Leadership Team

The leadership of the LIFE Center is comprised of faculty and researchers from the University of Washington, Stanford University, SRI International, Northwestern University, and UC Berkeley.

Brigid Barron

Brigid Barron, Ph.D. Co-Lead

  • Professor
  • School of Education
  • Stanford University

Dr. Barron is an Associate Professor at the School of Education at Stanford, is a faculty co-lead of the LIFE center, and directs the YouthLab research group (youthlab@stanford.edu). A developmental and clinical psychologist by training, she studies processes of learning in and out of school. In a five year NSF supported CAREER award she documented adolescents' learning ecologies (e.g. learning opportunities across home, school, libraries, virtual communities, clubs, camps) for technological fluency development across diverse communities in the Silicon Valley region. This work used multiple methods to create chronological maps of children's learning that reveal the evolution of interest based activities and the networks of learning partners and resources that have supported learning in and out of school. Dr. Barron is PI on a three year grant funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that follows students longitudinally as they participate in programs designed to develop their technological fluency through activities such as game design, robotics, and digital movie making. A special focus of this work is articulating the processes that spark and sustain interest in learning as children engage in formal and informal collaborative learning with new technologies. Her work appears in books and journals including Journal of Educational Psychology, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, Human Development, Journal of the Learning Sciences, and Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery, International Journal of Technology and Design, and International Journal of Learning and Media.

Phil Bell

Philip Bell, Ph.D. Co-PI and Co-Director

  • Professor of the Learning Sciences, The Shauna C. Larson Chair in Learning Sciences
  • College of Education
  • University of Washington

Dr. Philip Bell directs the ethnographic and design-based research of the Everyday Science and Technology Group. He studies how and why people learn about science and technology and how it relates to what they want or need to accomplish in their lives. Dr. Bell has a background in human cognition and development, science education, computer science, and electrical engineering. He has studied everyday learning, cognition and expertise in science; children's argumentation; the use of digital technologies within youth culture; the design and use of novel learning technologies; and new approaches to inquiry instruction in science. His past work includes building web-based learning platforms and designing and studing K-12 science curricula. He presently focuses on creating learning ethnographies of youth and families across social settings.

Bell currently serves as a member of the Board on Science Education with the National Academy of Sciences and co-chaired the National Research Council Consensus Volume on Learning Science in Informal Environments. He is also a Co-PI of COSEE-Ocean Learning Communities.

John Bransford

John Bransford, Ph.D. Founding Director

  • Emeritus Professor of the Learning Sciences
  • College of Education
  • University of Washington

Author of seven books and hundreds of articles and presentations, Dr. John Bransford is an internationally renowned scholar in cognition and technology. Prior to his work at the University of Washington, Dr. Bransford was Centennial Professor of Psychology and Education and Co-Director of the Learning Technology Center at Vanderbilt University. Early works by Bransford and his colleagues in the 1970s included research in the areas of human learning, memory and problem solving, which helped shape the cognitive revolution in psychology.

In 1984, Dr. Bransford was asked by the Dean of Peabody College at Vanderbilt to help begin a Learning Technology Center that would focus on education. The Center grew from 7 people in 1984 to approximately 100 by 1999. During that time, Bransford and his colleagues developed and tested a number of innovative computer, videodisc, CD-Rom, and Internet programs for mathematics, science, and literacy that are now being used in schools throughout the world. The Little Planet Literacy Series has won major awards including the 1996 Technology and Learning Award and the 1997 Cody award for Best Elementary Curriculum from the Software Publishers Association. Dr. Bransford received the Sutherland Prize for Research at Vanderbilt, was elected to the National Academy of Education, and was awarded the Thorndike award in 2001.

Dr. Bransford also served as Co-Chair of several National Academy of Science committees. These committees wrote How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom (2005), How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School (1999, 2000), and How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice (1999). He is on the International and United States Board of Advisors for Microsoft's Partners in Learning program, and he has worked with the Gates Foundation to develop technology-enhanced workshops that link learning and leadership.

Patricia K. Kuhl

Patricia K. Kuhl, Ph.D. PI and Director

  • Bezos Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning
  • Co-Director, Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences
  • Professor of Speech and Hearing Sciences
  • University of Washington

Dr. Patricia K. Kuhl holds the Bezos Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning and is Co-Director of the UW Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, Director of the University of Washington's NSF Science of Learning Center, and Professor of Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. She is internationally recognized for her research on early language and bilingual brain development, and studies that show how young children learn. Dr. Kuhl's work has played a major role in demonstrating how early exposure to language alters the brain, and how early measures of the brain's response to language predict the course of language development. These data have implications for bilingual education and reading readiness, for early diagnosis of developmental disabilities such as autism, and for research on 'critical periods' in human development.

