A member of the SUSE faculty since 2000, Dr. Schwartz studies student understanding and representation and the ways that technology can facilitate learning. He works at the intersection of cognitive science, computer science, and education, examining cognition and instruction in individual, cross-cultural, and technological settings. A theme throughout Dr. Schwartz's research is how people's facility for spatial thinking can inform and influence processes of learning, instruction, assessment and problem solving. He finds that new media make it possible to exploit spatial representations and activities in fundamentally new ways, offering an exciting complement to the verbal approaches that dominate educational research and practice.

Academic Appointments

Administrative Appointments

  • Professor of Education, Stanford Graduate School of Education (2000 - Present)
  • I. James Quillen Dean, Stanford Graduate School of Education (2015 - Present)

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations

  • Assistant and Associate Professor of Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University (2018 - Present)
  • Programmer & Instructor in Lisp, C, & Assembler, . (2018 - Present)
  • Research Scientist, Learning Technology Center at Vanderbilt (2018 - Present)
  • Teacher of Mathematics, Kitiwanga Day School, Kitiwanga, Kenya (2018 - Present)
  • Teacher of Mathematics, Science, Reading and Language Arts, Kaltag Jr. & Sr. High Schools, Kaltag, AK (2018 - Present)
  • Teacher of Remedial Reading and Writing, John Muir Jr. High, Los Angeles, CA (2018 - Present)

Program Affiliations

  • Symbolic Systems Program

Professional Education

  • PhD, Columbia University, Human Cognition and Learning (1992)
  • MA, Columbia University, Computers and Education (1988)
  • BA, Swarthmore College, Philosophy and Anthropology (1979)
  • Teaching Certificate, University of Southern California (1981)

Research Interests

  • Assessment, testing and measurement
  • Brain and Learning Sciences
  • Data Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Technology and Education

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Instructional methods, transfer of learning and assessment, mathematical development, teachable agents, cognition, and cognitive neuroscience.


  • Research on the benefits of informal learning for subsequent school-based instruction


    United States

  • Serving on the National Academy of Sciences committee to write How People Learn II


    United States

  • Designing Contrasting Cases for Inductive Learning (2014 - 2017)

    Principal Investigator, Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences grant, Designing Contrasting Cases for Inductive Learning


    United States

2019-20 Courses

Stanford Advisees

  • Doctoral Dissertation Reader (AC)
    Richard Davis, Xavier Monroe
  • Doctoral Dissertation Advisor (AC)
    Katie Cheng, Ana Saavedra
  • Doctoral (Program)
    Katie Cheng, Ethan Roy, Ana Saavedra

All Publications

  • The impact of critical feedback choice on students' revision, performance, learning, and memory COMPUTERS IN HUMAN BEHAVIOR Cutumisu, M., Schwartz, D. L. 2018; 78: 351–67
  • Assessing Whether Students Seek Constructive Criticism: The Design of an Automated Feedback System for a Graphic Design Task INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN EDUCATION Cutumisu, M., Blair, K. P., Chin, D. B., Schwartz, D. L. 2017; 27 (3): 419–47
  • A comparison of two methods of active learning in physics: inventing a general solution versus compare and contrast INSTRUCTIONAL SCIENCE Chin, D. B., Chi, M., Schwartz, D. L. 2016; 44 (2): 177-195
  • The ABCs of how we learn: 26 scientifically proven approaches, how they work, and when to use them Schwartz, D. L., Tsang, J. M., Blair, K. P. WW Norton & Company. 2016
  • Learning as coordination: Cognitive psychology and education Handbook of educational psycholog Schwartz, D. 2016
  • Preparation for future learning: a missing competency in health professions education? MEDICAL EDUCATION Mylopoulos, M., Brydges, R., Woods, N. N., Manzone, J., Schwartz, D. L. 2016; 50 (1): 115-123


