PSLC GradStudents

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The PSLC Graduate Student Body is comprised of students from a variety of departments at both Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, including (but not limited to) Psychology, Human Computer Interaction Institute, Education, Computer Science, Robotics, Statistics, and Linguisitics. Our mission is to fundamentally transform both how findings from laboratory-based research are applied in real world courses, and also to make use of field-based findings to generate new learning science theory. We accomplish these goals in part through utilizing a variety of methodological approaches, including randomized control trials, think aloud protocols, data-mining studies, and in-vivo experiments.

Our Student Body offers a number of different opportunities for participating students, including a Learning Science Certificate Program, a Professional Development seminar, an Early Career Speaker Series, and funding opportunities. Details are provided below.

Our current sitting Student Body Members are:

President: Bryan Matlen,

Vice President: Daniel Belenky,

Wiki Master: Colleen Davy,

iSLC Organizers: Martina Rau & April Gaylhardt,,

Professional Development Series Organizer:

Recruitment Officer:


We're Kind of a Big Deal, here's why:

- Turadg Aleahmad and Nora Presson have recently completed their Ph.D.'s !! Congrats!

- This year's AERA Best Student Paper award goes to Michael Sao Pedro (Worcestor Polytechnic Institute). His paper, titled “Assessing the Learning and Transfer of Data Collection Inquiry Skills Using Educational Data Mining on Students’ Log Files” was co-authored with Janice D. Gobert, and Ryan S.J.d. Baker.

- Bryan Matlen and Martina Rau have a cross-center collaboration with SILC that has resulted in a paper. This paper was just accepted to the Spatial Cognition conference.

Matlen, B.J., Atit, K., Göksun, T., Rau, M. A., & Ptouchkina, M. (accepted). Representing space: Exploring the relationship between gesturing and children's geoscience understanding. In K. Schill, C. Stachniss, D. Uttal (Eds.), Proceedings of the Annual Spatial Cognition Conference.

More Grad Info:

- Find a full list of PSLC grads, here List of PSLC Grads

  • If you know of someone who should be added (or deleted) from this list please e-mail the webmaster at Alternatively, feel free to go in and update the list yourself!
  • If you can think of information that you would like listed on the Wiki page, or have suggestions on how to improve it, please e-mail Colleen Davy at and let her know.

Early Career Speaker Series


The Early Career Speaker Series is a talk series specifically targeting researchers who are early in their careers (i.e., students who are senior in their programs, post-docs, or even recently appointed faculty). The PSLC grad students invite two speakers a year to visit the PSLC and present their research. The goals of the speaker series are to 1) increase our awareness of how other learning science researchers approach the learning sciences, and 2) to prompt cross-center collaborations.


Speakers are nominated internally by the PSLC graduate students once a semester. The nominator of the successful candidate serves as the speaker's student host, and organizes their schedule, which includes individual meetings with both students and interested faculty, a research talk, and a dinner.

Interested in being a Speaker?

If you are a researcher early in your career and you are interested in presenting your research to the PSLC, please email a student contact or the current PSLC Grad Student President expressing your interest. Please provide a brief description of your work and attach relevant publications (or works in progress) in the email.

Prior speakers have included: Micah Goldwater (SILC)

LearnLab Graduate Certificate in the Learning Sciences


The LearnLab Graduate Certificate in the Learning Sciences is an optional certificate that a) provides documentation of participation in the PSLC, b) ensures competence in conducting learning science research, and c) comes with a letter of recommendation from the LearnLab executive committee. The overarching goal of a LearnLab Learning Sciences certificate is to enhance the competitiveness of LearnLab graduates when they go on the job market, especially for individuals applying to work in Dept’s of Education and/or Learning Sciences. To this end, the certificate aims to promote competence in four broad categories of the Learning Sciences that are likely to be valued by hiring committees:

1) Coursework

2) Teaching

3) Professional Development

4) Research

In addition to completing requirements in each of these four categories (detailed below), the student is required to write a short summary on his/her LearnLab experiences.

1) Coursework

To fulfill coursework requirement, students will pass one course in each of three categories: statistics, methodology, and learning science elective. The student is required to receive grade of at least a B in each of these courses, and the student may not receive a B or less in more than one of the courses. The courses listed below are already approved by the EC as satisfying this requirement.