Dr. Kuhl is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Rodin Academy, and the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Acoustical Society of America, and the American Psychological Society. Dr. Kuhl was awarded the Silver Medal of the Acoustical Society of America in 1997. In 2005, she was awarded the Kenneth Craik Research Award from Cambridge University. She received the University of Washington's Faculty Lectureship Award in 1998. In 2007, Dr. Kuhl was awarded the University of Minnesota's Outstanding Achievement Award. In 2008, Dr. Kuhl was one of 30 scientists worldwide invited to present their work at a Nobel Symposium entitled, "Brain, Genes, and Behavior"--she was the only scientist representing human development. In Paris in 2008, Dr. Kuhl was awarded the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Physics for her work on early learning and brain development. In 2010, Dr. Kuhl was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Kuhl has participated in policy discussions related to early learning with two White House administrations. She was one of six scientists invited to the White House in 1997 to make a presentation at President and Mrs. Clinton's Conference on "Early Learning and the Brain." In 2001, Dr. Kuhl was invited to make a presentation at President and Mrs. Bush's White House Summit on "Early Cognitive Development: Ready to Read, Ready to Learn." In 2001, she co-authored The Scientist in the Crib: Minds, Brains, and How Children Learn (Harper Collins).

Dr. Kuhl's work has been widely covered by the media. She has appeared in the Discovery television series "The Baby Human"; the NOVA series "The Mind"; the "The Power of Ideas" on PBS; and "The Secret Life of the Brain," also on PBS. She has discussed her research findings on early learning and the brain on The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, NHK, CNN, and in The New York Times, Time, and Newsweek.

Barbara Means

Barbara Means, Ph.D. Co-Lead

  • Director
  • Center for Technology in Learning
  • SRI International

Dr. Barbara Means directs the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International. She is an educational psychologist whose research focuses on ways in which technology can support students' learning of advanced skills and the revitalization of classrooms and schools. A fellow of the American Educational Research Association, Dr. Means is regarded as a leader in defining issues and approaches for evaluating the implementation and efficacy of technology-supported educational innovations. Currently, she is leading a longitudinal study of the effectiveness of inclusive STEM high schools that aspire to develop STEM talent rather than selecting for it through competitive examination. Other ongoing and recent work includes evaluating the Wave I and II Next Generation Learning Challenges grants awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and helping the Office of Educational Technology within the U.S. Department of Education develop a framework for describing new research approaches and forms of evidence made possible when students learn online. Dr. Means is serving on the National Academy of Engineering/National Research Council Committee on Integrated STEM Education and on the National Research Council's Committee to Develop an Evaluation Framework for Successful K-12 STEM Education. Her earlier professional activities included membership on the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Developments in the Science of Learning, which produced the volume "How People Learn," and on the Academy's Board on Testing and Assessment (BOTA). Her published works include the edited volumes Evaluating Educational Technology, Technology and Education Reform, and Teaching Advanced Skills to At-Risk Students, as well as the jointly authored volumes Using Technology Evaluation to Advance Student Learning, The Connected School, and Comparative Studies of How People Think.

Andrew N. Meltzoff

Andrew Meltzoff, Ph.D. Co-PI and Co-Director

  • Job and Gertrud Tamaki Endowed Chair
  • Co-Director, Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences
  • Professor of Psychology
  • University of Washington

Dr. Andrew Meltzoff is an internationally renowned expert on infant and child development whose discoveries about infant imitation have revolutionized our understanding of early cognition, personality, and brain development. His research on the effects of television viewing on infants has helped shape policy and practice.

Dr. Meltzoff's 20 years of research on young children has had far-reaching implications for cognitive science, especially for ideas about memory and its development; for brain science, especially for ideas about common coding of perception and action and "mirror neurons"; and for early education and parenting, particularly for ideas about the importance of role models, both adults and peers, in child development.

Dr. Meltzoff is the recipient of a MERIT Award from the National Institutes of Health. In 2005, he was the recipient of an award for outstanding research from the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and the Kenneth Craik Award in Psychology, Cambridge University, England. Dr. Meltzoff has been inducted into the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, is the recipient of the James McKeen Cattell Sabbatical Award, and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychological Society.

Na'ilah Nasir

Na'ilah Suad Nasir, Ph.D. Co-PI and Co-Director

  • Vice Chancellor/Professor
  • H. Michael and Jeanne Williams Chair of African American Studies
  • Birgeneau Chair in Educational Disparities in the Graduate School of Education
  • African American Studies
  • University of California, Berkeley

In her research, Dr. Na'ilah Suad Nasir draws on socio-cultural theory to explore the relation between learning, development, and culture. One line of research examines the relation between the in-school and out-of-school learning of African-American children in inner-city schools, and describes the complex cognitive strategies that children employ in out-of- school practices like basketball and dominoes, as well as how identities as "doers" and learners get formed in these practices. This line of research has implications for thinking about the relation between culture and learning and understanding historical patterns of school failure among many minority students.

