John D. Bransford, PhD


John D. Bransford, PhD

In Honor Of…John D. Bransford

Honoring scientists who have made important and lasting contributions to the behavioral and brain sciences.

John D. Bransford, PhD
Shauna C. Larson Endowed Chair in Learning Sciences
University of Washington
Founding Director
Learning in Informal and Formal Environments (LIFE) Center


John D. Bransford is a highly innovative contributor to the field of human cognition, especially with respect to our understanding of human learning and the design of technology-enhanced learning environments. Bransford received his bachelor’s degree in Psychology (magna cum laude) at Hamline University and his Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology, Child Psychology and Linguistics at the University of Minnesota. John’s dissertation research, which won honorable mention in the national “Creative Talent Awards” contest, was groundbreaking work that challenged many of the existing tenets of behaviorism and helped shaped the “cognitive revolution” in Psychology.

Currently, Bransford holds the Shauna C. Larson Endowed Chair in Learning Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle and is Founding Director of the Learning in Informal and Formal Environments (LIFE) Center, a multi-institution NSF Science of Learning Center that seeks to develop and test principles about the social foundations of human learning in informal and formal environments. Under John’s leadership, a LIFE Center team at the UW College of Education and The Boeing Company won the 2012 Innovation Award for their workplace learning program, the 13th annual Corporate University Xchange Awards for Excellence and Innovation, and a diversity award (with Kieran O’Mahony for collaborative work with members of the Elwha Nation).

Before moving to the University of Washington, John was Centennial Professor of Psychology and Education and Director of the Learning Technology Center at Vanderbilt University. In 1984, Bransford was asked by the Dean of Peabody College at Vanderbilt to create a Learning Technology Center that would focus on education. The Center grew from 7 people in 1984 to approximately 100 by 1999. During that time, Bransford and his colleagues developed and tested a number of innovative computer, videodisc, CD-ROM, and internet programs in K-12 mathematics, science, and literacy. Examples include the Jasper Woodbury Problem Solving Series in Mathematics, the Scientists in Action Series, and the Little Planet Literacy Series. The Little Planet Literacy Series has won major awards including the 1996 Technology and Learning Award and the 1997 Cody award for Best Elementary Curriculum from the Software Publishers Association. While at Vanderbilt, John was awarded the Earl Sutherland Prize for Achievement in Research (1997).

Bransford is a member of the National Academy of Education and the 2001 recipient of the E. L. Thorndike Career Achievement Award. He served as Co-Chair of the National Academy of Science committees that wrote How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom (2005), How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School (1999, 2000), and How People Learn, Bridging Research and Practice (1999).  He also co-edited a National Academy of Education volume (with Linda Darling Hammond) on Preparing Teachers for a Changing World (2005). Several of his published articles (co-authored with colleagues) have won “article of the year” in the areas of science education, technology, design, and theories of transfer.



Individuals Honoring John D. Bransford:
Philip Bell, University of Washington
Gautam Biswas, Vanderbilt University
Sheryl B. Bransford
Sharon Derry, University of Wisconsin-Madison
K. Anders Ericsson, Florida State University
Drue Gawel
*Arthur C. Graesser, University of Memphis
Ted S. Hasselbring, Vanderbilt University
Xiaodong Lin-Siegler, Columbia University
William R. Penuel, University of Colorado, Boulder
Roy D. Pea, Stanford University
Howard Phillips
*Daniel Schwartz, Stanford University
Diana Sharp, Diana Sharp Consulting
Robert Siegler, Carnegie Mellon University
Barry S. Stein, Tennessee Tech University
Shelia Valencia, University of Washington
Sashank and Keisha Varma, University of Minnesota
*Nancy Vye, University of Washington

* The FABBS Foundation would like to thank Dr. Arthur C. Graesser, Dr. Daniel Schwartz, and Dr. Nancy Vye for nominating Dr. Bransford for this honor and for leading the effort to spread the word about his nomination.

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