MITili 2023 Grant Award Receipients: Prof Eric Klopfer, Wiebke Denecke, & Tristan Brown!

Published on: June 16, 2023

Congratulations! Prof Eric Klopfer, Wiebke Denecke, & Tristan Brown are the recipients of 2023 MIT Integrated Learning Initiative (MITili) awards!

The MIT Integrated Learning Initiative (MITili) awards nearly $200K to innovative MIT research on the science of learning and learning effectiveness. MITili selected five projects to receive grants to research the science of learning and ways to make learning more effective. MITili grants focus on wide ranging topics including policy neuroscience and socioeconomic factors with a focus on all levels of learning from pK-12 to higher education and workplace learning. This is MITili’s fourth award of an annual grant making to continue in subsequent years.

Examining the Role of Stress Appraisal in Adolescents to Improve Learning – Eric Klopfer (Comparative Media Studies | Writing)

To examine stress and Executive Function (EF) jointly, the research team will employ AquaPressure, a novel game-based assessment of EF developed at MIT through collaborative efforts between McGovern Institute for Brain Research and MITili. AquaPressure was designed 1) for adolescents and 2) to examine EF under varying conditions of stress. Three research studies have already been conducted using AquaPressure and an initial study with adolescent participants (n=200) demonstrated that experiences of stress were effectively altered during conditions of low- and high-stress without changing other experiences such as perceived engagement and effort. These preliminary findings underscore the utility of AquaPressure as a tool for studying changes in a learner’s cognitive function in socio-emotional contexts. What remains unknown is how perceptions of these emotional contexts can be used to help students optimize their cognitive functions and ultimately, their learning outcomes, while under stress.

Measuring the Impact of Humanities Learning in an Age of STEM – Wiebke Denecke and Tristan Brown (School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences)

The humanities are in crisis, with plummeting enrollments across the country, and the timing couldn’t be worse. According to a recent article entitled “Why STEM Education—and Democracy—Need Civic Science” in American Scientist more than two-thirds of STEM graduates do not end up in a STEM career, but instead in the public or private sector, where they will need to serve as brokers for tackling the biggest challenges of our time. They will need skills beyond their narrow STEM expertise: it is the humanities that provide essential tools for problem-solving, working towards solutions for social effects of the climate crisis, gross social inequality, mass migration and violent conflicts, solutions that are ethical (aimed at the thriving of all), productive (and ecologically sustainable), and holistic and wholesome for the health and well-being of humans and their communities. Humanistic learning—the honing of historical understanding of oneself and others, of language skills, and communication and diplomatic skills—is crucial to bringing our communities and leaders together to rise to the occasion and tackle these threats to human well-being and survival.

The ultimate success goal of this project is to synthesize insights into a paper, which analyzes and assesses the impact of humanistic learning on MIT undergraduates, enriching the debate at MIT and other institutions about the value and new challenges for our humanities curricula, and supplying policy-decision bodies at MIT with valuable data to guide their decisions over how to design the best possible learning experience for graduates.

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