Science Of Learning Institute Launch

01/3/2013

We all know Johns Hopkins as a place whose central mission is learning—the acquisition and dissemination of “knowledge for the world.” Today, we announce a signature initiative that focuses on understanding the process of learning itself.


Dear Johns Hopkins Colleagues,

We all know Johns Hopkins as a place whose central mission is learning—the acquisition and dissemination of “knowledge for the world.” Today, we announce a signature initiative that focuses on understanding the process of learning itself.

The mission of the newly formed Science of Learning Institute is to understand the most essential part of our human capital: our ability to learn. But to understand learning, we must proceed at all levels of scientific inquiry—including understanding how the brain changes through learning, how aging affects our ability to learn, how neurological and psychiatric diseases disrupt or change learning, and why there are such vast individual differences that naturally occur among learners. Crucially, a central part of the mission is to understand how educational programs and new technologies can maximize learning—whether it occurs in the informal setting of the playground or the more formal setting of a school, rehabilitation program, or in on-the-job training. In all cases, understanding how learning occurs is central to maximizing it.

The creation of the institute is the result of a two-year process in which faculty across Johns Hopkins University engaged in thinking together about the many dimensions of learning. Faculty came from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Education, the School of Medicine, the Whiting School of Engineering, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Applied Physics Laboratory, and the Kennedy Krieger Institute. Some faculty focused on the basic science of learning, from understanding how molecules in the brain work to create learning to understanding how minds emerge during infancy, adulthood, and through the aging process. Other faculty focused on the nature of individual differences in learning, embracing the idea that learners vary from one another, and that understanding these differences is as important to enhancing learning as understanding the “norm.” Yet other faculty explored how we can benefit from cutting-edge learning technologies to enhance the learning done by machines as well as humans, and how these different kinds of learning can complement and build upon each other. A crucial issue that drove the conversation was the question of how one could use all of these approaches to enhance educational practice, moving toward the ultimate goal of “the school of one,” where a learner is provided with materials exactly matched to his or her own needs.

The Science of Learning Institute has received generous financial support from an anonymous donor to begin its mission. Its inaugural activities, led by Dick and Lydia Todd Professor of Cognitive Science and Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Barbara Landau, together with steering and oversight committees, will include launching several Requests for Proposal to invite proposals to fund interdisciplinary research activities, postdoctoral and graduate student fellowships, and workshops. Funding will be prioritized toward proposals that are highly innovative and interdisciplinary, working to build on the already strong community of over 500 neuroscientists, psychologists, cognitive scientists, engineers, neurologists, psychiatrists, educators, and others that form the existing science of learning community at Johns Hopkins.

We look forward to the day when every person in every phase of life, from infancy and throughout adulthood, can take advantage of a new, transformative science of learning—one in which a broad and deep understanding of how learning occurs allows us to maximize our society’s most precious capital, the human potential to learn.

For more information, including the RFPs and deadlines for submission of proposals, please visit the Johns Hopkins Science of Learning website, http://scienceoflearning.jhu.edu.

Sincerely,

Ronald J. Daniels and Jonathan A. Bagger