    Evidence suggests that clinicians may not be learning effectively from all facets of their practice, potentially because their training has not fully prepared them to do so. To address this gap, we argue that there is a need to identify systems of instruction and assessment that enhance clinicians' 'preparation for future learning'. Preparation for future learning (PFL) is understood to be the capacity to learn new information, to use resources effectively and innovatively, and to invent new strategies for learning and problem solving in practice.Education researchers have developed study designs that use dynamic assessments to measure what trainees have acquired in the past, as well as what they are able to learn in the present. More recently, researchers have also started to emphasise and measure whether and how trainees take action to gain the information they need to learn. Knowing that there are study designs and emerging metrics for assessing PFL, the next question is how to design instruction that helps trainees develop PFL capacities. Although research evidence is still accumulating, the current evidence base suggests training that encourages 'productive failure' through guided discovery learning (i.e. where trainees solve problems and perform tasks without direct instruction, though often with some form of feedback) creates challenging conditions that enhance learning and equip trainees with PFL-related behaviours.Preparation for future learning and the associated capacity of being adaptive as one learns in and from training and clinical practice have been missed in most contemporary training and assessment systems. We propose a research agenda that (i) explores how real-world adaptive expert activity unfolds in the health care workplace to inform the design of instruction for developing PFL, (ii) identifies measures of behaviours that relate to PFL, and (iii) addresses potential sociocultural barriers that limit clinicians' opportunities to learn from their daily practice.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/medu.12893

    View details for Web of Science ID 000367296900017

    View details for PubMedID 26695471

  • Learning to "See" Less Than Nothing: Putting Perceptual Skills to Work for Learning Numerical Structure COGNITION AND INSTRUCTION Tsang, J. M., Blair, K. P., Bofferding, L., Schwartz, D. L. 2015; 33 (2): 154-197
  • Seeking the General Explanation: A Test of Inductive Activities for Learning and Transfer JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN SCIENCE TEACHING Shemwell, J. T., Chase, C. C., Schwartz, D. L. 2015; 52 (1): 58-83

    View details for DOI 10.1002/tea.21185

    View details for Web of Science ID 000347067700004

  • Seeking the general explanation: A test of inductive activities for learning and transfer Journal of Research in Science Teaching Shemwell, J. T., Chase, C. C., Schwartz, D. L. 2015; 52 (1): 58-83
  • Posterlet: A game-based assessment of children's choices to seek feedback and to revise Journal of Learning Analytics Cutumisu, M., Blair, K. P., Chin, D. B., Schwartz, D. L. 2015; 2 (1): 49-71
  • Learning to “see” less than nothing: Putting perceptual skills to work for learning numerical structure Cognition and Instruction Tsang, J. M., Blair, K. P., Bofferding, L., Schwartz, D. L. 2015; 33 (2): 154-197
  • Experience and Explanation: Using Videogames to Prepare Students for Formal Instruction in Statistics JOURNAL OF SCIENCE EDUCATION AND TECHNOLOGY Arena, D. A., Schwartz, D. L. 2014; 23 (4): 538-548
  • Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY-LEARNING MEMORY AND COGNITION Oppezzo, M., Schwartz, D. L. 2014; 40 (4): 1142-1152


    Four experiments demonstrate that walking boosts creative ideation in real time and shortly after. In Experiment 1, while seated and then when walking on a treadmill, adults completed Guilford's alternate uses (GAU) test of creative divergent thinking and the compound remote associates (CRA) test of convergent thinking. Walking increased 81% of participants' creativity on the GAU, but only increased 23% of participants' scores for the CRA. In Experiment 2, participants completed the GAU when seated and then walking, when walking and then seated, or when seated twice. Again, walking led to higher GAU scores. Moreover, when seated after walking, participants exhibited a residual creative boost. Experiment 3 generalized the prior effects to outdoor walking. Experiment 4 tested the effect of walking on creative analogy generation. Participants sat inside, walked on a treadmill inside, walked outside, or were rolled outside in a wheelchair. Walking outside produced the most novel and highest quality analogies. The effects of outdoor stimulation and walking were separable. Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.

