text-only page produced automatically by LIFT Text Transcoder Skip all navigation and go to page contentSkip top navigation and go to directorate navigationSkip top navigation and go to page navigation
National Science Foundation Home National Science Foundation - Geosciences (GEO)
Geosciences (GEO)
design element
GEO Home
About GEO
Funding Opportunities
Advisory Committee
Career Opportunities
GEO Education Program
See Additional GEO Resources
View GEO Staff
GEO Organizations
Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS)
Earth Sciences (EAR)
Ocean Sciences (OCE)
Polar Programs (PLR)
Proposals and Awards
Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide
Proposal Preparation and Submission
bullet Grant Proposal Guide
  bullet Grants.gov Application Guide
Award and Administration
bullet Award and Administration Guide
Award Conditions
Other Types of Proposals
Merit Review
NSF Outreach
Policy Office
Additional GEO Resources
GEO Advisory Cmte Report on Ocean Drilling, 2012
GEO Vision, A Report of AC-GEO (10/09)
Strategic Framework for Topical Areas, 2012 (Follow on to GEO Vision)
GEO Education & Diversity Program
GEO Innovation
GEO Data Policies
Follow GEO on Twitter
U.S. Global Change Research Program
Merit Review Broader Impacts Criterion: Representative Activities
Other Site Features
Special Reports
Research Overviews
Multimedia Gallery
Classroom Resources
NSF-Wide Investments

Email this pagePrint this page

Press Release 04-137
Learning about Learning: NSF Awards $36.5 Million for Three Centers to Explore How Humans, Animals and Machines Learn

September 30, 2004

Arlington, Va.— Boston University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Washington have received National Science Foundation (NSF) awards totaling $36.5 million over the next 3 years to establish Science of Learning Centers. The new centers will engage in basic research and serve as hubs for a national network of research focused on learning.

“Basic research about learning is immensely important. In the midst of today’s complex and quickly transforming environments, fundamental understanding of the processes of learning will help develop the knowledge base necessary to prosper in our ever-changing world,” says NSF Acting Director, Arden Bement.

According to Joseph Bordogna, NSF deputy director, “This is the right time to make new investments in the science of learning, when scientists are revealing innovative ways to integrate research across many disciplines – biological, cognitive, computational, mathematical, neuro, physical, and social sciences; engineering; and education.”

How do we learn? This most fundamental ability comes about through the complex interplay of genes, brain-based neural mechanisms, developmental trajectories, and social and physical environments. These processes of learning are just beginning to be understood. A deeper understanding of learning will allow scientists and educators to devise methods for improving how humans learn and develop machines that can perform tasks intelligently and independently.

NSF has launched the new Science of Learning Centers to meet the challenge of learning about learning. Their goal is to make new discoveries about the foundations of learning across a wide range of learning situations – from processes at the cellular level to complex processes engaging different brain areas, to behaviors of individuals, to interactions in the classroom, to learning in informal settings, to learning performed by computer algorithms.

These centers will support the intellectual, organizational and physical infrastructure needed to study problems of such scope and complexity. Each center has formed partnerships with a variety of researchers and organizations. And each center is built around an integrated, multidisciplinary research core, with each of the three centers devoted to a different aspect of learning.

Headed by Stephen Grossberg, the Center for Excellence for Learning in Education, Science, and Technology (CELEST) (Boston University, Brandeis University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Pennsylvania) will study and model the behavioral and brain processes involved in learning. Learning processes include visual perception and recognition; speech and language; cognitive-emotional interactions; remembering; and forming concepts and rules. Developing qualitatively new learning algorithms based on knowledge of these processes, CELEST scientists and engineers will then be able to solve outstanding technological problems presented by uncertain and ever-changing data.

Directed by Kenneth R. Koedinger, the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center (Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Learning) will advance the scientific understanding of robust learning, defined as learning that lasts a long time, transfers to novel circumstances and aids future learning. This goal will be accomplished through a new shared resource, called “LearnLab,” that will enable a new level of experimental rigor in classroom studies of learning. LearnLab will provide seven courses enhanced with computerized intelligent tutoring systems. Such systems have been used successfully in school settings to give students individualized instruction. The courses will serve as test beds where students’ learning strategies, their instructional support, and the concepts that are learned can be studied in detail. Whenever experiments demonstrate that a technique results in substantial gains, partnerships with public school systems will make the techniques available to students.

The Center for Learning in Informal and Formal Environments (LIFE) (University of Washington, Stanford University, and SRI International) will advance and use the scientific understanding of neural processes and principles associated with the cognitive, linguistic and social dimensions of learning in formal and informal environments to guide educational practices. Directed by John Bransford, the Center for LIFE has assembled a collaborative and interdisciplinary team that will develop a coherent, integrated perspective on learning through “conceptual collisions” among diverse sets of concepts, methodologies, and research traditions. The Center will to create learning environments that will prepare people for future learning and develop new kinds of assessments that measure these kinds of outcomes.

Earlier, NSF’s Science of Learning program awarded 14 catalyst projects that support partnership-building activities and exploratory research aimed at facilitating interdisciplinary approaches to complex questions. The projects represent a balance of strategies and approaches to address several important aspects of science of learning research. They include diverse projects that integrate research across economics, machine learning, and human learning topics; the social and cultural context of learning; cognitive development and problem solving; synthetic learning environments, entertainment, and education; and perspectives of diverse populations, technology design, training, and use to enhance learning.

Says Wanda Ward, Acting Assistant Director of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, which leads the program, “The Science of Learning Centers and catalyst projects will provide the means and impetus for large-scale collaborations needed to push the frontiers of interdisciplinary science and for smaller-scale innovations and partnership-making. These kinds of investments are essential for a fuller understanding of learning.”


Media Contacts
Elizabeth Malone, NSF, (703) 292-7732, emalone@nsf.gov

Program Contacts
Vittal Rao, NSF, (703) 292-8339, vrao@nsf.gov
Soo-Siang Lim, NSF, (703) 292-7878, slim@nsf.gov
Kenneth Whang, NSF, (703) 292-5149, kwhang@nsf.gov
Gregg Solomon, NSF, (703) 292-8333, gsolomo@nsf.gov

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

 Get News Updates by Email 

Useful NSF Web Sites:
NSF Home Page: http://www.nsf.gov
NSF News: http://www.nsf.gov/news/
For the News Media: http://www.nsf.gov/news/newsroom.jsp
Science and Engineering Statistics: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/
Awards Searches: http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/



Email this pagePrint this page
Back to Top of page