About MITili

Transforming Learning through Research and Applied Practice

The MIT Integrated Learning Initiative (MITili) is studying learning the MIT way: through rigorous, interdisciplinary research on the fundamental mechanisms of learning and how we can improve it.


Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI)  Satrajit Ghosh, McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT

MITili draws from fields as wide ranging as cognitive psychology, neuroscience, economics, health, design, engineering, architecture and discipline-based education research (DBER) to study learning from several perspectives. MITili considers the fundamental processes behind motivation, curiosity, knowledge acquisition, retention, mastery, integration, creativity, transfer, and self-efficacy at the individual level from pre-kindergarten to adulthood. At the system level, MITili researchers consider topics such as school effectiveness, school system design, social factors, education policy, the economics of education, and the impact of socio-economic status.

“The best of science with the best of practice to the benefit of people within the context of educational practice and research.”   - Professor John Gabrieli, Director of MITili

The establishment of MITili is one of the actions MIT has taken in response to the 2014 Institute-wide Task Force Report on the Future of MIT Education.

Applying the Research from MITili:

Impact on MIT Residential Education


Technology-Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) Classroom used by Physics 8.01

MITili helps guide MIT’s activities in education. First and foremost, established learning science, combined with research from MITili, will inform residential education at MIT and help usher in new practices recommended by MITili. These activities will be coordinated with MIT’s Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education, the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education, and the academic departments of MIT. As part of this effort, the Dean for the Undergraduate Education is seeking ambitious proposals that reimagine linkages between undergraduate education and the student experience at MIT.

MITili is composed of researchers from the MIT community, and interfaces formally with the community through two groups: the Digital Learning Lab (DLL) and the Teaching and Learning Laboratory (TLL). DLL is a community of disciplinary experts based in MIT departments, including lecturers and postdoctoral fellows in departments across campus such as Physics or Mechanical Engineering, who are also experts in learning and in learning technologies. TLL, a longstanding office at MIT, provides advice and services to all departments. In addition, MITili will hold colloquia and workshops for the community at large – whether it is faculty, students or staff.

Impact on the World


MIT OpenCourseWare has reached over 180 million learners worldwide in the 15 years since its inception. MITx, delivered through edX, has reached over 3 million learners with its extensive online courses. MITili will inform the content and delivery of these massive outreach efforts going forward. In addition, platforms such as OCW and edX have also proved to be a powerful tool for learning about learning, and will continue to be useful for scaling out and testing insights from the scholarship of learning from MITili and elsewhere.

MIT is also launching two new efforts which will provide further avenues for applying and disseminating the results of MITili. The first is the MIT pK-12 Action Group, which includes such efforts as the Teaching Systems Lab and the CLIx Project. The second is the launch of MIT’s Digital Learning Solutions, which will work with MIT Professional Education and MIT Executive Education to bring professional online content to working professionals around the world. This effort too will benefit from insights and scholarship in learning science from MITili and elsewhere.

Integration Across MIT

MIT has engaged in research in education since its very inception. MIT’s founding principle, mens et manus, mind and hand, was revolutionary for its time. More recently, MIT faculty such as Seymour Papert have further refined thinking about learning and pioneered new philosophies such as constructionism, and educational technologies like the programming language Logo. Today, researchers at MIT are addressing learning from a rich variety of perspectives. Some examples include:

  • Professor Mitchell Resnick founded the Lifelong Kindergarten Lab over 20 years ago, and helped create many widely adopted learning systems and technologies such as Scratch, Lego Mindstorm and the Computer Clubhouse. Young people around the world have shared more than 10 million projects on the Scratch website. FIRST Robotics, which itself uses Lego Mindstorm, was co-founded by Professor Woodie Flowers, a professor emeritus at MIT. These efforts continue the constructionist approach to learning at MIT.
  • Professors Joshua Angrist, David Autor, and Parag Pathak have teamed up through the School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative to understand the economics of education, investigating the myriad connections between human capital and income distribution. The research team seeks to strengthen schools and skills through research, taking the guesswork and politics out of the analysis of education policy.
  • Professor Laura Schulz, founder of the Early Childhood Cognition Lab, is approaching research on human cognition through play. Schulz’s PlayLab, an on-site laboratory at the Boston Children’s Museum, examines how the infrastructure of human cognition is constructed during early childhood. Schulz’s team use a variety of approaches, ranging from infant-looking time methods to free-play paradigms, to gain insight into the origins of knowledge and fundamental principles of learning.
  • Researchers in the Gabrieli Lab at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT are examining a range of issues including ADHD, dyslexia, the correlation between test scores and cognitive abilities, the bases of spontaneous thought, and the impact of socio-economic status on brain development. For John Gabrieli, Grover M. Hermann Professor in Health Sciences and Technology, and founding Director of MITili, the last result is “a call to action” for educational and environmental interventions. [1].
[1]. Mackey, A. P., A. S. Finn, J. A. Leonard, D. S. Jacoby-Senghor, M. R. West, C. F. O. Gabrieli, and J. D. E. Gabrieli. “Neuroanatomical Correlates of the Income-Achievement Gap.” Psychological Science (April 20, 2015).

John Gabrieli, Director of MITili

John Gabrieli is the director of the Athinoula A. Martinos Imaging Center at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT. He is an Investigator at the Institute, leading the Gabrieli Laboratory, with faculty appointments in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, where he holds the Grover Hermann Professorship.

Parag Pathak, Deputy Director of MITili

Parag A. Pathak is the Jane Berkowitz Carlton and Dennis William Carlton Professor of Microeconomics at MIT, founding co-director of the NBER Working Group on Market Design, and founder of MIT's School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative (SEII), a laboratory focused on education, human capital, and the income distribution.