Call for Papers

2020 Interdisciplinarity in the Learning Sciences

Learning is essential to the human experience. It stands to reason, then, that many academic disciplines, whether explicitly or tacitly, investigate or make assumptions about the nature of learning. The content of what people are learning has profound implications for our understanding of the nature of the process. In addition, the theories that we propose and the assumptions that we hold fundamentally shape the questions we ask, what we notice, and what we design for. Rather than seeing these differences as impediments to progress, the field of the Learning Sciences is enhanced when we build on these debates and disagreements in order to strengthen competing claims and transform these into designs that have significant impact on learning more broadly.

The learning sciences, as a field, has historically focused on interdisciplinarity — to center learning as a phenomenon and interrogate it with different lenses. For ICLS 2020, we seek to draw on and highlight the ways our understandings of learning can be deepened by revisiting the multiple ways of looking at learning, with an eye toward opening new conversations and enriching existing ones.

With this goal in mind, we invite papers that look at central topics around issues of learning, with a special interest in analyses that highlight the sociopolitical dimensions of learning and social justice. We focus our collective attention to four areas of inquiry, including Design; Learning and Identity, Scale, and Teaching, which we hope to examine through lenses including but not limited to: psychology, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, historiography, critical theories, and philosophy. Some of the research in our field already bridges disciplines, and we welcome papers that work synthetically about key issues. In articulating these strands, our goal is to offer visions about the topics of research that are relevant to the conference, but they are not intended to limit the possibilities for contributions. If you don’t find an exact match for your proposal, please select the strand that seems to be the closest fit.


This section invites proposals that offer theoretical descriptions and empirical evaluations of designs that support disciplinary learning or the designs of informal spaces that promote learning. Design is an act of imagination coupled with an attempt to realize that imagined future. It is also often an act of critique in that it is driven by a dissatisfaction of the status quo. Conceptualized in these terms, design is not limited to the privileged activity of academics or industry professionals, but instead applies to the everyday activities of resistance and hope found across all communities that strive not only to build on what exists but also to transform their world and the people that interact with their designs.

We specifically invite proposals that consider (but are not limited to): critiques of what exists now or a vision of what could be, such as designs of an innovation that stand in contrast to what has typically been done in the field; designs that are motivated as sense of educational justice and dignity for the users, especially to the extent where the end users themselves are considered as part of the design team or process of resistance, hope and transformation; designs for formal learning spaces and/or disciplinary learning that re-imagine traditional teaching and learning; and designs that take an interdisciplinary perspective to expand and/or challenge the boundaries of education. For questions, please contact Noel Enyedy, or Hyo-Jeong So.

Learning & Identity

This section invites proposals that investigate learning, identity and the relationships between them, grounded in a range of foundational perspectives and methodologies. As described above, learning is a central (albeit tacit) component of any number of disciplines. Ideas about learning — as shifts in cognition, changes in participation, transformation of community practices — emanate from our various commitments and questions. They also mark critical questions in the field about what learning is about and for, and who gets to decide. The importance of identity for learning is increasingly recognized, and the ways we conceptualize, investigate, and support both are constantly evolving.

We specifically invite proposals that consider (but are not limited to): processes and contexts of learning and those that support consequential, disruptive and transformative learning; learning as participatory and social change-making; disciplinary identities and the relations that individuals construct with the practices of a domain; connections between broader political and ideological processes to moment-to-moment construction of identities in social life; and the commodification and consumption of identities through neoliberal, media-intensive, Twitter-fed environments in a globalized society. Included also could be critiques of learning and identity, including those that challenge predominant and arrogant perspectives of humans as separate from each other and the planet. For questions, please contact Victoria Hand or Julia Snell.


This section invites proposals that treat scale as an object of inquiry. Recent conceptualizations of scale acknowledge that meeting the diverse needs of learners (e.g., youth, teachers) in varied settings requires more than widespread, unilateral dissemination. For meaningful change to occur, this work must also attend to social, cultural, political or historical perspectives as well as more practical implementation considerations such as time, (access to) expertise, reward systems, and so on. In addition, time and attention must be devoted to supporting practitioners in developing the affinities, expertise, and routines that are conducive to uptake and maintenance of innovation. Fundamentally, this section focuses on understanding how we can achieve impact in the here and now, alongside the work of theory development.

We specifically invite proposals that consider (but are not limited to): conceptualizations of scale; tools or frameworks to support design or enactment at scale; methods to investigate and measure impact at scale; the human, material and structural aspects of context (e.g. capacity, tools, policy, norms, systems) that enable learning initiatives to thrive; investigations that attend to culture, power, and equity in initiatives that aspire to achieve impact at scale; and studies of networked improvement communities, social movements or educational change. For questions, please contact Kara Jackson or Susan McKenney.


This section invites proposals that investigate teaching and teacher learning in ways that advance theoretical understandings and methodological approaches to how teachers learn. Historically, the issue of teaching and teacher learning has not been a central focus of the learning sciences. Likewise, much of the research in teacher education has not taken advantage of the theoretical and methodological insights developed in the learning sciences. We are particularly interested in proposals that develop the conversation between these two research traditions. 

We specifically invite proposals that consider (but are not limited to): pre-service teacher education, equity and social justice oriented teaching,  teacher learning in or from the workplace and in professional communities, learning to teach in the disciplines, the policy and institutional contexts of teaching and teacher development. We especially welcome papers on the intersections between teacher learning and critical issues of race, language, culture, socioeconomic class, gender, sexuality, ability, citizenship, and other identities. Included also could be teaching and technology, teacher expertise and the aims of teacher education, methodologies for the study of teacher learning, and the ethical, political and economic dimensions of teacher learning. For questions, please contact Adam Lefstein or Thomas M. Philip.


The conference schedule will be released in detail in spring 2020. The general overview of the schedule is below.

June 19-20 -- Pre-conference workshops

June 20 -- Opening Plenary with Anna Sfard

June 21 -- Keynote presentation with Audrey Watters

June 22 -- Keynote presentation Leigh Patel

June 23 -- Closing ceremony