As a learning scientist, Manu makes a commitment not only to advancing understanding of human learning, but doing so in ways that make an impact in the actual ecologies of learning.

Manu Kapur is currently the Director of the Singapore-ETH Center, and Professor for Learning Sciences and Higher Education at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, where he also directs The Future Learning Initiative (FLI). Manu is also the Founding Chair of the ETH Zurich – EPFL Joint Doctoral Program in the Learning Sciences.

Prior to this, Manu was a Professor of Psychological Studies at the Education University of Hong Kong. Manu also worked at the National Institute of Education (NIE/NTU) of Singapore as the Head of the Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Department, as well as the Head of the Learning Sciences Lab (LSL).

A mechanical engineer by bachelors training, Manu has always been passionate about mathematics. He taught college mathematics for four years, during which he was also the deputy leader for Singapore’s team to the 43rd International Mathematical Olympiad in Glasgow. It was then that his intrigue for mathematical cognition took root, which led him to pursue a doctoral degree in the science of learning (specialization in instructional technology) at Columbia University in New York. Manu holds a double Masters: a Master of Science in Applied Statistics from Columbia University in New York, and a Master of Education from the NIE, Singapore.

As a learning scientist, Manu makes a commitment not only to advancing understanding of human learning, but doing so in ways that make an impact in the actual ecologies of learning. Drawing on his engineering mindset for design, Manu conceptualized and developed the theory of Productive Failure to design for and bootstrap failure for learning mathematics better. He has done extensive work in real-field ecologies of STEM classrooms to transform teaching and learning using his theory of productive failure across a range of schools and universities in around the world.

His research on Productive Failure has been taken up by the Singapore’s Ministry of Education for wide-scale re-design and implementation of its pre-university mathematics (statistics) curriculum and pedagogy. This demonstrated Manu’s ability to build and sustain a high-quality, interdisciplinary scientific research program and work with multiple stakeholders (politicians, policy makers, funding bodies, schools) to impact not only theory but also policy and practice at the national scale.

Manu’s research has attracted high profile media interest (e.g., TIME Magazine, NZZ, WEF, THE AUSTRALIAN, THE STRAITS TIMES, THE TIMES OF INDIA, The CONVERSATION, NZZ, etc.) and approximately US$13m in research funding. Early in his academic career, Manu also directed a $50m interactive and digital media R&D program at the Ministry of Education of Singapore to jumpstart interdisciplinary research on interactive and digital media in education in Singapore.

Manu has been awarded visiting professorships at top universities in Europe, Australia and Japan, and invited to major international government and advisory boards (e.g., Singapore Ministry of Education, Program for International Student Assessment run by the OECD on Assessment of 21st Century Skills).

Manu is a prolific keynote speaker at high-profile conferences and events around the world (e.g., The ROYAL SOCIETY UK, USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and India). He has also served as an associate editor for two of the leading journals, and has published in the most prestigious journals in the field of the learning and the cognitive sciences.

Speech topics

Manu Kapur delivers highly focused keynote talks that are focused on three broad themes: The Learning Series, The Failure Series  and The AI Series...

The Failure Series

1. Learning through Productive Failure

Explore the concept of productive failure and its impact on deep learning and innovation. This talk discusses how deliberately designing for and bootstrapping failure can lead to deeper understanding, greater resilience, and more innovative solutions.

2. How Failure Drives Learning in Systems

Delve into how failure drives learning across various technical and social systems. This talk examines case studies from diverse fields, highlighting how failures contribute to growth, adaptation, and long-term success. Understand the systemic benefits of embracing and analyzing failures.

3. From Failure to Innovation

Understand the crucial role of failure in the processes of creativity and innovation. This talk emphasizes the importance of taking on challenges beyond one’s capabilities, developing persistence, and iterative experimentation in achieving breakthroughs. Take a look into the scientific mechanisms underlying creativity and innovation, with practical insights for enhancing personal creativity and overcoming mental blocks.

4. Leading Through Failure

Explore how leaders can deliberately design for and use failure to drive organizational innovation and success. Understand strategies for designing for failure, fostering a culture of experimentation and psychological safety, and leading organizations through uncertainty by embracing and learning from failures.

5. Emotions in Failure and Learning

(This talk can be a more general talk in the Learning Series too)

Investigate the critical role emotions play in the learning process, particularly in the context of failure. This talk explores how emotional responses to failure can either hinder or enhance learning and development. Learn strategies to manage emotions, build emotional resilience, and create supportive learning environments that turn failures into valuable experiences.

The Learning Series

1. How we learn and grow

An intuitive and compelling exploration of the key findings from various interdisciplinary fields that revolutionize how we think about our learning and growth. Explore a wide array of fields including anthropology, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, computer science, engineering, and education to unpack the fundamental principles of learning and growth, and practical strategies for deploying them.

2. Building High-Performing AND High-Learning Teams

Discover the secrets behind successful team dynamics and the power of collective intelligence. Understand the importance of diversity, communication, and leadership in fostering innovation and productivity within teams. Learn when, how and why groups can achieve greater learning and problem-solving capabilities than individuals through effective collaboration.

3. Embodied Learning: Learning is thinking AND moving in new ways

Explore the concept of embodied learning and its implications for learning. Examine when, how and why physical activity, sensory experiences, and bodily engagement can enhance deep learning. Discover innovative methods to integrate embodied learning into various learning and growth contexts.

4. Assessment for and of Learning

Explore the latest techniques and technologies for measuring and assessing learning processes and outcomes. This talk covers assessment methods, innovative approaches such as formative assessment and learning analytics, and the role of AI in providing personalized feedback and insights into learner progress.

5. Developing Adaptive Expertise

What does it mean to become an expert in a domain? What does the science of expertise say about the process of developing expertise. This talk clarifies the nature of expertise, the role of deliberate practice, and the cognitive and motivational factors that contribute to achieving mastery. Learn practical strategies for accelerating the journey from novice to expert.

The A.I. Series

1. The Future of Learning: The AI Turn

(An accompanying talk looks at the Future of Work and how to prepare for it)

An examination of how emerging technologies are transforming learning. Topics include personalized learning paths, adaptive learning systems, and the potential for AI to create more engaging and effective learning experiences.

2. AI and what it means to be Human

A broad exploration of the impact of artificial intelligence on what it means to be human. This talk covers how AI can enhance the creative processes, the potential for human-AI collaboration, and the broader implications of AI on work, ethics, and the human experience.

Manu Kapur can also craft long-form / consulting and advisory projects, focused on...


Productive Failure: Unlocking Deeper Learning Through the Science of Failing

Design for and turn your failures into meaningful learning experiences.

Request booking info