Skip to main content

Education experts tackle evidence, equality at Yidan Prize Conference at Northwestern

Yidan Prize winner Larry Hedges announces new center to drive transformation in education research
Yidan Prize conference
Northwestern University Professor Larry Hedges announced the creation of the STEPP Center at the Yidan Prize Conference Series: The Americas.

Northwestern University Professor Larry Hedges, a founding father of meta-analysis in education, recently laid plans for the transformation of education systems, in the U.S. and globally, at the Yidan Prize Conference Series: The Americas

Winner of the 2018 Yidan Prize for Research and co-host of the conference, Hedges announced the creation of the Statistics for Evidence-Based Policy and Practice Center(STEPP Center), founded to shepherd in a new era in education, in which policies and practices are based on scientific evidence instead of “tradition, politics, personal experience and prejudices.” 

“The challenge of education in the 21st century is similar to the challenge to improve medicine in the 20th century,” Hedges said, speaking before an international collection of researchers, students, advocates and policymakers gathered at the Kellogg Global Hub.

“In 1890, the average life expectancy for a white male in the U.S. was about 38. By 1990, life expectancy had doubled. This happened because we developed a scientific basis that is used throughout the world for medical care today,” Hedges said. “In medicine, that transformation occurred over the course of a century; the transformation in education can happen much more quickly if we take control of our own evolution.”

Themed “The Future of Evidence and Innovation in Education,” the two-day Yidan Prize conference featured Wendy Kopp, co-founder and CEO of Teach For All and founder of Teach For America, and a diverse array of experts from leading universities, research firms and nonprofit organizations. It also featured the 2018 Yidan Prize Laureates, Hedges and Anant Agarwal, winner of the 2018 Yidan Prize for Education Development and founder and CEO of edX. 

The largest education prize in the world, the Yidan Prize includes an award of approximately $3.9 million. Half of this amount is a cash prize, and the other half is designated as a project fund. Hedges will utilize the Yidan Prize to help transform education through the STEPP Center within Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research (IPR).  

The STEPP Center will focus on developing and assessing methods for generating, synthesizing and translating evidence to improve policy and practice. Its first priority will be creating a “science of translation” to bridge the gap between researchers and practitioners.  

“How practitioners think and what they need from us as a community should have downstream implications for how we synthesize and generate evidence,” explained IPR fellow and professor Elizabeth Tipton, who will co-direct the new center with Hedges.   

Northwestern President Morton Schapiro, along with Yidan Founder Charles Chen Yidan, offered opening remarks at the conference.  

“So many people share the dream of making the world a better place through education, and the vision and commitment of the Yidan Prize is allowing us to take real action,” Schapiro said.

This is the first year Northwestern has hosted a gathering of the Yidan Prize Conference Series, which occurs annually following the presentation of the prize in Hong Kong. The conference travels to multiple continents to highlight the work of the laureates and explore new directions for education research and innovation.  

“The Yidan Prize is not only just an award, but also an international platform,” Chen said. “The more I participate in facilitating innovative education, the more I feel the need to create a global platform that encourages the cutting-edge, cross-sector exchange of ideas and collaboration.”

To learn more about Yidan Prize and the Yidan Prize Conference Series, please visit