In Memory Of


In Memory Of… Ann L. Brown

Honoring scientists who have made important and lasting contributions to the sciences of mind, brain, and behavior.

Ann L. Brown, PhD (1943-1999)
Professor and Evelyn Lois Corey Chair in Instructional Science
University of California, Berkeley



Ann L. Brown was an internationally recognized scholar in the fields of experimental and developmental psychology, special education, cognitive science, education sciences and learning sciences. Indeed, she made seminal contributions to these fields that substantially shaped their direction. She overcame a “slow” start.  She was a classic dyslexic who did not learn to read until she was 13 but nonetheless received a First Class Honours degree and subsequently a Ph.D. in Psychology from Bedford College at the University of London at age 24.

Throughout her career, Ann’s research centered on children’s learning, but she studied it in different contexts (laboratory, individual pullout, and intact classrooms) and through different theoretical lenses (behaviorism, cognitive, and sociocultural).  She also focused on understanding the nature of individual and developmental differences, with an eye to using this information to enhance the performance of younger and weaker learners, a focus that led eventually to her move to education.

As one illustrative thread to her work, she early proposed that the poor memory performance of young children and those with cognitive impairments was due to their failure to engage strategies, rather than to a “structural” deficit.  To test this, she embarked on two paths.  In one, she studied memory performance in tasks where strategies were very difficult to employ; in these settings, the performance differences between children of varying ages and abilities were dramatically reduced.  In the second, she taught her subjects to produce and use appropriate strategies, with the result that their performance improved dramatically.  Unfortunately, they then abandoned the strategies, leading Ann to wonder why they neither produced nor maintained them.  This led her to suggest that they did not have insight into their memory processes, leading to her seminal work on metacognition, work that dramatically influenced the field.  These “training studies” and their follow-up were both a part of her overall research agenda and the springboard to her subsequent work in education.

Brown has an extensive list of journal articles, book chapters, and edited volumes. They attest to her far reaching impact on the field, including her collaboration with John Bransford and Rod Cocking on How People Learn (1999, National Academy of Education). This impact has been recognized in numerous awards and prestigious positions in national and international organizations. She served as Associate Editor for Child Development and Cognition & Instruction.  She was President of Division 7 (Developmental Psychology) of the American Psychological Association, the American Educational Research Association, and National Academy of Education.  She was elected to the Society of Experimental Psychologists and the Governing Board of the Cognitive Science Society.

Brown also impacted the field through her mentorship of young scholars. One of Ann’s favorite tasks was her work on the Spencer Foundation’s postdoctoral fellowship committee — she was a member for 10 years including 3 as its chair.  She was also a committed mentor of both graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.  She enjoyed this work immensely, and the students, in both psychology and education, volunteered their view that much of their success was due to Ann’s tutelage.

Brown’s contributions to the field have been celebrated with several “lifetime achievement awards,” including the Distinguished Contributions to Educational Research award by the American Educational Research Association (1991); the American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Award for Applications of Psychology (1995); and the American Psychological Society James McKeen Cattell Award for Distinguished Achievements in Psychological Science (1997). Indeed, even after Ann’s death, she continued to receive recognition, from AERA (the Sylvia Scribner Award in 2000), and the Distinguished Scholar Lifetime Achievement Award for contributions to literacy theory and research in practice in 2001 from the National Reading Conference.


Individuals Honoring Ann L. Brown:  

Richard Anderson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
David F. Bjorklund, Florida Atlantic University
Elaine Coleman
Roberta Corrigan, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
Fergus Craik, Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest
Judy Deloache, University of Virginia
Susan Gelman, University of Michigan
Susan Goldin-Meadow, University of Chicago
* Susan Goldman, University of Illinois at Chicago
Arthur Graesser, Univeristy of Memphis
Edward Haertel, Stanford University
John W. Hagen, University of Michigan
Robert Kail, Purdue University
Xiadong Lin, Teachers College, Columbia University
Marcia C. Linn, University of California, Berkeley
Milbrey McLaughlin, Stanford University
Nora Newcombe, Temple University
Annemarie Palinscar, University of Michigan
P. David Pearson,  University of California, Berkeley
James W. Pellegrino, University of Illinois at Chicago
Barbara Rogoff, University of California, Santa Cruz
Marlene Scardamalia, University of Toronto
Robert Siegler, Carnegie Mellon University

 * The FABBS Foundation would like to thank Dr. Susan Goldman for nominating Dr. Brown for this honor and for leading the effort to spread the word about her nomination.


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