Learning Sciences

Learning Sciences

Learning Sciences

The Learning Sciences (LS) concentration, which was launched at the undergraduate level in 2016, builds on the School of Education and Social Policy’s internationally esteemed graduate program in learning sciences, which launched the world's first program in 1991.

The Learning Sciences concentration involves understanding and promoting learning in a wide range of social contexts. Students learn about the most up-to-date theories of learning and applied design, including new technologies, learning environments, curriculum, social arrangements, and space. Learning Sciences is an appropriate academic choice for students who are interested in education technology, instructional design, museum education, educational research, curriculum design, and workplace learning.


As a student in LS, you must complete the following:  

Total requirements—42 units 

Distribution requirements—10 units 

SESP Core—8 units 

Foundations courses—3 units  

Concentration cluster courses—5 units 

Extension courses— 3 units any level, 4 units 300-level courses 

Electives—8 or fewer as needed to complete the 42-unit degree requirement 

For a in-depth breakdown of these requirements, please visit the 2022-2023 Academic Catalog or reach out to your academic advisor in the SESP Student Affairs Office. 

Real-World Practical Experience

LS students will be well versed in both the theory and practice of the learning sciences. All LS students complete a one-quarter practicum internship for academic credit during their junior year, during which they put into practice the skills and knowledge introduced in the classroom. The experience also includes conducting social science research. The program is offered year-round.

Some recent LS practicum sites have included:

  • The Adler Planetarium
  • BenchPrep
  • The Chicago Field Museum
  • Chicago Public Schools' Office of Language and Cultural Education
  • Lurie Children’s Hospital
  • Advocate Medical - Pediatric Development Center
  • Morningstar
  • Cognitive Arts

Flexible Coursework

In addition to the SESP core courses in lifespan development, social inequality and diversity, and research methodologies, students have significant flexibility to tailor their LS concentration to their own interests within the field. All LS students choose from among three specializations: Learning in Schools; Out-of-School Learning; and Design of Learning Environments. Students may also choose to pursue a double major, minor or certificate while maintaining LS as their primary major.

The curriculum draws upon research and theory around these themes:

  • The role of social and cultural contexts in learning, in both formal and informal learning environments, including classrooms, schools, museums, workplaces and homes;
  • Cognition and the processes through which individual learning takes place; and
  • Design and the critical evaluation of learning environments

Many undergraduate students also participate in research apprenticeships and independent studies with faculty in the School of Education and Social Policy. Members of the faculty conduct research on a variety of topics, including the psychobiology of stress, school reform, motivation across the life span, family systems, narratives, and life stories, and youth programs.

After SESP

Learning Sciences graduates know how to think critically about the learning that happens in all types of learning spaces. After graduating, they have gravitated toward roles in nonprofits, teaching, research and museum education.


Graduate School and Fellowships

Contact Us

Student Affairs Office

School of Education and Social Policy

Walter Annenberg Hall
2120 Campus Drive, Suite 123
Evanston, IL 60208
Northwestern University

Phone: 847/491-3790

Email: sespsao@northwestern.edu