Learning Sciences / TIFR-H


Some thoughts on how Learning Sciences could be an unifying theme for shaping research and practice at TIFRH - STEM education:

The core focal areas in LS are:

  1. Design of learning environments: Invention and design of new technologies, platforms, pedagogies, spaces, activity systems to support learning within, across and beyond disciplines; studies focus on both the process of design as well as experiences of learners and teachers; a deep connection with and understanding of disciplinary cultures and practices separates this dimension of work from Ed Tech (as a field). Bad questions: how can laptops help learning? Good questions: what forms of emergent cultures of making can be supported through use of technology-X in the context of discipline-X?

  2. Cultural and critical historical studies of contexts of learning and teaching: A deep understanding of how peoples’ identities and voices are shaped through their learning experiences; connection to both critical theoretical perspectives and cultural studies and social theories are essential; methodologically this requires a deep commitment to discourse analysis, ethnographic studies and participant observations, and qualitative analysis broadly construed; the focus is on “who” not only “what” is being learnt; and how micro and macro contexts and historical and political contexts also shape (often invisibly) learning and teaching and tech design

  3. Fundamental studies of cognition in-context: Foci include studies of conceptual change, embodied cognition, longitudinal studies of learning and teaching -in-context (months long, years long). NOT cognitive science or cognitive psychology, but can draw from these disciplines; studies MUST be carried out in-context. A very clear and decided departure from Cog Psych in terms of break with positivism (ie., emphasis is not on controlled studies, rather meaningful comparisons across cases).

  4. Research-practice partnerships: This is a cross-cutting theme - requires a clear commitment to work together with teachers and practitioners throughout all phases of the research project. So, “design” becomes “co-design”, and practitioners’ voices must lead the design and implementation of tech and pedagogies.

So, keeping in tune with the core commitments of TIFR-H (Cross-cutting and fundamental scholarship), each of these four dimensions are areas where “fundamental” research can happen. What makes this work overall MUCH more complex is the “in-context” part, which creates complexity of n-dimensions. While I recognize the framing of outreach is common and even helpful for getting things going, a focus on LS could shift the conversation toward creating TIFR-H as a place for fundamental discoveries in the Learning Sciences.

No place like this exists in the world. LS departments are typically part of education schools in big universities. TIFR-H and even HBCSE stand on a unique position to lead the global conversation and create model institute dedicated to fundamental discoveries in LS with a focus on STEM education. In the Indian context, the complexities stemming from our colonial past, the pre-colonial histories, the religious and linguistic diversities, the caste problems - we stand in a truly unique position among these complex and intersectional inequalities to create new theories, new methodologies, new technologies that can FUNDAMENTALLY shift the center of scholarship in LS away from the global north.

Happy to keep thinking together.


Pratim, thanks for posting the note on the possible directions TIFRH could take. I agree with you on the LS focus. Items 1 and 3 are very close to my heart. 2 is not my competence, but here is where we can seek collaborations with experts who could do ethnographic studies and discourse analysis. We are on the lookout for such people, hope you can also help us find or develop this competence.

I would like to particularly invite scholars to do a case study to understand the socio-economic structure that made India play the game of cricket. Though STEM practices may not appear similar to a Cricket game, it is important to understand how larger participation leads to excellence. Please see this blog post on STEM Games, also at this forum.

I am wondering if a lesson is lurking for learning sciences in this example.