In the next few weeks there will be two different sessions (full disclosure: I’m a panelist on both) talking about how education can benefit from more learning science, one at the ASU GSV meeting in Scottsdale Arizona, and the other at the huge education research conference, AERA. The audiences are the right ones to also give insight into why that hasn’t happened yet.
The panel session here (on Wednesday, April 17, 10AM - 11 AM) is titled: “’Thar’s Gold In Them There Hills!’: How University Research Can Transform Education.” It’s got a wide array of perspectives on the panel, with Dick Clark from USC and Kurt Van Lehn from Arizona State University representing academic research and university views, Din Heiman representing views from a smaller company/start-up, me representing views from an education company, moderated by Jim Shelton, now with the Department of Education, representing a federal government view.
The huge AERA education research conference is being held in San Francisco this year, right in the heart of the Silicon Valley ed-tech mobilization, so it’s very appropriate to have a similar panel session here, this time facing an audience mostly of education researchers, as well as other innovators in the Bay Area who may want to attend this session and the reception afterwards (this one is not restricted to AERA members/attendees – see logistics below).
The panel session is: "Learning Science and Educational Entrepreneurship: Finding a Way to Connect." It’s another really diverse group that has significant overlaps with the ASU panel: myself as moderator, Dick Clark from USC again, Nadya Dabby, who works with Jim Shelton at the DoE, Deborah Quazzo, managing partner of GSV Advisors which runs the ASU conference. In addition, we’ll have Stacey Childress from the K-12 side of the Gates Foundation, Kenneth Koedinger, Co-Director of the PSLC, one of the leading research centers on technology, learning science, and data mining, and Michael Horn, co-author with Clayton Christensen of Disrupting Class and the head of education work for the Innosight Institute.
[Note: This one is on Sunday, April 28, from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm, with the reception following. AERA is huge – this session is at the JW Marriott Hotel, 500 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 (Corner of Post and Mason), 2nd Floor: Metropolitan A, B, and C rooms.]
What I’m hoping will break out is a rich conversation not just about what opportunities there are for more learning science to inform/guide better innovations in education at scale, but what exactly has been in the way?
For example, I’ve written before about the insightful meta-analysis of intelligent tutoring systems done by Dr. VanLehn in 2011, showing that even middling complicated ones (not just the most complex, most expensive) seem to achieve nearly the same results for students as typical human tutors do at scale, within their domains. So why hasn’t that blown the doors off trading labor for capital, lowering the variable costs of delivery for learning while also raising learning performance for millions of kids? There’s got to be a bunch of things in the way – and it can’t be because the conversion of research into something that works at scale is “just, you know, well, complicated,” because that’s been true in many other industries that over the last century have done this transformation. Not all good research makes that jump in other industries – but enough does to transform how we live, move, heal – but not how we learn the things that most matter to our careers, it seems.
More to come on this when the two session are over. I’m hoping to gather perspectives from both critical communities to getting this work out at scale: what’s in the way of researchers moving their most promising ideas out to markets, through licensing, start-ups, or other methods, and what’s in the way of venture funders and entrepreneurs mining and implementing at scale good work from education research in the way so much other research gets mined.