___ Basic Applied Statistics or Applied Statistical Methods (Pitt Psych)

___ Experimental Design for the Behavorial and Social Sciences (CMU Statistics)

___ Language and Statistics (CMU LTI)

Research Methods:

___ Educational Research Methods (CMU Psych & HCII)

___ Design of Educational Systems (Pitt LSAP)

___ Educational Goals, Instruction, & Assessment (CMU Psych)

___ Research Methods in Applied Linguistics (Pitt Linguistics)


___ Transfer of Knowledge (Pitt Psych)

___ Second Language Acquisition (Psych Linguistics)

___ Scientific Research in Education (CMU Psych)

___ Cognitive Modeling and Intelligent Tutoring Systems (CMU HCII)

___ Applications of Cognitive Science (CMU Psych)

___ Learning in Humans and Machines (CMU Psych)

___ Applied Machine Learning (CMU HCII)

___ Human Expertise (CMU Psych)

___ The Role of Technology in Learning in the 21st century (CMU HCII)

___ Information Processing and Learning (CMU Machine Learning)

___ Learning and Motivation (CMU HCII)

___ Educational Game Design (CMU HCII)

___ Machine Learning (CMU Machine Learning)

2) Teaching Requirement

To fulfill the teaching requirement, students will TA or teach one of the courses listed in the Coursework Requirement section (the course can be in any category). Additionally, the following undergraduate courses would be acceptable to TA or teach. NOTE: The TA position must include a substantial teaching component in the form of giving a lecture or leading a recitation; it cannot be comprised solely of grading duties.

___ Cognitive Psychology (CMU or Pitt Psych)

___ Developmental Psychology (CMU or Pitt Psych)

___ Principles of Child Development (CMU Psych)

___ Cognitive Development (CMU Psych)

___ Intro to Psychology

___ Applications of Linguistics (Pitt Psych)

___ Complex Learning (Pitt Psych)

___ Learning and Problem Solving (Pitt Psych)

___ Human Cogn: Learning & Memory (Pitt Psych)

___ Human Cogn: Skill Acquisition (Pitt Psych)

___ An ESL course at the ELI

3) Professional Development

A student is also required to engage in professional development activities that relate to the learning sciences in three categories.

Mentorship (one of the following)

___ Mentor a LEARNLAB intern

___ Mentor at the LEARNLAB Summer School

___ Directly supervise a research or teaching assistant (for a minimum of one semester)

Participation (two of the following)

___ Serve as a graduate student host to an invited speaker

___ Present research at LEARNLAB events (all-hands, thrust meeting, or present poster at AB / Site visit)

___ Attend an SLC event (conference or annual meeting)

___ Serve as a member on the grad student body (President, Vice President, Wiki Master, iSLC organizer, Professional Development Officer, Recruitment Officer)

Field-based Experience

In order to gain experience working in the “real-world” of education, the student will complete a field-based requirement that consists of working with educators, administrators, or others in applied educational settings. This experience could be relevant to education at any age level (K – 12, college, etc.) and in any subject, but the student must document how their experiences working on this experience both a) assist in developing a broader understanding of the challenges and issues faced by educators, and b) how the experience can inform the students’ future program of research. The student will submit a one-page proposal to the EC outlining their field-based experience idea, and upon approval and successful implementation of the field-based experience, they will write up a short reflection that will accompany the students’ Learning Sciences Summary (see section 5). The proposal should include a plan for at least 25 hours of time working directly with and on educationally-relevant activities (i.e., meeting with stakeholders, not analyzing data you get from an in-vivo study).

If a student is unsure of what sorts of field-based experiences are available (e.g., how they would get to observe a classroom, or do research in vivo, etc.), they should contact Michael Bett (

N.B. If a student wants to go into real schools, clearances are necessary. These can take some time to get, so students should plan accordingly. For additional information, contact Judith Hallinen (

4) Research

In order to satisfy the research requirement, the student’s dissertation must address a question relevant to education and the learning sciences. Additionally, the student’s dissertation committee must include one member who is learning science faculty member, as defined as any faculty that is currently a member of LearnLab, the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), or the Program in Interdisciplinary Education Research (PIER) Steering Committee.

5) Experiences in the Learning Sciences Summary

The student will complete a short report summarizing all his/her learning science experiences. The report will include a short (max. 1,000 words) section on how his/her research is relevant to - and can inform - the field of the learning sciences, as well as a short reflection on the significance of his/her field-based experience (max. 1,000 words) – this latter reflection should detail how the student will use their field-based experiences to inform their future research. Finally, included in this report should be a listing of all the relevant coursework, teaching, and professional development activities the student has completed to fulfill the LearnLab Certificate requirements. This report will be submitted to the EC for final approval of the Certificate.

