Daniel L. Schwartz, the I. James Quillen Dean of Stanford Graduate School of Education, was awarded the prestigious Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize for his studies addressing cognitive questions through innovative learning experiments, bringing new insight to areas of educational research such as lecturing, assessment, and transfer—where learners can apply knowledge or skills mastered in one context to a different one.
Schwartz, the Nomellini & Olivier Professor of Educational Technology and head of Stanford’s new Transforming Learning Accelerator, is an expert in learning sciences and has spent a career developing new tools to understand and enhance learning.
“Daniel Schwartz is a relentless innovator developing and understanding technologies that help children to learn,” said Lavinia Jacobs, president of the Jacobs Foundation, during the Nov. 19 award ceremony in Zurich. Jacobs said the pandemic revealed the urgent need for effective solutions that help create more equitable educational opportunities for learners, and noted Schwartz’s contributions in this area.
The Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize honors scientific achievements that are of exceptional social relevance in promoting learning and development of children and youth. The Jacobs Foundation awarded two research prizes this year – to Schwartz and to Charles A. Nelson, professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Graduate School of Education.
A cognitive psychologist, Schwartz’s academic focus is to understand how people learn and how to create improved learning environments. He employs various research methods and tools including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain research, mathematical modeling, classroom data, and teaching technologies. His Teachable Agent computer character helps students learn by teaching, and in fact learn more and spend more time in learning activities.
“There was a meeting with my colleagues where we were deciding on a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation, and a lot of people were proposing to make technologies that were smart and could teach kids. And I remember saying, ‘Hey, why don’t we make it so that kids teach the computer – and that way they can learn by teaching?’”
Schwartz plans to use the ₣1 million Swiss franc ($1.08M US) prize from the award to extend his research on teachable agents that support learning to reason between data and claims. “The current work will create a highly usable and scalable TA with an underlying intelligence architecture that can be leveraged broadly,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz began his career in education teaching in challenging classroom settings. He taught math at a day school in rural Kenya, English in a south-central junior high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and math, science, reading and language arts to junior high and high school students in the rural village of Kaltag, Alaska.
He was named dean of Stanford Graduate School of Education in 2015, and has spearheaded a vision to improve all lives through learning by investing in new research areas including neuroscience in education, learning differences, and early childhood learning. He’s also bolstered faculty expertise in race, linguistics, and inequality in education.
In 2016, Schwartz and two research colleagues published The ABCs of How We Learn: 26 Scientifically Proven Approaches, How They Work, and When to Use Them. The book uses colorful illustrations to help the evidence-backed practices be more accessible to educators. Each chapter takes on a different aspect of learning, such as B for Belonging or I for Imaginative Play.
This story was adapted from the award announcement by the Jacobs Foundation.
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