Catalyst Series: Bror Saxberg on “Learning Engineering”

Catalyst Series: Bror Saxberg on “Learning Engineering”

Last week, at the launch of the Education Innovation Research Network, we welcomed Bror Saxberg, Ph.D., M.D., to Rhode Island. Saxberg is the author of Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age, and serves as Chief Education Officer at Kaplan, where he is responsible for the research and development of innovative learning strategies and technologies across Kaplan’s education services.

This event was the first in our Catalyst Series, which is designed to stimulate new ideas in education research, help build connections between theory and practice, and generate new approaches to education innovation.

Scholars, practitioners, and policymakers gathered at the Providence Public Library to share their vision for the future of education in Rhode Island, and to explore ways to improve the learning experience of our students. After opening remarks by Roger Williams University President Donald J. Farish, and Education Commissioner Ken Wagner, Saxberg advocated for an approach grounded in what he calls “learning engineering” – guided by cognitive science research about how expertise, learning, and technology work together to enhance student outcomes.

“We start with how learning actually works,” Saxberg said, because while technology platforms and tools are constantly changing, “what you learn about human learning is an asset with longevity.”

Saxberg discussed the differences between working memory and long-term memory, then identified the necessary steps to mastering complex cognitive tasks. “Each knowledge component has research behind it,” and the evidence – as documented by learning scientists and by Kaplan’s own experiments – shows us that our “intuition is not always the best guide to what works” for learners.

In the discussion that followed, participants had the opportunity to work in small groups, identifying current challenges and suggesting approaches to creating more meaningful, transformative experiences for our students. These discussions were then documented and will be synthesized and reported back out to the network to organize and prioritize next steps.

To learn more about the Education Innovation Research Network, our Catalyst Series, or to join us, visit us at

The Education Innovation Research Network is a partnership between Eduvate RI, The College & University Research Collaborative, and The Rhode Island Office of Innovation