Chi awarded the 2019 Rumelhart Prize, ‘the Nobel Prize in Cognitive Science’


Erik Ketcherside

Michelene Chi was named the winner of the 19th David E. Rumelhart Prize in Cognitive Science. Often called “the Nobel Prize in Cognitive Science,” the award is presented annually to an individual or team making a significant contemporary contribution to the theoretical foundations of human cognition.

Michelene Chi

“Micki” Chi is a Foundation Professor and the Dorothy Bray Professor of Science and Teaching at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University, where she has been a faculty member since 2008. She also directs the Learning and Cognition Lab in ASU’s Institute for the Science of Teaching and Learning.

The Rumelhart Prize selection committee comprises distinguished researchers from all parts of the cognitive science field. Robert Glushko, a cognitive science professor at the University of California, Berkeley, heads the Robert J. Glushko and Pamela Samuelson Foundation that funds the award. Glushko said, “The prize ratifies the recipient as having made fundamental contributions to the theoretical foundations of human cognition.” Glushko noted that Chi’s award marks the first time the prize has been given to a researcher in the cognitive science of education.

In announcing the award, the foundation said Chi, “more than once has challenged basic assumptions about the mind and defined new approaches that have shaped a generation of cognitive and learning scientists. Chi’s work has taught us the importance of relating our science to the real world, and specifically to education. She has done so with the rigor of the lab, but without losing sight of the richness of qualitative data, the complexities of real-world content or the social context within which learning typically occurs.”

Carole Basile, dean of Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, said, “We’re thrilled for Micki, and delighted that, for the first time in its 19-year history, this prestigious and meaningful award was bestowed on someone who works in the cognitive science of education.”

“I am delighted that the Rumelhart Prize has expanded to award research in the cognitive science of education,” Chi said. “Being the recipient of this award will provide me the opportunity to promote research in the cognitive science of learning and instruction during my address, as well as the speakers I will invite to my symposium at next year’s Cognitive Science meeting.”

Chi’s most recent research has focused on her ICAP theory, which categorizes learner engagement as interactive, constructive, active or passive. Her work on ICAP was recognized by the American Educational Research Association with a 2016 invitation to be one of only 31 scholars to present as part of AERA’s Ed-Talk video series. That same year, AERA recognized Chi with its Career Award for Distinguished Contributions to Research in Education.

Also in 2016, Chi became one of only 20 ASU faculty members to be named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Established in 1780, the academy is one of oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers in the U.S. AAAS convenes leaders from academia, business and government to respond to challenges facing the nation and the world. Chi was elected to the National Academy of Education in 2010.

The 2019 Rumelhart Prize was announced in July at the annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society in Madison, Wisconsin. Chi will receive the award next July at the CSS gathering in Montreal. Chi will give a lecture there, and the meeting will also feature a symposium in her honor. The Rumelhart Prize includes a hand-crafted bronze medal, a certificate, a citation of the awardee’s contribution and a monetary award of $100,000.

Watch Micki Chi's AERA Ed-Talk, "Engaging Students to Promote Deeper Learning"