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October 8, 2004

Stanford shares $25 million for new science-of-learning center

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $25 million grant to researchers at the Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning, the University of Washington and SRI International, a nonprofit research institute based in Menlo Park, to advance the scientific understanding and practices of learning.

The collaborative effort is called the LIFE Center, short for Learning in Informal and Formal Environments. The hub of the Stanford research will be the newly renovated Wallenberg Hall, which is equipped with advanced technology for teaching and research.

By synthesizing the theories and methodologies of neuroscience, psychology, education and technology, LIFE researchers will develop an integrated approach to the study of how humans learn in studies that range from early social and language development to K-12 and post-graduate learning in mathematics, science, technology and engineering.

The Stanford component of the LIFE Center, which NSF announced last week, will be directed by education Professor Roy Pea, who is also co-director of the Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning (SCIL). Faculty members Brigid Barron, Byron Reeves and Dan Schwartz will serve as co-directors of the LIFE Center, and professors Jeremy Bailenson, Shelly Goldman and Na’ilah Nasir will contribute to LIFE research.

Across LIFE’s three institutions, more than 40 faculty and senior researchers from the learning sciences, psychology, education, developmental cognitive and social neuroscience, communications and computer science will be involved in the extensive research.

LIFE’s basic research involves three multidisciplinary strands of inquiry:

  • The underlying neural processes and principles associated with the implicit learning of cognitive, linguistic and social domains that takes place automatically in all settings and over the lifespan.
  • The cognitive, social, affective and cultural dimensions that propel informal learning and development outside of school, and which can sustain transfer of learning across settings.
  • Principled designs for learning in formal educational and other settings that attempt fundamental improvements in the design of high performance learning environments.
  • “Our aim is to contribute to developing the learning sciences so as to advance useable knowledge for designing powerful learning environments throughout the lifespan and diversity of learning contexts -- from schools to workplaces, and homes to communities,” Pea said.



    Melinda Sacks, communications director, Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning: (650) 924-0139,


    Roy Pea, professor of education: (650) 724-3720,

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