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My research bridges the domains of cognitive development and educational psychology.
In particular, I focus on using models of cognitive skills, such as program debugging or
creating a research report, to design instruction and assessment that will facilitate skill
acquisition and transfer in school contexts. Cognitive theories, such as ACTR and
cognitive apprenticeship, form the basis for the modeling and design efforts, and
cognitive methodologies, such as task analysis and protocol analysis, are the
foundation for my acquisition and transfer studies.

In prior research, I collaborated with teachers in an urban school to design an
innovative curriculum and learning environment for middle school. The curriculum
was interdisciplinary, via extended projects and presentations. The learning
environment consisted of essentially self-contained classes working collaboratively
with adults (teachers, industry volunteers and researchers) who served as facilitators
and coaches. Macintosh computers were used as tools for learning and as the primary
presentation medium. Within this context, we conducted longitudinal studies of the
learning and transfer of research and communication skills using observation, interview,
and protocol analysis techniques.

As director of the Carnegie Mellon Children's School, I am currently combining cognitive
modeling, instructional design and focused assessment to explore how young children's
developing problem solving skills can be enhanced to promote general transfer.
The teachers and I are redesigning our three-year early childhood curriculum and
assessment framework to focus more directly on the cognitive processes and rich
knowledge base that provide an essential foundation for academic success after
kindergarten. These studies of complex skill acquisition and transfer in realistic contexts
help to refine cognitive theories of learning and transfer. In addition, these and other direct
applications of cognitive psychology to education are particularly important in the face of
increasing difficulty experienced by even the youngest children in America's schools.

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