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Sept. 11: U.S. Department of Education Renews Carnegie Mellon Grant To Continue Improving Education Research


Shilo Raube            

U.S. Department of Education Renews Carnegie Mellon Grant
To Continue Improving Education Research

The Multi-million Dollar Award Reflects Carnegie Mellon's Well-documented Success
In Interdisciplinary Training in the Education Sciences

PITTSBURGH—The U.S. Department of Education has renewed Carnegie Mellon University's Program in Interdisciplinary Education Research (PIER) for $4.5 million over the next five years. PIER began five years ago with a multi-million dollar grant to train doctoral students from several disciplines, including psychology, computer science, philosophy and statistics, to conduct applied educational research. The grant was renewed based on PIER's overwhelming success in engaging many of Carnegie Mellon's top researchers in the development and administration of the program, in implementing a scientifically-based and rigorous training curriculum, in recruiting and training excellent doctoral students, and in mentoring the next generation of education research leaders.
"Since 2004, we've demonstrated that Carnegie Mellon is the ideal context for this kind of innovative, interdisciplinary program," said Psychology Professor David Klahr, PIER's director. "We've built a vibrant interdisciplinary education research community with a focus on cognition and student learning, math and science education, and education technology. PIER training goes beyond the traditional experimental design and statistics taught within our departmental Ph.D. programs and emphasizes the use of cognitive modeling, process-tracing tools and advanced statistical techniques for complex data sets."
The grant is part of a series of initiatives by the Education Department and its Institute for Education Science (IES) to develop research-based education programs and teaching strategies that will help K-12 schools improve student achievement. Part of the IES's Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training Program in the Education Sciences, the renewal of the PIER grant will support an additional 15 to 20 doctoral students at Carnegie Mellon who are interested in pursuing careers in educational research.  As part of their training, the students take several PIER courses and engage in several PIER projects, above and beyond their departmental requirements, with a focus on conducting research in schools to help close the gap between the results of laboratory studies and actual classroom experience.
Matt Easterday, a Ph.D. student in the Human Computer Interaction Institute (HCII), has been part of PIER since its inception. His dissertation is on a cognitive training game that teaches students about policy and politics. "PIER is great because you can do whatever kind of research you're interested in across different departments, but you're still part of a solid community working to improve education."
PIER continues to attract students with impressive credentials, including first-year student Karrie Godwin, a psychology Ph.D. student with a master's degree in human development and psychology from Harvard. "I've been in separate Psychology and Education departments before, and sometimes the processes and methodologies would differ," she said. "What excited me about PIER was being in a room full of people who share the same goals and visions."
In addition to Klahr, PIER is led by Associate Program Director Sharon M. Carver (Psychology Department and the Children's School) and steering committee members Vincent Aleven (HCII), Dennis Epple (Economics), Brian Junker (Statistics), Ken Koedinger (HCII and Psychology), Marsha Lovett (Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Psychology), Brian MacWhinney (Psychology), Jack Mostow (Robotics and HCII), Richard Scheines (Philosophy and Machine Learning) and Robert Siegler (Psychology). For more information, visit