CAP: Collaborative Research: Building Capacity for Political and Cultural Perspectives to Strengthen the Learning Sciences

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project seeks to establish the need for political perspectives (perspectives that center questions of power, history and inequity) within the Learning Sciences, and delineate the specific ways this strand of work will deepen our understandings of learning and technology. We want to address three components of this problem. First, there is a disconnect between research that is framed by equity concerns and the specific conceptual and methodological tools needed to substantively address issues of equity in research and practice. Second, there is a need to examine dominant frames and theoretical commitments that, while well-intentioned, can reproduce deficit orientations and social inequities. Third, research that aims to explicitly address these issues (1 and 2) is consistently treated as less rigorous, or marginalized as a “cultural” perspective that does not apply to or trouble core constructs in the field. We propose two-mini conferences that bring together an intergenerational group of committed scholars of learning and technology to collectively define and assert the theoretical perspectives and types of rigor needed to meaningfully frame, study, and respond to persistently-produced inequity. Intellectual Merit: Over the last two decades, the Learning Sciences has pushed for deep understandings of learning that can support the design of settings and tools, as well as the types of interactions and disciplinary thinking that might ideally emerge within those settings (Sawyer, 2005). Further, learning scientists concerned with culture and equity have developed strands of research that treat learning as a fundamentally cultural process situated within wider social, political and economic constraints on learning for youth and communities (Gutierrez, 2008; Nasir, et. al., 2006; Lee, 2012; Medin & Bang, 2014). Grounded in this intellectual history, we aim to: 1) collectively identify and name the political and cultural perspectives we believe to be essential for rigorous, equity-oriented research, including the central tensions and debates therein; 2) clearly articulate how these perspectives substantively influence both the design of new technologies and the design and study of learning environments; 3) strategize about how to make these perspectives established conceptual tools within cyberlearning, and the learning sciences more broadly and 4) map a research agenda that includes further articulation of theory that informs the design of new technological genres and learning arrangements. Broader Impacts: This project aims to delineate the specific areas that necessitate new forms of research and articulate criteria that can be used to assess and advance the rigor and imperative of equity-oriented research in the Learning Sciences. Our deliverables are conceptual (theoretical tools), methodological (research designs and approaches), pedagogical (developing and institutionalizing spaces to mentor the next generation of scholars, and developing robust tools and designs for formal and informal educational environments) and professional (a network of scholars poised to intervene and take leadership roles in the field). Ultimately, we seek to advance socio-cultural approaches and bring them into the foreground of the field. This involves challenging the binary between political perspectives on learning and rigorous research. It also involves acknowledging the primacy of cognitive psychology in the framing of the Learning Sciences. We believe political perspectives on the study of culture, learning and technology constitute a par
Effective start/end date6/1/168/31/18


  • National Science Foundation (IIS-1555805)


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