The basic research problem CSLP members are addressing is this: How can we enhance the learning and performance of complex cognitive skills in learners of all ages? Education is essentially concerned with the acquisition of complex cognitive and metacognitive skills, and the ability to make proper and innovative use of those skills in a variety of contexts. Unfortunately, our theoretical knowledge of the basic mechanisms involved in complex learning is limited, especially as it relates to the transfer of learned skills to novel situations. Our practical knowledge of skill development is also limited. This is demonstrated by the widespread lack of basic literacy and numeracy skills in many students, by high failure rates in school, by low enrollment and lack of success in the sciences, by and alarming public school dropout rate (e.g., 30% in Québec, 50% in some areas of Montréal; Hrimech et al, 1993), and so on. Our ability to address these problems is further hampered by budgetary constraints which increase the demands placed on educators to accomplish more with less. Yet the need to meet this challenge has never been greater. This has been underlined, for example by calls from business and industry (Conference Board of Canada, 1992) for better educated workforce, one with more varied skills than ever, to meet the new demands of the global economy and the widespread impact of technology on everyday life.
Meeting these challenges requires a multifaceted approach. CSLP research is, therefore, interdisciplinary and includes perspectives from education, cognitive psychology, social psychology, and applied linguistics. The investigators study complex learning in the laboratory and in natural contexts ranging from conventional classrooms to distance learning situations, on the job training , and one-to-one coaching. A variety of skill domains are investigated, including the learning of mathematical skills, using a second language, and musical performance, making it possible to derive important generalizations about learning.