At the nexus of learning and innovation

Established in January 2016, the Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation aims to provide a focus for the University’s research on learning and innovation. The centre’s co-directors are Associate Professor Lina Markauskaite and Professor Peter Reimann.

Formed from the Computer Supported Learning and Cognition Centre (CoCo) and the Sciences and Technologies of Learning research network, we have strong roots in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work, with substantial involvement from the faculties of Engineering and Information TechnologiesScienceHealth Sciences and Sydney Medical School as well as the Office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor Education.

Our aim is to provide a focus for the university’s research on learning and innovation. We connect researchers who are carrying out fundamental and application-oriented research on learning – on learning processes, learning outcomes and all the factors that influence learning, ranging in scale from ‘neurons to neighbourhoods’. We also connect learning researchers to educational innovators – those working within the university and in the external communities that the university serves. And we connect researchers at the University of Sydney with the leading learning researchers and centres around the globe, for intellectual exchange and for understanding better the cultural dimensions of learning.

We see innovation itself as a phenomenon needing much better research. Among other things, we study how people learn to be more innovative, how they learn to create more innovative cultures and spaces, and how learning and innovation become interwoven. Educational activity is often an integral part of broader programs – for example, in community health or workplace safety initiatives. We use examples of such complex interventions as sites for some of our collaborative, interdisciplinary research.

Innovation focus

We are committed to investigating factors that move research on learning and innovation forward and shape fundamental learning and innovation outcomes – from ‘neurons to neighbourhoods’, by:

  • connecting learning researchers and educational innovators at the University of Sydney and the wider community;
  • studying innovation as a multifaceted phenomenon that drives improvement in learning and education
  • committing to methodological innovation that enables the linkage between theory and practice.

CRLI Lab is home to a team of researchers from a wide range of disciplines with a shared interest in addressing fundamental questions of how we learn and what it means to be innovative in various contexts.

Interdisciplinary focus

As a centre, we are devoted to interdisciplinary studies of learning and development, and of learning innovation. Interdisciplinarity holds great potential not only for developing theories of learning--such as by the collaboration of neuroscientists or cognitive scientists with educational researchers--but also for innovating teaching, for instance through the combination of architecture with instructional design.

We look at  'interdisciplinary learning' from a number of perspectives:

  1. As an object of study and theory building: How do students learn about 'interdisciplinarity', and how do they develop into 'interdisciplinary' researchers or practitioners? 
  2. As research methodology: How to study learning in general, and learning to become interdisciplinar in particular, in an interdisciplinary manner? 
  3. As an  approach to design and innovation: What does it mean to create curricula and learning environments that foster interdisciplinary thinking and professional identity development? What are new ways of assessment and feedback. 

Our main goal as a centre is to transcend the understanding of learning as general and as 'disciplinary', respectively: We ask: What does a theory of inter-discipline learning look like, as different from a general theory of learning, and different  from theories of disciplinary learning? 

Our main activities

CRLI organises its activities around three lines:

  1. Community building and networking
  2. Research coordination
  3. Capacity building (education and training)

We organise events, such as seminars and workshops, that bring together researchers and practitioners from a variety of backgrounds, but with a shared interest in fostering knowledge about learning and innovation--a community defined by a shared epistemic interest.

We help to coordinate research on learning and learning innovation that transcends disciplinary boundaries. The main means for this are Special Interest Groups.

A third area is capacity building, in the widest sense. To the extent that there is a need for specific theories of interdisciplinary learning, their development might necessitate the use of, or  development of,  specific approaches and methods. For instance, since interdisciplinary research competences and dispositions do need time to develop, methods of longitudinal data analysis become important. And since interdisciplinarity entails being able to coordinate across disciplinary concepts--to be epistemically fluid--methods that are able to measure increases in coordination/fluency are important to know about and master. 

We believe that methods cannot not be separated from ‘substance’, and therefore we aim for putting methods into the context of questions they are meant to help to answer, be that problems of practice or of theory.The main educational activities are these:

  • We inform a wider audience through this website, a quarterly Newsletter, and other media activities about trends in interdisciplinary  learning and innovation.
  • We run research and design method workshops. 
  • We provide online courses and resources in form of:
    • A “topic of the month” discussion, moderated by a learning expert
    • Online Masters program “Learning Sciences and Technology"
    • Various 'knowledge games’  
    • Methods and tools, and other resources,  for designing learning environments and spaces
    • Methods and tools for measuring (interdisciplinary) learning, and for evaluating learning innovations.