Teaching, Learning, and Instructional Resources

Concerned with advancing the learning and development of children and adults, Spencer is interested in studies that lead to better understanding and improvements in the intellectual, material, and organizational resources that contribute to successful teaching and learning. A key aim of research in this initiative is to support investigations of questions that are grounded directly in teaching practice as well as in research about important aspects of teaching and learning processes that hold promise for enriching opportunities to learn and for guiding informed policymaking.

The Foundation is particularly interested in studies of teaching and teacher development. We seek to understand what teachers need to know and do in order to enable all students to learn. What sorts of inquiry about teaching and learning are most important for professionals to be able to make, in and around their practice, in order to do good work? What will it take to enable such inquiries? What sorts of academic inquiry can best inform and improve teachers' and students' practices, including the inquiries that they undertake to improve those practices? Creating usable professional knowledge will entail drawing on and integrating across research findings and between research findings and the results of practical experiments.

New designs in curriculum and subject-matter standards as well as developments in computing and communication technologies may provide instructional resources that enrich students' learning and support teaching practice. Key developments in text and tools offer new opportunities, for example, for fashioning technology-mediated learning experiences, for advancing disciplinary understanding and sensemaking, and for formative assessment of students' progress in learning. Improved abilities to record and review classroom activities and interactions also expand opportunities for teachers themselves as well as for external researchers to study their practices systematically. A major challenge is to realize the potential of emerging technologies to make classrooms dynamic arenas of learning and growth, for teachers and students alike.

We want to stress that studies inspired by a concern with understanding and improving practices of teaching and learning need not be narrowly instrumental or immediately "practical". Indeed, such studies naturally open into deep questions both about individual psychological development and about the fundamental ways in which learning is shaped by the social and material contexts in which it is imbedded. It is our judgment that in the long run imaginative and thoughtful studies that pursue these difficult questions can point the way to important advancements in education.