This proposal supports the participation of US researchers in an international gathering of scientists, educational practitioners and policy makers. This award supports a series of 3 international meetings of scientists that are jointly sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI), and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). The set of planned conferences include: (a) a Science of Learning Symposium hosted by Shanghai Institute of Neuroscience that will highlight research from the US Science of Learning Centers to explore areas of common or complementary interests with other participants from Asia and Europe, (b) a day for informal interactive activities among researchers and UNESCO representatives to discuss specific case studies and their links to relevant research; (c) the OECD/UNESCO/NSF meeting which is centered around discussion of advances in research about learning and their implications for educational practice and policy; and (d) a Learning Symposium hosted by East China Normal University (ECNU), Shanghai Normal University, and the University of Hong Kong which will provide an even broader presentation of work by Chinese researchers.

Learning is an important research topic with broad societal impacts. The proposed activities promote advances in research and researchers' ability to address educational challenges by: 1) bringing together an international group of researchers to integrate their understanding of learning across disciplinary boundaries; (2) to discuss and to disseminate scientific knowledge about learning in ways that are accessible and meaningful to educational practitioners and policy makers; and (3) promote collaborations among these disparate communities that would lead to more effective integration of scientific findings to future innovations in education and policy. The opportunity for sharing ideas, successes and failures across countries will facilitate new thinking and new partnerships to better address the challenges faced in education. Broader impacts of the proposed activities include: (1) the development, adoption and adaptation of effective models of learning and/or teaching that have proven successful in various countries, (2) establishment of new international research collaborations on learning that integrate knowledge across disciplinary perspectives to advance methods and theory, (3) create a better understanding of the value of learning research among policymakers, practitioners, and broader audiences across countries, and (4) promote more stable partnerships to facilitate reciprocal exchanges between research and practice.

Project Report

In fall 2013, the LIFE Center, under the leadership of PI Patricia K. Kuhl, Ph.D., was awarded a Science of Learning Activities grant (SMA-1352991) to support the participation of U.S. researchers in an international gathering of scientists, educational practitioners, and policymakers. The U.S. researchers who participated, as keynote speakers and discussants, represented Science of Learning Centers funded by the National Science Foundation. The centers represented included LIFE, SILC, VL2, TDLC, and PSLC. In collaboration with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development/Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (OECD/CERI), UNESCO, East China Normal University, Shanghai Normal University, and University of Hong Kong, an ambitious agenda of four meetings coalesced into the International Convention on Science of Learning, which took place March 1-6, 2014, in Shanghai, China. Over the six days in Shanghai, four events were held: (1) Science of Learning Symposium on March 1; (2) Education Roundtable at East China Normal University on March 2; (3) Dialogue on Science of Learning on March 3-4; and (4) International Forum on Science of Learning and Innovation in Education on March 5-6. The convention sought to address two major issues: (a) Knowledge about learning is often not shared or integrated across disciplinary boundaries, even though many disciplines actively conduct research on this important topic. These disconnects stand in the way of a holistic and deeper understanding of learning, which can lead to premature interpretation and/or inappropriate applications of research findings. The International Convention worked toward creating an understanding of the Science of Learning in order to promote integrative, interdisciplinary approaches that might synergistically address the many complexities surrounding learning and become an inspiration to bring research about learning to the next level of effort, commitment, and achievement worldwide. It was hoped that such understanding might enable diverse teams of researchers to create common platforms of conceptualization, experimentation, and explanation that catalyze new lines of thinking and investigation to overcome complexities about learning that have long eluded our understanding. (b) While there is implicit acceptance that knowledge about how people learn should be the foundation for how we teach and educate, the reality is that researchers, education policymakers, and education practitioners rarely have opportunities to examine and discuss the issues surrounding application of evidence-based learning practices. To address these major issues, the agenda of the International Convention in Shanghai pursued the following goals: • High-level discussions among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers about recent research on how people learn and their implications for policy and practice; • Development of an international network on the broad theme of learning, so as to continue the dialogue among research, policy, and practice communities for overcoming key challenges; and, • Globalization and mobilization of an integrative, multidisciplinary Science of Learning by strengthening and exploring new collaborations among U.S. researchers and their international counterparts. Over 20 nations were represented, including Botswana, Brazil, Estonia, France, Gabonese Republic, Sultanate of Oman, Sweden, Russia, among others, and they represented a wide spectrum of education systems, sophistication in using evaluation and research in teaching and learning, and capacities of their governments, schools, universities, communities, teachers, and parents. From the beginning of the International Convention, it was clear that all the participants were interested and engaged in the findings being presented by the researchers from the NSF Science of Learning Centers. Questions during each of the keynote talks made it evident that the participants were eager about how the implications of the science could be applied in their country’s policies and systems. Researchers from Asia, Europe, South America, and NSF Science of Learning Centers, all agreed that the meetings were worthwhile and transformative. First, they learned about research being conducted in the Science of Learning arena across diverse nations, with approaches ranging from brain science to learning technologies, and employing creative designs for implementation in real-world settings. Second, the meetings helped build connections between researchers across nations, and connected researchers to practitioners and policymakers, and new research collaborations were initiated. The International Convention on Science of Learning in Shanghai, China, demonstrated that researchers, practitioners, and policymakers can be united to produce productive discussions, wrestle with complex issues such as translation of research and policy implications, and agree to work together to help define and shape the future of the field. Moving forward from Shanghai, there was strong consensus for OECD/CERI to take a leadership role in establishing a global platform for continuing the dialogue among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers. A future international meeting is currently being planned and will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in advance of the 9th International Brain Research Organization World Congress of Neuroscience in July 2015.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
SBE Office of Multidisciplinary Activities (SMA)
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Kurt Thoroughman
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University of Washington
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