Research Overview

At the ETH Professorship for Learning Sciences and Higher Education we aim to advance not only fundamental understandings of human cognition and learning but also its application in the real ecologies of learning, especially higher education contexts. We embrace and thrive on interdisciplinary diversity in a wide array of domains such as the cognitive and learning sciences, educational psychology, mathematics, computer science, and neuroscience.

Recognizing that learning is a complex phenomenon, we deploy an interdisciplinary set of theoretical and methodological toolkits – neural, cognitive, affective, embodied, social, and cultural – to iteratively design, test, and refine innovative learning environments. There are three interlocking themes:

i. Productive Failure (PF) and Preparation for Future Learning (PFL). We examine the role of failure and preparatory activities for learning from subsequent instruction, such as scaffolding for failure, improving learning of linear algebra, designing virtual environments for learning differential diagnosis in medicine, and developing a personalized, adaptive system for learning from PF.

ii. Embodied Learning. We examine how motor processes correlate with and potentially influence cognition and learning. Our projects examine this in expert-novice studies, how motor movements can be designed to aid intuitions about abstract mathematical concepts, how our experience in the physical world influences our intuitions about physical concepts, and how physiological variables such as heartbeat variability influence learning.

iii. Assessment. We examine validity of resource-rich vs. resource poor assessments using a double transfer PFL design. Several projects use such a design to examine learning transfer.

In 2019, we embarked on the Future Learning Initiative (FLI), a CHF7.5m ETH+ funded program, that leverages and builds upon our existing strengths in secondary and higher education to develop the world’s leading center for research in the science of learning and advance ETH’s reputation as the globally leading learning institution.
Being a new lab, our priority is to continue to build the research themes described about, and leverage the FLI to create an ETH-wide impact on learning and teaching.