Learning Sciences

The term learning sciences describes an interdisciplinary field that works to advance scientific understanding of learning. The field is driven by two key goals: 1) to understand the cognitive, social, and cultural processes that shape learning, and 2) to use this knowledge to design innovative environments and experiences that support deep, effective learning. As an interdisciplinary field, learning sciences draws on methods and theories from psychology, cognitive science, anthropology, sociology, applied linguistics, and other fields. Having emerged as a research discipline in the 1990s, it is multifaceted and includes a great diversity of research approaches. Learning scientists take a wide variety of creative approaches to investigate the many unknowns of learning. Across these many types of studies, most research studies learning as it happens in real-world, naturalistic situations, such as museums, classrooms, and digital spaces. 

At the NHMU, the Learning Sciences Department was launched within Collections & Research with the arrival of Dr. Lynne Zummo in 2020 as the Curator of Learning Sciences. Composed of dedicated undergraduate and graduate students and volunteers, the growing Learning Sciences team is led by Dr. Zummo and aims to study learning in many forms across the Museum. The team partners with the Exhibits Department to study learning at existing exhibits, as well as those in development, including A Climate of Hope, and to offer insights to the exhibit design process. Additionally, the team partners with the Education Department to design innovative, research-based learning experiences offered through various public programs. Overall, our goal is to produce empirical knowledge about learning processes unfolding at and beyond the Museum, and what features, exhibits, and experiences support this learning.  

Did you know...

The Museum is a great place to study learning! The more we study visitors’ learning, the better we can design new experiences to connect visitors to all of the amazing scientific discoveries made right here at NHMU.

Research Staff