Professor Michelene Chi


Yidan Prize for Education Research




Using the ICAP framework to improve STEMM teaching



Judge's citation

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Professor Michelene Chi

Regents Professor & Dorothy Bray Endowed Professor of Science and Teaching, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State University


Cognitive and learning sciences; Learning strategies; Quantitative analyses of qualitative data

Organizing theories of learning to reshape teaching practice

Professor Michelene (Micki) Chi’s work forms some of the backbone of modern cognitive science. She analyzes and organizes theories about teaching and learning—deepening our understanding of how students learn and offering educators a simple yet practical framework to foster quality engagement in the classroom. 


From her earliest work, Micki’s been putting prevailing wisdom to the test. She contrasted memory and recall in children and adults and problem-solving approaches in experts and novices to rethink ideas about how we learn. Her research into the power of ‘self-explaining’—where students play back ideas to themselves—went on to reveal that what makes tutoring so effective is time spent encouraging students to think aloud. And she set a new standard for analyzing qualitative (or descriptive) data using methods historically reserved for measurable data. 


These developments have culminated in Micki’s groundbreaking theory of cognitive engagement—ICAP. It brings together and explains literature around active learning, resolving conflicts between theories and offering a widely applicable framework for teachers to embed in classroom activities. ICAP, which stands for Interactive, Constructive, Active, and Passive, extends our understanding of learning beyond a simple binary of active vs passive. In doing so, it puts students at the center of learning and offers teachers the tools to help them develop creative and critical thinking. Crucially, it applies at every level from kindergarten to higher education. 


With her prize funds, Micki hopes to further develop the ICAP framework, create training modules to support teachers’ professional development, and to expand the reach of ICAP globally. 

Michelene’s most significant contribution to educational research is a scientific theory of how students learn. She has organized profoundly different approaches to active learning into a simple, yet widely applicable framework—and she’s passionate about ensuring that this theory changes educational practice on the ground.

Andreas Schleicher

Panel Head, Judging Panel for Education Research, Yidan Prize

Featured initiatives

Supported by the Yidan Prize project funds
Using the ICAP framework to improve STEMM teaching

Supporting educators in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine) classrooms to improve learning outcomes.



Meet Professor Michelene Chi


Acceptance Speech


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2023 Yidan Prize


More about Professor Michelene Chi


2023 Yidan Prize for Education Research Laureate