and challenges in the implementation of new approaches to learning, as well as in ‘scaling up’ their interventions.

In addition, Cody Maddox and I have suggested that the two distinctions that have often been made the learning sciences, first between the laboratory and the ‘real world,’ and second between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ contexts, may have discouraged a thorough analysis of the multiple settings in which learning occurs. Learning sciences promises to dissolve, or at least rethink, the distinction between theory and practice. We suggest that it would be helpful to rethink these other two distinctions too.

R. Keith Sawyer

None that I can think of!


*Next week, the authors discuss the future of learning sciences

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About the Author: R. Keith Sawyer

R. Keith Sawyer is the Morgan Distinguished Professor in Educational Innovations at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is the author or editor of fourteen books, including The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, 2nd edition; Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation, 2nd edition; and Group Genius: The Creative P...

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About the Author: Michael A. Evans

Michael A. Evans is Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences at North Carolina State University, where he is also a Senior Research Fellow at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. His numerous articles have appeared in journals such as the International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative L...

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About the Author: Martin J. Packer

Martin J. Packer is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of the Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. He is the author of The Structure of Moral Action, Changing Classes: School Reform and the New Economy, and The Science of Qualitative Research. He is also co-editor of Entering the Circle: Hermeneutic Investigation in Psychology (with Richard...

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