Note: For each of the coursework, teaching, and research requirements, it is possible for the student to elect a course or advisor that are not among the choices listed -- to do so, the student must submit a one-page proposal outlining why the course(s) or advisor is suitable for satisfying the intended requirement(s). The student must allow at least a month’s time in order to for the EC to process the request. For the coursework and teaching requirements, the proposed alternate courses may not be “half-courses”, unless the student completes multiple half-courses and this plan is approved by the EC.

Professional Development Seminar

The PSLC grad students and post-docs are currently in the process of organizing a Professional Development Seminar. The seminar will feature talks given by PSLC faculty members and will cover topics relevant to senior graduate students and post-docs, such as "How to Write Grants" and "Applying for Jobs".

More information to follow, so stay tuned!

Funding Opportunities

Research Assistance for Graduate Students (RAGS)

This is an internal source of funds aimed at providing existing PSLC grad students with small supplements to more established grants, or to an existing, but as yet unfunded, proposal to the PSLC or outside agency, etc. All graduate students supervised by PSLC- funded faculty are eligible to apply. RAGS proposals may be submitted at any time. The PSLC Education Director, in conjunction with one of the PSLC Directors, will make funding decisions within two weeks. Proposal inclusions:

Project Title

Name of PSLC faculty advisor.

Identification of the overarching funded project and thrust within the PSLC.

Project Description including the core research question

Expected Results

Budget and Justification (i.e., why do you need the $$?)


The following ground rules apply:

1. No more than one grant per graduate student per year.

2. No "banking", i.e., if you don't get one in one year, doesn't mean you are entitled to two the next year.

3. Max $1000.

4. Students must submit a 500-word proposal, as well as a description of the larger PSLC project (and the Thrust) of which the proposed work is, or could become, a part.

5. A clear and reasonable justification for the budget.

6. Students should allow a two week lead time before an answer is required.

7. Recipients of RAGS grants are expected to file a brief report at the end of the grant period describing how the funds were actually used, what was accomplished, etc etc (2 - 3 pages). In addition, they will be asked to provide brief progress reports, as needed, in order to meet various PSLC reporting deadlines (Advisory Board meetings, site visits, annual reports, etc.)

Send RAGS requests to David Klahr:

Upcoming Meetings/Events

Our next graduate student meeting will be in mid-June. Contact Dan Belenky for more details.


1. What does it take to be a PSLC grad student?

Well, there are basically three ways you can be considered a PSLC grad student.

a. You work on a project that receives funding from the PSLC.

b. Attend PSLC meetings and/or serve as a Grad Student Officer

c. You want to be a PSLC grad student.

2. What types of opportunities does the PSLC have for a grad student like me?

We offer a number of different opportunities including:

1) The PSLC organizes a speaker series with talks that may be of interest to students interested in the learning sciences. These are open to whomever wishes to go.

2) Professional Development Seminars, with topics like applying for grants, finding jobs, collaboration with people at other universities, etc. These are open to the public.

3) Learning Science Certificate upon completion of a Ph.D. in your home department, which comes with a letter of recommendation from the LearnLab Executive Committee.

4) Opportunities to present your work or follow learning science related research: the grad student community has monthly meetings to discuss center-wide issues, read and discuss articles we believe are relevant, plan future events, etc. In addition, Each thrust has regular or semi-regular meetings to discuss the thrust's theoretical framework, set the research agenda, and discuss the progress of projects within that thrust.

5) Funding: primarily small grants of up to $1,000 for research-related expenses (see above)

3. What is expected of me as a PSLC grad student?

If you receive funding from the PSLC, you are expected, to the extent it is possible, to attend the thrust meetings for your relevant thrust, and attend the monthly PSLC lunches. The grad student community also encourages you to come to the grad student monthly meetings, of course.

If you don't receive funding from the PSLC, but still wish to be a part of the grad student community, your level of involvement is up to you.

How do I find out about upcoming talks/meetings/events?

One option is to check the Announcements section of this page. A possibly better option would be to get on our mailing list. To do that, e-mail Jo Bodnar at jobodnar AT and ask to be put on the PSLC general mailing list and grad student mailing list.

There is also a regularly updated calendar at our main webpage that gives a fairly complete account of most PSLC events.

4. What are the responsibilities of the PSLC Student Body members?

President: serves as representative to the LearnLab Executive Committee, organizes Early Career Speaker Series, sets agenda for monthly grad student meetings, and helps to organize both the professional development series and the annual outreach event.

Vice President: organizes monthly graduate student meetings and helps to organize both the professional development series and the annual outreach event. Becomes the President in case the current President is assassinated.

