About Learner Variability Project

Today’s classrooms include a diverse student population who bring varied experiences and abilities to the classroom. Our education system, however, has been slow to support students who may fall behind or be uninspired by traditional pathways of teaching and learning. Many of these students become marginalized when schools do not consider their learner variability. This may be the student who is slower to decode but, when read to, comprehends at high levels. She could be learning the English language. Learner variability also describes the student who does not do as well on his test due to anxiety caused by the prospect of being judged based on a stereotype. Perhaps she is identified as gifted but is bored because traditional methods of instruction do not engage her nor meet her needs.

Learning sciences research provides insights into how best to support and engage this full diversity of learners. The Learner Variability Project (LVP) team works at the intersection of educators, researchers, and edtech developers to help design and develop supports for a more equitable education for each learner. We translate ever-growing learning sciences research into easily accessible Factors and strategies that can inform both product design and classroom practice. The research-based Factors and strategies together comprise our Learner Models. These Models are free, open-source, and accessible for all audiences.

For product developers, we offer a self-assessment tool that quickly surfaces research-based strategies that teams can consider for potential product features that can engage a fuller diversity of learners. The LVP also offers an RFP for developers of early reading products. Selected partners will receive funds up to $50,000 and individual support from the LVP team to develop “innovative approaches that allow students to engage with content differently, [by asking] what does technology make possible that could not be done before?" (Ed Tech Developer’s Guide, p. 8).

Equity and student success are key goals for Digital Promise Global and the LVP. With our partners, we aspire to a world where all learners are understood and provided with an evidence-based education that supports how they learn best.

Learner Model Development Process

Each LVP Learner Model is a research-driven, holistic representation of the critical variables (“Learner Factors”) affecting how learners learn. These Learner Factors are the foundation of learner diversity.

To create these Models, we follow a systematic methodology led by our expert LVP researchers. The process is also overseen by an advisory committee of content area and learning sciences experts.

We detail this process below to assure you that LVP resources and services are 100% grounded in current research. We have done the research so you don’t have to!

Our Research Process

Each Learner Model begins with the question, “According to research on learning, what are the major Learner Factors we should address to support the full diversity of learners?”

Our research starts with identifying the Factors most critical to the content area and age range of the specific Model (e.g., reading in grades PK-3). Using the learning sciences research published in peer-reviewed, high impact journals, we focus on the categories learning sciences has shown affect a student’s learning:

  • Biographical background
  • Cognition
  • Social and emotional learning
  • Research specific to the content area

Although these Factors can affect learning in many different environments, for our Models we identify the Factors that influence a student’s learning in the classroom.

We work closely with our advisory committee of experts to analyze the published research and define the Factors and instructional strategies most fundamental to learning in each content area. We meet quarterly with this advisory committee to discuss the research and define the final Factors and strategies.

The advisory meetings continue until we have closely examined each Factor and strategy and the advisory committee has approved the set of Factors that comprise the Model. Then, as a final check to ensure our work is completely grounded in current research, we ask our advisors for a last close review of the descriptions of the Factors, their connections to each other, and the strategies.

Through this iterative process, each LVP Model presents the Factors and strategies that current research supports as most critical to understanding and supporting the full diversity of learning. All of this work allows us to provide you with research-based tools and resources that you can use right now to support your full diversity of learners.

Advisory Boards

Advisory Board for Reading PK-3

  • Carol McDonald Connor, Ph.D., Chancellor's Professor, University of California: Irvine School of Education
  • Jeannette Mancilla-Martinez, Ed.D., Associate Professor, Vanderbilt University Peabody College of Education and Human Development
  • Bruce McCandliss, Ph.D., Professor, Stanford University Graduate School of Education
  • Dave Paunesku, Ph.D., Co-Founder of the Stanford University Project for Education Research that Scales (PERTS)
  • Todd Rose, Ph.D., Lecturer on Education and Director of the Mind, Brain, and Education Program, Harvard University, and co-founder of The Center for Individual Opportunity

Advisory Board for Literacy 4-6

  • Carol McDonald Connor, Ph.D., Chancellor's Professor, University of California: Irvine School of Education
  • Steve Graham, Ph.D., Warner Professor of Education, Arizona State University Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
  • Sean Kang, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Dartmouth College Department of Education
  • Jeannette Mancilla-Martinez, Ed.D., Associate Professor, Vanderbilt University Peabody College of Education and Human Development

Advisory Board for Math PK-2

  • David Geary, Ph.D., Curators' Professor, Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri
  • Ximena Dominguez, Ph.D., formerly Senior Research Scientist, Center for Technology in Learning, SRI International, and currently Director of Early STEM Research, Digital Promise
  • Bruce McCandliss, Ph.D., Professor, Stanford University Graduate School of Education
  • Todd Rose, Ph.D., Lecturer on Education and Director of the Mind, Brain, and Education Program, Harvard University, and co-founder of The Center for Individual Opportunity