    View details for DOI 10.1037/a0036577

    View details for Web of Science ID 000337803400015

    View details for PubMedID 24749966

  • A pragmatic perspective on visual representation and creative thinking VISUAL STUDIES Martin, L., Schwartz, D. L. 2014; 29 (1): 80-93
  • Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking. Journal of experimental psychology: learning, memory, and cognition Oppezzo, M., Schwartz, D. L. 2014; 40 (4): 1142
  • Experience and explanation: Using videogames to prepare students for formal instruction in statistics Journal of Science Education and Technology Arena, D. A., Schwartz, D. L. 2014; 23 (4): 538-548
  • Learning by Teaching Human Pupils and Teachable Agents: The Importance of Recursive Feedback JOURNAL OF THE LEARNING SCIENCES Okita, S. Y., Schwartz, D. L. 2013; 22 (3): 375-412
  • Young Children Can Learn Scientific Reasoning with Teachable Agents IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON LEARNING TECHNOLOGIES Chin, D. B., Dohmen, I. M., Schwartz, D. L. 2013; 6 (3): 248-257
  • Applying Cognitive Developmental Psychology to Middle School Physics Learning: The Rule Assessment Method Physics Education Research Conference on Cultural Perspectives on Learners' Performance and Identity in Physics Hallinen, N. R., Chi, M., Chin, D. B., Prempeh, J., Blair, K. P., Schwartz, D. L. AMER INST PHYSICS. 2013: 158–161

    View details for DOI 10.1063/1.4789676

    View details for Web of Science ID 000315023900039

  • Learning by teaching human pupils and teachable agents: The importance of recursive feedback Journal of the Learning Sciences Okita, S. Y., Schwartz, D. L. 2013; 22 (3): 375-412
  • How Perception and Culture Give Rise to Abstract Mathematical Concepts in Individuals International handbook of research on conceptual change Blair, K. P., Tsang, I. M., Schwartz, D. L. 2013: 322
  • A behavior change perspective on self-regulated learning with teachable agents International handbook of metacognition and learning technologies Oppezzo, M., Schwartz, D. L. Springer. 2013: 485–500
  • Measuring what matters most: Choice-based assessments for the digital age Schwartz, D. L., Arena, D. MIT Press. 2013
  • Beyond natural numbers: negative number representation in parietal cortex FRONTIERS IN HUMAN NEUROSCIENCE Blair, K. P., Rosenberg-Lee, M., Tsang, J. M., Schwartz, D. L., Menon, V. 2012; 6


    Unlike natural numbers, negative numbers do not have natural physical referents. How does the brain represent such abstract mathematical concepts? Two competing hypotheses regarding representational systems for negative numbers are a rule-based model, in which symbolic rules are applied to negative numbers to translate them into positive numbers when assessing magnitudes, and an expanded magnitude model, in which negative numbers have a distinct magnitude representation. Using an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging design, we examined brain responses in 22 adults while they performed magnitude comparisons of negative and positive numbers that were quantitatively near (difference <4) or far apart (difference >6). Reaction times (RTs) for negative numbers were slower than positive numbers, and both showed a distance effect whereby near pairs took longer to compare. A network of parietal, frontal, and occipital regions were differentially engaged by negative numbers. Specifically, compared to positive numbers, negative number processing resulted in greater activation bilaterally in intraparietal sulcus (IPS), middle frontal gyrus, and inferior lateral occipital cortex. Representational similarity analysis revealed that neural responses in the IPS were more differentiated among positive numbers than among negative numbers, and greater differentiation among negative numbers was associated with faster RTs. Our findings indicate that despite negative numbers engaging the IPS more strongly, the underlying neural representation are less distinct than that of positive numbers. We discuss our findings in the context of the two theoretical models of negative number processing and demonstrate how multivariate approaches can provide novel insights into abstract number representation.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00007