In a second line of research, Dr. Nasir is focusing on moral development in the context of urban, faith-based communities and schools. Of particular interest is the role of moral identity as a culturally-constructed mediator of development.

Roy Pea

Roy Pea, D.Phil., Oxon. Co-PI and Co-Director

  • Co-Director, H-STAR Institute
  • Director, Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning
  • David Jacks Professor of Education and the Learning Sciences
  • School of Education
  • Stanford University

Since 1981, Dr. Roy Pea has been exploring how information technologies can support and advance learning and teaching, with particular focus on topics in science, mathematics, and technology education. He has published widely on such topics as distributed cognition, learning and education fostered by advanced technologies including scientific visualization, on-line communities, digital video collaboratories, and wireless handheld computers (http://www.stanford.edu/~roypea). His current work is developing a new paradigm for everyday networked video interactions for learning and communications (http://diver.stanford.edu), and for how informal and formal learning can be better understood and connected, as Co-PI of the LIFE Center funded by the National Science Foundation as one of several large-scale national Science of Learning Centers. He is co-editor of the 2007 volume Video Research in the Learning Sciences. He was co-author of the 2000 National Academy Press volume How People Learn. Roy founded and served as the first director of the learning sciences doctoral programs at Northwestern University (1991) and Stanford University (2001). He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Education, Association for Psychological Science, The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the American Educational Research Association. In 2004-2005, Roy was President of the International Society for the Learning Sciences. He also serves as a Director for Teachscape, a company he co-founded in 1999 that provides comprehensive K-12 teacher professional development services incorporating web-based video case studies of standards-based teaching and communities of learners.

Dan Schwartz

Dan Schwartz, Ph.D. Co-Lead

  • Dean, Stanford Graduate School of Education
  • Director, AAA Lab
  • Professor of Education
  • School of Education
  • Stanford University

A member of the SUSE faculty since 2000, Dr. Schwartz studies student understanding and representation and the ways that technology can facilitate learning. He works at the intersection of cognitive science, computer science, and education, examining cognition and instruction in individual, cross-cultural, and technological settings. A theme throughout Dr. Schwartz's research is how people's facility for spatial thinking can inform and influence processes of learning, instruction, assessment and problem solving. He finds that new media make it possible to exploit spatial representations and activities in fundamentally new ways, offering an exciting complement to the verbal approaches that dominate educational research and practice.

Dr. Schwartz's current interest is in the creation and use of web-based tools for instruction. This research examines issues of transfer and how people move from untutored mental models to more formal and verbal understanding in the domains of mathematics, mechanics, and biology. Dr. Schwartz's work employs laboratory and computer-modeling methodologies, as well as classroom interventions that involve the use of instructional software programs that he has co-authored including STAR: Legacy and Teachable Agents.

Reed Stevens

Reed Stevens, Ph.D. Co-Lead

  • Professor of Learning Sciences
  • School of Education and Social Policy
  • Northwestern University

Dr. Reed Stevens' research examines and compares cognitive activity in a range of settings including classrooms, workplaces, and science museums. On the basis of this comparative work, he is exploring new ways to conceptualize cognition and organize learning environments. Dr. Stevens' specific interests include how mathematical activity contributes to various settings and how technology mediates thinking and learning. His multidisciplinary research draws on cognitive science, interactionist traditions, and the social studies of science and technology.

To understand learners' naturally-occurring activities, Dr. Stevens collects audio-video records of people working and analyzes them with a variety of methods adapted from cognitive science, science studies, and ethnomethodology/conversation analysis, in addition to long-term ethnographic fieldwork and interviewing. He also designs curriculum, activities, and technologies, including Video Traces software that allows people to collect digital video clips and annotate them with talk or gestures.

Nancy Vye

Nancy Vye, Ph.D. Co-Lead

  • Senior Research Scientist
  • College of Education
  • University of Washington

Nancy Vye, Ph.D is Senior Research Scientist in the College of Education at the University of Washington. Previously, she was Co-Director of the Learning Technology Center at Vanderbilt University. Her research focuses on challenge-based learning and formative assessment in classroom settings. She is particularly interested in uses of technology for designing curricula and assessment tools that enhance teaching and learning. Vye's R & D work includes The Arts for Learning Lessons Project, an arts-integrated literacy curriculum for elementary students; The Adventures of Jasper Woodbury, a mathematics problem solving series, Schools for Thought, a technology-based, educational reform initiative; Betty's Brain, a pedagogical computer agent that teaches qualitative reasoning, and most recently, STARLegacy software that supports problem-based learning.