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 university-level structures working to integrate the historically distinct missions of research and teaching.

IRLI supports and connects a growing community of faculty, post-doctoral scholars, and graduate students across schools and disciplines in this work, led by a steering committee of eight professors whose research focuses on discipline-based education research. 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 focuses mainly in STEM areas. 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 Summer Scholars are Tufts undergraduate students who collaborate with Tufts faculty or staff on research into learning and instruction. The pair work as a team on a summer project (or longer) that addresses a research question about undergraduate education.
  • 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.

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 one of the co-directors, David Hammer or Milo Koretsky.