Provost approves formation of the Chicago Science of Learning Center, inaugural faculty director Susan Levine

The University of Chicago Office of the Provost has approved a proposal to establish a new center that will bring together researchers from across the university to study how people learn, how findings can be scaled from the individual level to districts nationally, and the best ways to improve outcomes for children who have the most to gain. The center will be under the direction of inaugural faculty director, Susan Levine, Rebecca Anne Boylan Professor in Education and Society, Department of Psychology. A formal announcement of the Chicago Science of Learning Center (CSLC) will take place mid-2015, with programming to begin in the fall. 


Improving education for all students is one of the most pressing issues faced by modern society. Beginning in infancy and continuing through formal schooling, children’s education affects who they become, the opportunities open to them later in life, and how they will contribute to society. Because of these far reaching consequences, understanding how people learn, including the environments that lead to optimal learning, is vitally important to society as a whole. Despite widespread recognition of the importance of learning, teaching, and education, the quality of educational opportunities remains deeply related to race and socioeconomic class. Notably, just over 50% of 9th graders in public schools in the 50 largest cities in the United States earn a high school diploma four years later, and those who do not earn a degree are disproportionately from minority groups and low income backgrounds (Swanson, 2009). This statistic is deeply troubling given that having a high school diploma strongly predicts employment, earnings, health, and other positive life outcomes. Moreover, many of the inner city students who do graduate from high school are not well prepared for the work force demands of the 21st century.

To address questions related to educational excellence and equity, we propose a new interdisciplinary center at the University of Chicago that will foster understanding of how students learn, and how parents, schools, and communities can best support robust learning for all students. Our vision for the CSLC is to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts by bringing together already existing efforts at the University of Chicago. The University is home to leading education researchers and practitioners who are committed to improving learning outcomes. Increasing interactions among these researchers and practitioners will catalyze powerful and timely research on learning that shapes—and is shaped by—current educational practice, and will ultimately help to create a new researcher-practitioner model for educational research.

The CSLC will be the hub of University research efforts to understand and improve learning. It will create a forum where researchers and practitioners regularly interact to discuss pressing educational issues and the research that addresses these issues. Research efforts will therefore be driven by practice-relevant questions and knowledge, and practice will be driven by cutting edge scientific evidence. The CSLC will also function as a training ground for a new cadre of education professionals with expertise in integrating practice with research and research with practice. Additionally, it will serve as a resource for investigators submitting proposals that include educational outreach components, providing advice on how to design these efforts for maximum impact. In these ways, the CSLC will break through established silos that typically lead to mono-disciplinary studies of learning.


This announcement was originally published by The Division of the Social Sciences on January 12, 2015. To read more, visit the Social Sciences article.