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Stanford GSE dean: Visionary thinker, creative scholar, caring mentor

Daniel Schwartz becomes dean of the Stanford GSE in September. (Photo: Marc Franklin)
Daniel Schwartz becomes dean of the Stanford GSE in September. (Photo: Marc Franklin)

Stanford GSE dean: Visionary thinker, creative scholar, caring mentor

Colleagues, alumni and students hail appointment of the next Stanford GSE dean: Daniel Schwartz, professor of educational technology.
Professor Daniel Schwartz becomes GSE dean in September. (Photo: Marc Franklin)
Professor Daniel Schwartz was named dean of Stanford Graduate School of Education in July. Since then, faculty, researchers, former students and others have offered congratulations and praise over social media and in publications announcing his new role.

Schwartz, the Nomellini and Olivier Professor of Educational Technology, has been at Stanford for 15 years. He runs the AAA Lab, which develops teaching and learning technologies and supports research that informs processes of learning, instruction, assessment and problem-solving. In the announcement of his appointment, Provost John Etchemendy said Schwartz has a strong understanding of the school's role in working to improve education.

Dan Schwartz will bring incredible depth, academic experience and knowledge of human learning as dean of one of the nation's great education schools. … He will provide great support and guidance to faculty and students as they work to advance learning.

On Facebook, he was hailed as a "fantastic choice," and one woman noted, "Great news. I'm so proud of being your student."

Professor Daniel Schwartz, an expert in human cognition and educational technology, has been named the next dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Education:

Posted by Stanford University on Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Schwartz received his undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College and his master's and PhD from Columbia Teachers College. His former adviser at Columbia, John Black, the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Telecommunications and Education, weighed in on Schwartz's appointment in an article for Columbia's "TC Media Center."

Dan Schwartz was the best student I've ever had. His concept of ‘preparation for future learning’ – the idea that teaching students in a way that enables them to do well in the near term on, say, a standardized test is often not the best to way to ready them to learn more advanced topics – has had a huge impact, and it’s something that I’ve incorporated into my own research. I think he will provide visionary leadership at Stanford, and that his new role will give him a platform to promote the best kind of thinking about teaching and learning.

Catherine Chase, a Schwartz advisee at Stanford and currently an assistant professor at Columbia, echoed that he is a "visionary in his field."

He brings a passion and sincere caring to everything he does – research, teaching, collaborating, advising. He was an outstanding mentor, and I look forward to seeing where he takes the School of education next.

Schwartz has had a prolific career as a researcher. An article on transfer, when students have difficulty applying knowledge in different contexts, has been cited by other scholars more than a thousand times. His papers have appeared in dozens of journals including Cognition & Instruction, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Journal of Educational Psychology and Journal of the Learning Sciences, and he is an adhoc reviewer for the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the journals Science and Cognitive Psychology, among others.
His AAA Lab has produced games available for download and on iTunes that help kids learn about numbers and probability and help researchers gather data on learning.

He's done research with San Francisco Unified School District as part of a district-GSE partnership aimed at bringing together research, practice and policy to address the needs of students and the district.

His scholarship has been featured in a number of media outlets, including magazines, radio and online.

His most recent book, Measuring What Matters Most: Choice-Based Assessments for the Digital Age, with co-author Dylan Arena, presents an alternative to current assessments that focus on how much knowledge students have accrued and can retrieve and suggests digital interactive assessments can evaluate how students learn. The book is free to download online. 
Schwartz has a new book expected in the early part of 2016 called, The ABCs of How We Learn: 26 Scientifically Proven Approaches, How They Work, and When to Use Them. Chapter by chapter, he describes a problem many learners face, then outlines practical solutions. (Chapter A is for Analogy, B is for Belonging, C if for Contrasting Cases, for example.)
Ed Haertel, professor emeritus of education at Stanford, said Schwartz knows research, schools and the GSE.

He is a wise and creative social scientist who will work to support the diversity of our GSE community and our multiple approaches to addressing the challenges of educational theory, policy and practice.

Schwartz recently spoke to early-career teachers selected for the Hollyhock fellowship program at Stanford's Center to Support Excellence in Teaching about some of the research included in the book. In this clip, he explains how teachers often give their students the answers too soon, hampering their ability to come up with new and different ways of approaching problems.

Schwartz started his career in education in teaching - first math at a day school in rural Kenya, then English in a south-central junior high school in Los Angeles and finally math, science, reading and language arts to junior high and high school students in the rural village of Kaltag, Alaska.
This year he was named Teacher of the Year at Stanford GSE. The nominating letters from students described someone who cares deeply about his work, and is therefore inspiring, motivating, encouraging and challenging.

He is an outstanding example of a teacher who embodies many of the practices we research in the GSE: deep subject matter knowledge, rich pedagogical tool kit, and commitment to scaffolded, long-term student learning.

In an interview with The Stanford Daily, Schwartz returned the compliments.

I think the GSE has powerhouse faculty and students. So my job as dean is to make the conditions under which they can thrive the best and work together.

He also said as dean, he'll look for places where there can be synergies and electricity among researchers.

I’ve become dean to help people: to help them realize their vision that is coherent and consistent and [that] can improve education the most.

Schwartz is currently working on getting to know better the research of each faculty member and meeting up with new faculty. The GSE is adding eight new professors this year. Schwartz succeeds Deborah Stipek, the Judy Koch Professor of Education.

Even as he adds to his plate the role of dean, which he called "an exceptional honor," Schwartz said he hopes to continue teaching and doing research. One former student predicted good things in the years ahead:

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