Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


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

R. Keith Sawyer, Michael A. Evans, Martin J. Packer

Last week, we asked the editors of Reflections on the Learning Sciences how to leverage digital media to create innovative environments

This week, we ask:

What are some misconceptions about 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 of the earliest misconceptions about the learning sciences was that the focus of the field was limited to investigating how individuals learn science. In fact, published research in the field covers all primary content domains including mathematics, science, engineering, and computer science education. Another misconception is that the learning sciences has a mission to replace educational psychology, particularly in terms of methodological priorities, in schools of education. Though there are certainly overlaps in the two fields, the learning sciences is more focused on improving methodological frameworks so that they contribute substantively to formal and informal learning outcomes.

Martin J. Packer

A common misconception is that learning sciences is about putting the latest technology into school classrooms. But we know that effective learning takes place all around the world in settings with very simple technology, in meaningful interactions among people who have formed relationships they consider valuable.  Increasingly, learning sciences researchers are stepping outside the classroom in order to study, and often intervene in, these other contexts in which learning is central, and taken for granted.

R. Keith Sawyer

Most people think of learning as a solitary pursuit. Learning involves one person, acquiring knowledge. And if that’s true, then you could learn alone just as effectively as in a group or a classroom. But recent learning sciences research has demonstrated the importance of learning in groups. One of the main reasons this is important is that most adult professional activities take place in groups. Why would we teach science to solitary individual students, when all science today is massively collaborative?

*Next week, the authors discuss potential barriers to innovation in the realm of learning sciences

About The Authors

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, inc...

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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 a...

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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: Scho...

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