    View details for Web of Science ID 000301116300001

    View details for PubMedID 22363276

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3277269

  • Resisting Overzealous Transfer: Coordinating Previously Successful Routines With Needs for New Learning EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST Schwartz, D. L., Chase, C. C., Bransford, J. D. 2012; 47 (3): 204-214
  • A value of concrete learning materials in adolescence. The adolescent brain: Learning, reasoning, and decision making Blair, K. P., Schwartz, D. L. American Psychological Association. 2012
  • How to build educational neuroscience: Two approaches with concrete instances BJEP Monograph Series II, Number 8-Educational Neuroscience Schwartz, D. L., Blair, K. F., Tsang, J. J. British Psychological Society. 2012: 9–27
  • The mental representation of integers: An abstract-to-concrete shift in the understanding of mathematical concepts COGNITION Varma, S., Schwartz, D. L. 2011; 121 (3): 363-385


    Mathematics has a level of structure that transcends untutored intuition. What is the cognitive representation of abstract mathematical concepts that makes them meaningful? We consider this question in the context of the integers, which extend the natural numbers with zero and negative numbers. Participants made greater and lesser judgments of pairs of integers. Experiment 1 demonstrated an inverse distance effect: When comparing numbers across the zero boundary, people are faster when the numbers are near together (e.g., -1 vs. 2) than when they are far apart (e.g., -1 vs. 7). This result conflicts with a straightforward symbolic or analog magnitude representation of integers. We therefore propose an analog-x hypothesis: Mastering a new symbol system restructures the existing magnitude representation to encode its unique properties. We instantiate analog-x in a reflection model: The mental negative number line is a reflection of the positive number line. Experiment 2 replicated the inverse distance effect and corroborated the model. Experiment 3 confirmed a developmental prediction: Children, who have yet to restructure their magnitude representation to include negative magnitudes, use rules to compare negative numbers. Taken together, the experiments suggest an abstract-to-concrete shift: Symbolic manipulation can transform an existing magnitude representation so that it incorporates additional perceptual-motor structure, in this case symmetry about a boundary. We conclude with a second symbolic-magnitude model that instantiates analog-x using a feature-based representation, and that begins to explain the restructuring process.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cognition.2011.08.005

    View details for Web of Science ID 000297392400006

    View details for PubMedID 21939966

  • Practicing Versus Inventing With Contrasting Cases: The Effects of Telling First on Learning and Transfer JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY Schwartz, D. L., Chase, C. C., Oppezzo, M. A., Chin, D. B. 2011; 103 (4): 759-775

