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Oct. 8: Carnegie Mellon Names Leading Education Researcher to Bingham Professorship


Jonathan Potts                       

Carnegie Mellon Names Leading Education
Researcher to Bingham Professorship

PITTSBURGH — Psychologist David Klahr, one of the leading education researchers in the nation, has been named the Walter van Dyke Bingham Professor of Cognitive Development and Education Sciences by Carnegie Mellon University.

Klahr Over the course of his career, Klahr has investigated complex cognitive processes in such diverse areas as voting behavior, college admissions, consumer choice and scientific reasoning. He pioneered the application of computational modeling to questions of cognitive development. His recent research focuses on the cognitive processes that support children's scientific thinking. This includes basic research with pre-school children and applied classroom studies of how to improve the teaching of experimental science in elementary school.  It also examines how to rigorously assess the effectiveness of different teaching methods.

"The decision by my colleagues, my department head, my dean and university administrators that I deserve this high honor is very gratifying, very satisfying and very heartwarming," Klahr said. "This institution has an immensely successful history in knowing how to nurture, support, and facilitate new ideas and programs so as to keep their originators in the place where they first hatched their ideas."

Klahr is one of a growing number of scientists who have made Carnegie Mellon into a leading center of educational research, even though the university has no school of education. In April, Klahr become the first Carnegie Mellon faculty member to be elected to the National Academy of Education. He is the training director of Carnegie Mellon's Program in Interdisciplinary Education Research (PIER), which trains doctoral students from several disciplines to conduct applied educational research. Klahr is also the education director of the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center, a joint venture between Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh that sponsors rigorous research into how people learn and develop innovative learning technologies and strategies.

"As a researcher, David has been a key figure in bringing scientific rigor to the study of teaching and learning strategies, and his work promises to be integral to the future of K-12 education reform," said John Lehoczky, dean of Carnegie Mellon's College of Humanities and Social Sciences. "David also is an excellent teacher and mentor for a new generation of education researchers."

Klahr is an alumnus of Carnegie Mellon, having earned his master's and doctoral degrees from the Graduate School of Industrial Administration - now the Tepper School of Business - in 1965 and 1968, respectively. He previously taught at the University of Chicago. He spent a year as a research fellow at the University of Stirling, Scotland, and a year as a Fulbright lecturer at the London School of Business. He joined the faculty of Carnegie Mellon in 1969, and he was the head of the Psychology Department from 1983 to 1993. Klahr is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, a charter fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and on the governing board of the Cognitive Development Society.

"David is a first-class scientist who does some of the most interesting work on the nature of scientific reasoning.  He is also unique in his effort to translate that work into real-world classroom settings and to get policy makers to take the scientific work into account when formulating national educational policies," said Michael Scheier, head of the Psychology Department at Carnegie Mellon.

In 1915, the late Walter van Dyke Bingham created the Division of Applied Psychology at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (CIT), the predecessor to Carnegie Mellon, at the invitation of the institution's first president, Arthur Hamerschlag. Bingham began a mental testing program of all incoming Carnegie Tech students, including tests of intelligence, language, memory, reasoning, manual dexterity and spatial abilities. His hope was that these data would identify traits and abilities that correlated with success in college and in jobs. Bingham went on to develop tests for the U.S. Army during World War I, eventually producing an IQ test known as the Army Alpha. By the time the war was over, both the public and the profession came to understand that psychology had made valuable contributions to the war effort, and many academic psychologists had their occupational horizons greatly expanded.

Bingham left CIT in 1924 to pursue personnel research in the private sector. During World War II, he served as chief psychologist in the Army Adjutant General's Office. Upon his death in 1952, his widow created the Bingham Lecture Series with funds from his estate. In 1980, these funds were used to establish the Bingham Professorship in the Department of Psychology, which has been held by Charles Kiesler, John Anderson and Jay McClelland.