Research on the Science of Learning


The Provost's Course Development Competition is intended not only to support the development of effective courses, but also to develop and assess a scalable set of instructional practices based on research findings from scholars studying the science of learning. The competition benefits from a generous gift of $150,000 that focuses on applying findings from research on the science of learning to course design and development.

Donor Goals

The donors, who wish to remain anonymous, recognize that CSU's ongoing institutional initiatives and the arrival of The Reinvention Center provide an exciting context for sustaining and extending the success of the Provost's Course Development Competition. While applauding the people involved in those efforts, the donors stress that they were inspired to suggest this specific idea and to make their gift when told about the individual efforts of five faculty members in the Psychology department, several faculty in Chemistry, and a new group that had sprung up on campus that is dedicated to finding ways to apply the science of learning to co-curricular experiences. Honoring the individuals involved in these efforts is the donors' third goal.

Original Faculty

The faculty in Psychology include three associate professors in Cognitive Psychology (Anne Cleary, Edward DeLosh, and Matthew Rhodes), the chair of the department (Professor Kurt Kraiger), and Karla Gingerich (an Assistant Professor with a Senior Teaching Appointment who has principal responsibility for the core introductory psychology course). The faculty members in Chemistry include Associate Professor Dawn Rickey and Lisa Dysleski, an Assistant Professor with a Senior Teaching Appointment who is heavily involved in the Department's foundational Chemistry courses for science majors.

Creating a New Course

The donors were inspired by the fact that Professors Cleary, DeLosh, and Rhodes were—with the enthusiastic support of Professor Kraiger—offering to take on the daunting task of creating a new course for CSU's core curriculum on the Science of Learning. Their goal was not only to apply the research from cognitive psychology on the science of learning to the lower-division classroom but also, by teaching such a course expressly on the science of learning, to help students transform their overall educational experience at CSU. The donors requested that the University consider responding to their offer to make this gift by providing the necessary funds to develop this course. The Provost's Office is pleased to announce that those development funds are now in place.

Applying the Research

The donors were also inspired by Karla Gingerich's and Lisa Dysleski's efforts (in close collaboration with their departmental colleagues) to apply the research from the science of learning to improving the depth of students' learning experiences in the core introductory courses in Psychology and Chemistry. The donors believe that these efforts are representative of the innovative power of special (non-tenure-line) faculty and that their ongoing conversations on the science of learning with Professors Cleary, DeLosh, Rhodes, Kraiger, and Rickey will help CSU develop a best-practices model for how tenure-line faculty with heavy research responsibilities can collaborate with special faculty who have heavier teaching responsibilities to realize the full potential for undergraduate education at a research university.

Science of Learning Working Group

The final chapter in the narrative that the donors found inspiring was the story of a new group on campus that had sprung up to explore ways in which the science of learning might be applied to co-curricular learning on a residential campus. Formed in the fall of 2011 by Paul Thayer (the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Special Advisor to the Provost for Retention), the working group has grown to 15 members:

The effort by this group to apply research from the academic sector of the University to learning across the full breadth of the co-curricular sector closes the loop. What the donors saw, and what inspired them to invite the University to match their gift in creating this Competition, was individuals from across the University spontaneously coming together to enhance undergraduate curricular and co-curricular learning.