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Push For Research On Higher Education

Tomorrow's Research

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The article below reports on the call for devoting much greater

national resources to fundamental research on teaching and learning

at the college and university level. It is taken from The Scientist

- The News Journal of the Life Scientist,

[], 15[6]:32, March 19, 2001

? Copyright 2001, The Scientist, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted

with permission.


Rick Reis

UP NEXT: Reform From Within: Lessons For Academic Administrators

Tomorrow's Research


--------------- 570 words ----------------


By Kate Devine

Courtesy of University of Michigan


To ensure a competitive global position, the United States must

invest in more research into how people learn and how people are

taught, according to James J. Duderstadt, president emeritus and

professor of science and engineering at the University of Michigan in

Ann Arbor. He made that argument as a symposium panel member at last

month's American Association for the Advancement of Science annual

meeting in San Francisco.

Duderstadt told The Scientist that federal support of R&D tends to

track national priorities over time--military security in the 1950s

to 1980s, health care in the 1990s and today. "It seems increasingly

clear that a knowledge-driven economy will place a premium on

intellectual capital, hence, on significantly increasing the learning

skills of our workforce," he said, adding that rapid increases are

needed in investments that focus on understanding how people learn

and how learning institutions are designed. "If the education sector

functioned like the rest of our economy, then we should be investing

about 3 percent a year on R&D," explained Duderstadt. "And 3 percent

of the $665 billion we spent last year on education is about $20

billion, the size of the [National Institutes of Health] budget.

Hence, our investments do not seem well aligned with our priorities."

The National Academy of Science's Committee on Science, Engineering

and Public Policy, of which Duderstadt is a member, is assessing ways

to promote education research. COSEPUP recently discussed strategies

with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, whose purpose

historically is to focus appropriate talent on defense research. A

suggested model based on DARPA's activity concerns approaching the

top scientific talent in the nation and providing flexible, long-term

support to work on basic research related to national priorities.

Other suggested models include a major expansion of an interagency

initiative, or asking NSF to accept a much stronger leadership role

for research on "the science of education."

Duderstadt envisions a multidisciplinary effort that fills in the

void of understanding how best to help future generations learn. He

says this is the science of education issue in which the nation's top

scientific talent would be persuaded and funded to work in areas

related to learning and education, particularly in critical areas

such as math and science.

According to Duderstadt, testimony from those working at the grass

roots level in teacher preparation and math and science education,

suggests that the translation from fundamental research into practice

is limited. Little of the significant research of the past decade in

areas such as cognitive science, neurosciences, and organizational

theory is making it into education in the United States--whether it

is schools, colleges, or universities. "Indeed, we may almost have a

situation comparable to manufacturing in the 1960s, when the Japanese

and others took our research and used it to accelerate past us in

areas like automobiles and electronics," he said. "It was only when

we learned ourselves how to better transfer research into the

marketplace that we became competitive once again. The same may be

happening in education."

The AAAS panel, organized by Eamon Kelly of the National Science

Board and Tulane University and Marta Cehelsky of NSF, focused on

appropriate use of federal resources to support national innovative

capacity. Other panelists included Erich Bloch of the Washington

Advisory Group, Enrique Iglesia of the Inter-American Development

Bank, Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State University, and. Norine Noonan,

formerly of the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Research

and Development.

Kate Devine can be contacted at