The Institute for Research on Learning and Instruction launched in December 2018, thanks to a generous gift by the James S. McDonnell Family Foundation. Its mission is to introduce and sustain scholarly research on learning and instruction within departments, programs, and schools at Tufts. We call it “IRLI” (“early”), because it’s one of the first of its kind.

There are currently five faculty on the steering committee (soon to be six), all scholars focused on discipline-based education research. A larger number of collaborating faculty conduct education research (or are starting to explore) as ancillary to their primary areas of teaching and scholarship. IRLI has close affiliations with the Center for Engineering Education & Outreach, the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, the Center for Stem Diversity, and the Tufts Department of Education.

For the present, IRLI faculty focus mainly in STEM areas, but the longer-term vision is for the institute to include arts and humanities, social sciences, and professional schools.


  • IRLI Start” is a research incubator, designed mainly for faculty who are interested to get involved in research on learning and instruction in the contexts of their teaching at Tufts. Collaborating faculty meet and explore data from their students’ work to identify phenomena that are relevant for teaching and amenable to study. As IRLI Starters develop ideas into research questions and plans, they can apply for small IRLI start-up funds for support.
  • IRLI affiliated projects are underway, studying learning and teaching across STEM disciplines at Tufts.
  • IRLI Colloquia bring in outstanding researchers from other universities. IRLI also co-sponsors colloquia on education research in other units at Tufts.
  • How to Be an Antiracist STEM Educator is a seminar/study group we initiated in the fall, 2020, in collaboration with the Center for STEM Diversity, offering course credit through the Department of Education.

To join our mailing list, send a note to Michelle Paré. If you have questions about IRLI or research on learning, send a note to David Hammer.