Learning Research

Next, we critically assess and synthesize research in the learning sciences to guide the solution design. These “design principles” focus on motivation, cognition, and pedagogy.

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Learning Science Foundations

A short video about how we’re codifying educational research and cognitive science into practical blueprints for edtech and you.

Duration 4:09

How We Synthesize Learning Research

We rigorously assess and synthesize education research and cognitive science into principles that guide every design decision.

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We use the same research to construct a learning model that provides the blueprint for a product design.

The design principles and models are critiqued by experts.

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We use education research to identify qualities critical to a student’s success and ethnographic research to build personas of real-life students who we design to help and then test against.

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The Learning Research Advisory Council

A panel of leading experts critique our Learning Science Foundations

Designing learning experiences that drive better outcomes begins by formulating a research base based on empirically validated learning theories. At Macmillan Learning, our team of learning researchers comb through published, peer-reviewed articles in the learning sciences and then synthesize these findings into practical design guidelines. These Learning Science Foundations are then used to systematically apply learning theories to the design of our products, and to evaluate their impact on teachers and learners. To inform, critique, and challenge these Foundations, we have formed the Learning Research Advisory Council. This Council is made up of a leading panel of external experts with deep and complementary expertise in educational research and evaluation, learning science, and pedagogy, and practical experience in teaching and the successful scaling of educational technology in higher education.

Learn More
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Dr. Robert Atkinson

Associate Professor, Arizona State University

Dr. Atkinson is an Associate Professor with a joint appointment in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering in the Ira A. Schools of Engineering and the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation in the Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College. His research explores the intersection of cognitive science, informatics, instructional design, and educational technology. He earned in Applied Cognitive Science PhD degree from University of Wisconsin – Madison with a minor in statistics and research design. His scholarship involves the design of instructional material—including book- and computer-based learning environments—according to our understanding of human cognitive architecture and how to leverage its unique constraints and affordances. His current research focus involves the study of engagement and flow in games. His research appears in a variety of highly respected academic journals including Journal of Educational Psychology, Applied Cognitive Psychology, Learning and Instruction, Review of Educational Research, and Educational Psychologist. He currently serves on the editorial boards of five top-tier journals and is a standing member of the Institute of Education Sciences review panel.

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Dr. Christopher Dede

Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies, Technology Innovation, and Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Dr. Dede’s research focuses on developing new types of educational systems to meet the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century. His work spans emerging technologies for learning, infusing technology into large-scale educational improvement initiatives, developing policies that support educational transformation, and providing leadership in educational innovation. He has conducted funded studies to develop and assess learning environments based on virtual worlds, augmented realities, transformed social interaction, and online teacher professional development. He is a leader in mobile learning initiatives and has developed a widely used Framework for scaling up educational innovations.


Dr. Dede sits on our Learning and Impact Research Advisory Councils to ensure continuity.

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Dr. Erin Dolan

Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Georgia Athletic Association Professor of Innovative Science Education at the University of Georgia

Professor Erin Dolan is a Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Georgia Athletic Association Professor of Innovative Science Education at the University of Georgia. As a graduate student in Neuroscience at University of California San Francisco, she volunteered extensively in K-12 schools, which prompted her to pursue a career in biology education. She teaches introductory biology and biochemistry, and her research group studies scalable ways of engaging students in science research and mentoring of undergraduate researchers in the life sciences. In 2014-2016, she served as founding Executive Director of the Texas Institute for Discovery Education in Sciences (TIDES), the teaching innovation initiative in the College of Natural Sciences at University of Texas Austin. She has designed and led a wide range of professional development on active learning and mentoring, including intensive sessions for faculty to develop course-based undergraduate research experiences. She is principal investigator or co-investigator on more than $10 million in grants, including one for CUREnet, a network of people and programs integrating research experiences into undergraduate courses. She is also Editor-in-Chief of the leading biology education journal, CBE – Life Sciences Education.

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Dr. Mark McDaniel

Professor of Psychology and Co-Director of the Center for Integrative Research on Cognition, Learning, and Education (CIRCLE), Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. McDaniel is a Professor of Psychology and Co-Director of the Center for Integrative Research on Cognition, Learning, and Education (CIRCLE) at Washington University in St. Louis. He received his Ph.D from University of Colorado in 1980. His research is in the general area of human learning and memory, with an emphasis on prospective memory, encoding and retrieval process in episodic memory and applications to educational contexts. His educationally relevant research includes a series of studies on individual differences in conceptual learning tendencies, elaborative study techniques and enhancing learning through testing (repeated retrieval), with much of his latter work being conducted in actual college and middle school classrooms. This research has been sponsored by the Institute of Educational Sciences and the James S. McDonnell Foundation. McDaniel is co-author, with Gilles Einstein, of two books: Memory Fitness: A Guide for Successful Aging (Yale University Press, 2004) and Prospective Memory: An Overview and Synthesis of an Emerging Field (Sage Press, 2007) and co-author of Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (Harvard University Press, 2014, with Peter Brown and Henry Roediger)

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Dr. Liz Thomas

Independent researcher and consultant for higher education and Professor of Higher Education at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, England 


Professor Liz Thomas (PhD, MA, BA) is an independent researcher and consultant for higher education and Professor of Higher Education at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, England. She has approximately twenty years’ experience of undertaking and managing research about widening participation, student retention and success and institutional approaches to improving the student experience and outcomes. She is committed to using research to inform UK national and institutional policy, practice and evaluation, and has developed and led change programs to facilitate this. She led the internationally renowned What works? Student retention and success program between 2008 and 2017, working with teams from institutions and specific programs of study to develop, implement and evaluate changes in practices and student outcomes. This work has influenced national policy making, institutional approaches and staff practices. In 2017 Liz was an expert member of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) 2 panel (introduced to assess the quality of learning and teaching of higher education providers), and is currently involved in the TEF subject pilots, recognizing her expertise in widening participation, student retention and success and learning and teaching. Liz is the author and editor of over ten books, and many journal articles, reports, briefings and practice guides. She regularly delivers keynote addresses and staff development workshops and programmes at higher education institutions in the UK and abroad.

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Mark St. Andre

Mark St. Andre holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Iowa, as well as a Master’s in Statistics and a Ph.d. in Educational Psychology from the University of Utah. He has been doing assessment work for non-profit or public organizations for the past 21 years. He ran the research and evaluation division of an educational software company for five years where he was responsible for developing an adaptive reading test for early readers as well as conducting large scale evaluations of the effectiveness of educational software in school districts. For the past 14 years he has been doing educational assessment at the University of Utah where he has moved from Assessment Coordinator to Assistant Dean to Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies. He is responsible for assessing the effectiveness of academic programs and curricula for accreditation and program improvement purposes. He has developed a turnkey General Education assessment review database and online application that is used by the University of Utah. He is currently partnering with programmers at the University of Utah to develop applications that interact with the school’s curriculum management and course management systems to facilitate the assessment of program level outcomes. He has presented research results and program evaluations at a number of academic conferences.

Educational Results

Science + Empathy + Data Insights

The result of this empathetic and scientific approach are learning solutions that are practical, deeply intuitive, highly impactful, and help students, instructors, and institutions to achieve their very best outcomes.

See Our Latest Educational Results