Jacob Learning Variability Hub

Our new research agenda will further the science of learning variability to provide quality learning opportunities to every child.

Childhood is full of variability. Children vary day-to-day in their skills and behaviors. They differ from their peers. They also live and learn in different environments. Yet education often provides one-size-fits-all instruction aimed at the average student, with little regard for these three types of variability.

We believe that education systems that embrace learning variability are better able to provide all children with a quality education. However, research has not yet established the origins of learning variability or how best to address it. Furthering the science could help policymakers and educators make decisions that serve more children, more often.

Our new research agenda

We have refined and evolved our thinking on learning variability through interviewing experts, commissioning literature reviews, and discussing the findings with scholars. From this, we have designed a research agenda to guide our work and inspire others over the coming years.

A set of ‘transformative questions’ will frame the work of research activities we will support. They are:

  • Can we develop a framework of learning contexts?
  • When is learning variability beneficial for learning and development, and when is it detrimental? And when should we reduce or leverage variability, either in groups or individual children?
  • What methods might let us predict children’s future behavior?
  • How do we educate children for a rapidly changing future?

Our vision for the future

Through this research we will build a robust body of knowledge on learning variability. We will build a global multidisciplinary research community working towards improving children’s learning and development. We will also seek to inspire conversation and action among researchers and funders on understanding and embracing learning variability in children. Finally, we hope this will support the emergence of education systems that embrace variability-based education innovations, policies, and programs.

We will fund researchers through support for Jacobs Foundation Research Fellows, a biannual research conference, and a research series based around our transformative questions. Going forward, together with our partners, we will work to expand on this research agenda to explore questions of relevance to practitioners and schools and policymakers and education systems.

We will consider the research agenda a success if by 2030 we have achieved the following:

  • A community of researchers has established fruitful lines of research on learning variability.
  • The education funding community discusses the three types of variability knowledgeably.
  • Pedagogical innovations and education policies take learning variability into account in their design and implementation.