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Cognitive Science of Teaching & Learning (CSTL)

CSTL Foci of Study

In developing a program of study, graduate students are encouraged to take into account the three foci around which faculty offer expertise. These are not programs of study per se, but rather focal points that define research priorities and areas of collaborative work.  

Learning and Cognition

The study of learning and cognition in the context of educational psychology includes (a) the examination of the psychological mechanisms underlying learning, effective instruction, and enriched environments that promote resilient development, and (b) translation to develop instructional models and interventions that optimize learning and successful development throughout the lifespan. Particular research interests include:

  • learning in the disciplines (e.g., science and math education),
  • principles of learning that promote effective instruction,
  • change and stability through the lifespan in learning processes,
  • evidence-based design and evaluation of different ecologies for instruction (e.g., traditional classroom, technology, formal and informal community-based models),
  • learning in digital environments, and  
  • the effects of lifelong learning on health.


Language is central to education, both as a core medium of learning, and as a set of capacities that develops through the lifespan, in part through instruction.  Particular research interests include:

  • cognitive, social, and intrapersonal processes that underpin language comprehension,
  • text and discourse processes, and learning from text,
  • reading,
  • adult lifespan development of language, comprehension, and reading,
  • consequences of literacy,
  • health literacy, and
  • second-language acquisition and bilingualism.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education 

The development of effective educational models in the STEM disciplines is necessarily interdisciplinary, requiring collaboration among content experts and learning scientists. Collaborative research programs in STEM education at Illinois can be found in the Departments of Educational Psychology, Curriculum and Instruction, and Physics; the Beckman Institute, and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Particular research interests include:

  • knowledge structures and misconceptions in learning science,
  • learning from science texts in different media,
  • transfer of learning  and conceptual change in STEM,
  • digital learning in STEM, and
  • interventions to promote conceptual development and problem solving among K-16 students.

STEM education is a University of Illinois priority (

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