    View details for DOI 10.1037/a0025140

    View details for Web of Science ID 000297111000001

  • Prototyping dynamics: sharing multiple designs improves exploration, group rapport, and results Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Schwartz, D. 2011
  • Practicing versus inventing with contrasting cases: The effects of telling first on learning and transfer. Journal of Educational Psychology Schwartz, D. L., Chase, C. C., Oppezzo, M. A., Chin, D. B. 2011; 103 (4): 759
  • Prototyping Dynamics: Sharing Multiple Designs Improves Exploration, Group Rapport, and Results Dow, S. P., Fortuna, J., Schwartz, D., Altringer, B., Schwartz, D. L., Klemmer, S. R., ACM ASSOC COMPUTING MACHINERY. 2011: 2807–16
  • Parallel Prototyping Leads to Better Design Results, More Divergence, and Increased Self-Efficacy ACM TRANSACTIONS ON COMPUTER-HUMAN INTERACTION Dow, S. P., Glassco, A., Kass, J., Schwarz, M., Schwartz, D. L., Klemmer, S. R. 2010; 17 (4)
  • Preparing students for future learning with Teachable Agents ETR&D-EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT Chin, D. B., Dohmen, I. M., Cheng, B. H., Oppezzo, M. A., Chase, C. C., Schwartz, D. L. 2010; 58 (6): 649-669
  • Teachable Agents and the Protege Effect: Increasing the Effort Towards Learning JOURNAL OF SCIENCE EDUCATION AND TECHNOLOGY Chase, C. C., Chin, D. B., Oppezzo, M. A., Schwartz, D. L. 2009; 18 (4): 334-352
  • Spatial Learning and Computer Simulations in Science INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SCIENCE EDUCATION Lindgren, R., Schwartz, D. L. 2009; 31 (3): 419-438
  • Prospective Adaptation in the Use of External Representations COGNITION AND INSTRUCTION Martin, L., Schwartz, D. L. 2009; 27 (4): 370-400
  • How should educational neuroscience conceptualise the relation between cognition and brain function? Mathematical reasoning as a network process EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH Varma, S., Schwartz, D. L. 2008; 50 (2): 149-161
  • Scientific and Pragmatic Challenges for Bridging Education and Neuroscience EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHER Varma, S., McCandliss, B. D., Schwartz, D. L. 2008; 37 (3): 140-152
  • Using hidden Markov models to characterize student behaviors in learning-by-teaching environments 9th International Conference on Intelligent Tutoring Systems Jeong, H., Gupta, A., Roscoe, R., Wagster, J., Biswas, G., Schwartz, D. SPRINGER-VERLAG BERLIN. 2008: 614–625
  • Bringing CBLEs into classrooms: Experiences with the Betty's Brain system 8TH IEEE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ADVANCED LEARNING TECHNOLOGIES, PROCEEDINGS Wagster, J., Kwong, H., Segedy, J., Biswas, G., Schwartz, D. 2008: 252-?
  • Young children's understanding of animacy and entertainment robots INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HUMANOID ROBOTICS Okita, S. Y., Schwartz, D. L. 2006; 3 (3): 393-412
  • How Mathematics Propels the Development of Physical Knowledge JOURNAL OF COGNITION AND DEVELOPMENT Schwartz, D. L., Martin, T., Pfaffman, J. 2005; 6 (1): 65-88
  • Designs for knowledge evolution: Towards a prescriptive theory for integrating first- and second-hand knowledge Symposium on Cognition, Education and Communication Technology Schwartz, D. L., Martin, T., Nasir, N. LAWRENCE ERLBAUM ASSOC PUBL. 2005: 21–54
  • Inventing to prepare for future learning: The hidden efficiency of encouraging original student production in statistics instruction COGNITION AND INSTRUCTION Schwartz, D. L., Martin, T. 2004; 22 (2): 129-184
  • Milo and J-mole: Computers as constructivist teachable agents 6th International Conference of the Learning Sciences Blair, K. P., Schwartz, D. L. LAWRENCE ERLBAUM ASSOC PUBL. 2004: 588–588
  • Developing learning by teaching environments that support self-regulated learning 7th International Conference on Intelligent Tutoring Systems Biswas, G., Leelawong, K., Belynne, K., Viswanath, K., Schwartz, D., Davis, J. SPRINGER-VERLAG BERLIN. 2004: 730–740
  • Tool use and the effect of action on the imagination JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY-LEARNING MEMORY AND COGNITION Schwartz, D. L., Holton, D. L. 2000; 26 (6): 1655-1665


    Three studies examined the claim that hand movements can facilitate imagery for object rotations but that this facilitation depends on people's model of the situation. In Experiment 1, physically turning a block without vision reduced mental rotation times compared with imagining the same rotation without bodily movement. In Experiment 2, pulling a string from a spool facilitated participants' mental rotation of an object sitting on the spool. In Experiment 3, depending on participants' model of the spool, the exact same pulling movement facilitated or interfered with the exact same imagery transformation. Results of Experiments 2 and 3 indicate that the geometric characteristics of an action do not specify the trajectory of an imagery transformation. Instead, they point to people's ability to model the tools that mediate between motor activity and its environmental consequences and to transfer tool knowledge to a new situation.

    View details for DOI 10.1037//0278-7393.26.6.1655

    View details for Web of Science ID 000165492900020

    View details for PubMedID 11185788