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Who We Are Allan Collins


Ph.D., Psychology, University of Michigan, 1970.

M.A., Communication Sciences, University of Michigan, 1962.

B.B.A., Accounting, University of Michigan, 1959.

Allan Collins
Northwestern University's Web site

Professor Emeritus, Northwestern University, 2005-present.

Visiting Senior Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2005-2006.

Visiting Scholar, Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2001-2005.

Research Professor, School of Education, Boston College, 1998-2002.

Professor, Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University, 1989-2005.

Principal Scientist, BBN Technologies, 1982-2000.

Co-Director, OERI's Center for Technology in Education, 1991-1994.

Senior Scientist, BBN Corporation, 1967-1982.


National Academy of Education

Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence

American Men and Women of Science

Who's Who in America

Who's Who in American Education

Who's Who in Science and Engineering

Who's Who in Technology Today

Guggenheim Fellowship, 1974

Sloan Fellowship, University of California, Berkeley, 1980

Editor, Cognitive Science, 1976-1980

Editorial Board, Discourse Processes, 1977-1987

Editorial Board, Cognitive Science, 1980-2000

Editorial Board, Cognition and Instruction, 1981-present

Editorial Board, Interactive Learning Environments, 1989-1993

Editorial Board, Journal of the Learning Sciences, 1990-present

Board of Reviewing Editors, Educational Researcher, 1986-1989

Chairman, Cognitive Science Society, 1979-1980

Member of the Board, Cognitive Science Society, 1979-1987


Dr. Collins is best known in psychology for his work on semantic memory and mental models, in artificial intelligence for his work on plausible reasoning and intelligent tutoring systems, and in education for his work on inquiry teaching, cognitive apprenticeship, situated learning, epistemic games, and systemic validity in educational testing.

At BBN Dr. Collins' reaction-time experiments with Dr. M. R. Quillian at BBN on human question-answering provided a new experimental approach for psychologists to investigate semantic information processing. This research launched the now extensive research on semantic memory in psychology.

From 1970 to 1975 Dr. Collins directed a project with the late Dr. Jaime Carbonell on the SCHOLAR CAI system. SCHOLAR was the first example of an intelligent tutoring system, where knowledge was structured like human memory so that it could be used in a variety of ways. On this project Dr. Collins developed techniques for analyzing human dialogues to determine how human tutoring and inferential question-answering strategies could be embedded in SCHOLAR.

From 1975-1979 Dr. Collins directed a project to develop an intelligent tutoring system (WHY system) that used a Socratic (or inquiry) method for tutoring causal knowledge and reasoning. In conjunction with this project he developed a formal theory of Socratic tutoring in computational form, derived from analyses of a variety of inquiry teaching dialogues.

From 1980-1988, Dr. Collins directed a project to study people's mental models of complex systems for the Office of Naval Research. This project attempted to determine the different kinds of models people have of systems, and how understanding of such systems can best be taught.

With Jan Hawkins, Dr. Collins co-directed from 1991-1994 the Center for Technology in Education centered at Bank Street College of Education, for which he conducted research to evaluate the use of technology in schools and to develop a technology-based system for assessing student performance.

From 1992-1995 Dr. Collins worked on the Co-NECT School project for the New American Schools Development Corporation. The project’s goal, which is ongoing, is to design a school for the twenty-first century and to implement the design in a number of sites around the country. Dr. Collins was in charge of the assessment effort for the project for the first three years, which implemented a system based on portfolios and performance assessments for accountability purposes.

From 1995-1999, Dr. Collins co-directed a project to work with the Department of Defense Overseas Schools to develop a plan to infuse technology into their curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment practices. He also directed an Army Research Institute project on expert approaches to analyzing complex problems.


Retrieval Time from Semantic Memory (with M. R. Quillian). Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 1969, 8, 240-247. (Citation classic.)

A Spreading Activation Theory of Semantic Processing (with E. F. Loftus). Psychological Review, 1975, 82, 407-428. (Citation classic.).

Multiple Conceptual Models of a Complex System (with A. Stevens). In R. Snow, P. Federico, & W. Montague (Eds.), Aptitude learning and instruction: Cognitive processing analysis. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1980, 177-197.

A Cognitive Theory of Inquiry Teaching. (with A. Stevens). In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional design theories and models: An overview. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1983, 247-278.

Cognitive Apprenticeship: Teaching Students the Crafts of Reading, Writing and Mathematics. (with J.S. Brown & S. E. Newman). In L.B. Resnick (Ed.) Knowing, Learning, and Instruction: Essays in Honor of Robert Glaser. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1989, 453-494.

Situated Cognition and the Culture of Learning (with J.S. Brown & P. Duguid). Educational Researcher, 1989, 18(1), 32-42.

Multiple Models of Evaporation Process (with D. Gentner). In D. S. Weld & J. DeKleer (Eds.), Readings in Qualitative Reasoning about Systems. San Mateo, CA: Morgan Kaufmann, 1990, 508-512.

The Role of Computer Technology in Restructuring Schools. Phi Delta Kappan, September 1991, 73(1), 28-36.

Epistemic Forms and Epistemic Games: Structures and Strategies for Guiding Inquiry (with W. Ferguson). Educational Psychologist, 28(1),25-42, 1993.

Bielaczyc, K. & Collins, A. (1999) Learning communities in classrooms: A reconceptualization of educational practice. In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.): Instructional-design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory (pp. 269-292). Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

The Role of Different Media in Designing Learning Environments (with P. Neville & K. Bielaczyc). International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education. 2000,11,144-162.

Collins, A. Joseph, D. & Bielaczyc, K. (2004) Design research: Theoretical and methodological issues. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 13(1), 15-42.

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