My current interests revolve around improving teaching and learning to create better opportunities for learners. To do this, I often take the perspective of the teacher and view him or her as a lever for change.

Making and Learning     As Research Scientist at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, I am studying learning within the MAKESHOP. With Lisa Brahms, the museum’s Director of Research and Learning, I am developing a framework for designing effective makerspaces in libraries and museums ( In addition, I am conducting a study to explore the relationship between time spent making and family learning. Finally, many of us at the MAKESHOP are collectively identifying and refining the practices of ambitious making experiences. You can read about it HERE.

Badging for Learning     For the past two years, I have been a Co-PI on a project studying a badging system in a middle school in the Southeastern United States with Sam Abramovich, Meghan Bathgate and Yoon Jeon Kim. With funding from the Covenant Foundation, we have investigated the role that badges play in promoting interest-based learning and how the badging system provides new information about students for teachers to support student learning and build relationships with students. I have worked with the Labs at the Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh to design badges and a badging infrastructure to supports learners’ motivation and activation pathways.

Data Informed Instruction     I have been studying and working with teachers to better understand how they use student data to tailor instruction to the needs of learners. Phillip Herman and I have worked in a charter school network for the past three years. We are currently revising papers and analyzing data. In addition, Ben Shapiro and I developed a web-based reading-to-learn tool that provides data visualizations for teachers of student thinking about text.

Learning Technologies     In addition to badges and using student data for instruction, I am interested in working with teachers and students to use new (and old) technologies to improve teaching and learning. For example, I have worked with teachers to co-design, technology rich project-based instructional units. With Jolene Zywica, I co-taught a technology class for 9th graders in a Pittsburgh public high school. For the same school, I co-designed a summer robotics project. Although on hiatus, I was working with some really creative folks to develop a tablet-based, participatory assessment tool neatly called, Assessment Democratized.

Organizational Networks for Improvement     Organizational networks have been noted of late as being a potentially powerful organizational arrangement to address complex problems and issues of educational improvement. In particular, organizational networks in education can serve to share knowledge from a variety of contexts and experts, spread novel ideas and exchange resources in an often under-resourced environment. I have worked with the Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching on their developmental evaluation team to study the development of Network Improvement Communities to improve math achievement in developmental education courses. Relatedly, I have worked with Jenn Russell, Louis Gomez and colleagues to develop design considerations for initiating improvement networks.

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