Learning Sciences Master’s Program Encourages Innovation in Education

Learning Sciences Master’s Program Encourages Innovation in Education

Learning Sciences

At a recent Learning Sciences poster session for professor Uri Wilensky’s constructionist design class, students demonstrated the software and curriculum tools they had created. These included curriculum materials for teaching earth science, software for long-distance interactive storytelling, a computer model for exploring bullying and an elementary school computer game for teaching natural selection.

The poster session typified the innovation that has been at the heart of the Learning Sciences Master of Arts (LSMA) program since its start. SESP’s program in Learning Sciences was the first learning sciences program in the nation. In 1991 Learning Sciences started as an interdisciplinary doctoral program for the scientific understanding of learning and the design of innovations for education.

The master’s program in Learning Sciences is a full-time, 11-month course of study that prepares researchers, developers and practitioners to advance the scientific understanding and practice of teaching and learning. The program is interdisciplinary, drawing from cognitive science, education and computer science research. Three interacting perspectives — cognition, design and sociocultural context — form the foundation of the program and highlight all the course work and research.

On March 15 the Learning Sciences community gathered to welcome prospective students. Each year in the spring, admitted and prospective master's students spend the day at the School of Education and Social Policy. They attend information sessions, meet Learning Sciences faculty members, learn about ongoing research and master's project opportunities, share lunch with alumni, tour campus and spend a social evening with current students.

The four-quarter sequence of study for the LSMA program includes nine project-based courses from Learning Sciences and departments across the university. Four required courses represent the three strands of cognition, sociocultural context and design, and four electives come from Learning Sciences courses or other graduate courses relevant to a student’s goals. In the spring, an students prepare for a master's project with independent study and then during the summer they complete an independent master’s project as a practical application of the theory learned in previous quarters.

Graduates of the program go on to careers in fields including educational software development, curriculum and instructional design, school technology and educational consulting. Many alumni of the program continue to pursue a doctorate in learning sciences, cognitive science or education policy.

The Learning Sciences Master of Arts program offers rolling admissions throughout the year. All prospective students interested in the LSMA program are encouraged to attend an open house or arrange for an individual visit by contacting Megan Redfearn at m-redfearn@northwestern.edu or 847/467-6519. Further information about admission to the Learning Sciences program is at http://www.sesp.northwestern.edu/learning-sciences/masters/admissions.html

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 9/5/12