Wiki Master: keeps the grad student wiki page up to date, including managing announcements and list of members.

iSLC Organizer(s): work with students from other centers to organize the annual SLC student conference.

Professional Development Series Organizer: works with the PSLC post-docs to organize the Professional Development series, which includes setting up a talk series given by faculty members that cover professional development topics

Recruitment Officer: is primarily in charge of organizing the annual outreach event that invites graduate students from all dept's to learn about the PSLC. In addition, this officer should be actively involved in talking to incoming students from various dept's about opportunities offered at the PSLC and ways to get involved.

5. I already consider myself a PSLC grad, and want to be included on this page! What do I have to do?

Well the great thing about the wiki page is that anybody can update it whenever they want! So, if you have an account here, and you know how to edit tables, you can just log in and add yourself!

The table formatting is a bit weird and hard to follow, so if you want to add yourself, the easiest thing to do is just copy this text:

| Name  || University || Advisor || e-mail address || Bio  || Personal Webpage || Link to PSLC project page  [Project page URL Project page title]

and paste it into the appropriate place on the table. With your own information, of course.

If you don't have an account already, you can easily request one by clicking the "login/create account" button on the top right hand corner of the screen and following the instructions. Once you have an account, you can just click "Edit" above the table, and you can add yourself.

6. But that's such a pain! Isn't there an easier way?!

There sure is! If you don't want to make all that effort just to have your name and e-mail address on a page, just send your info (you could even put it in the format given above!) to our Wikimaster (yep, we made that word up!), Ben Friedline, at bef25 AT, and he'll put it on here.

Who Do I Ask About _______?

This is often cited as being the most frustrating part of being a new grad student wanting to get involved, and by far "the" most frequently asked question, so we created a separate section for it.

Getting on the mailing lists

To get on the mailing lists, the best thing to do is e-mail Jo Bodnar at bodnar AT She is going to need to know which mailing lists you want to be on. You have several options.

1. The PSLC-PIER Distribution List Signing up for this one is going to get you the most e-mails, but if you want to be involved in the learning sciences community, this is a good one to be on.

This will give you emails about talks and meetings of general interest to people in the learning sciences community- the PIER Speaker Series, the PIER student EdBags, PSLC All Hands meetings and Speaker Series, Dissertation Proposals and Defenses, etc. You will also get e-mails about more specific meetings, like the course committee meetings and thrust meetings, which may not be of interest to you unless you are involved in those thrusts.

Oh. And you'll get a billion job posting e-mails from David Klahr as well.

2. The Graduate Student Distribution List If you're a grad student, definitely ask to put on this list. This is the list where we plan and announce our events.

3. The Thrust Distribution Lists If you should be on any of these lists, you'll know it. I'm also not entirely sure Jo can get you on these lists, but at the very least she will know who to talk to to get you on it.

But really, if no one has instructed you to get on this list, you probably don't need to.

Getting Involved With Research

Unfortunately, there is just no easy answer for this. You'll need to do some research- our suggestion would be going to the Thrust pages (on the left side of the page) and reading up on them and trying to find a project you might be interested in, and talking to the PI. Or, if there's a thrust you're interested in, start showing up to the meetings.

Getting My Name On the Wiki Page'

You can check out the FAQs section for instructions on how to add yourself, or you can just e-mail Colleen Davy at and give her your Name, Institution/Department, Advisor, E-mail, a short Bio, and your personal webpage and/or Wiki page, and she'll add it for you.

Who are the PSLC grads?

Grad Student Name University/Department Advisor E-mail Research Interests Personal Webpage PSLC Projects
Turadg Aleahmad Carnegie Mellon, HCII Ken Koedinger & John Zimmerman My research is in design methods for theory-driven educational technology. [1]
Daniel Belenky University of Pittsburgh Timothy Nokes I am interesting in issues of motivation and cognition. Specifically, I have been studying how achievement goals influence transfer. N/A Dialectical Interaction and Robust Learning
Colleen Davy Carnegie Mellon/Psychology Brian MacWhinney I am interested in how adult second language learners develop fluent speaking skills in their second language. N/A Spanish Sentence Production
Susan Dunlap University of Pittsburgh Charles Perfetti My research areas include second language learning, reading, and spelling n/a [2]
Benjamin Friedline University of Pittsburgh Alan Juffs I am interested in how adult second language learners acquire morphology in a second language. N/A Feature Focus in Word Learning
Katherine I. Martin University of Pittsburgh, Linguistics Alan Juffs Adult second language acquisition of vocabulary and grammar, cognitive individual differences in language learning, language aptitude, second language reading, word recognition, and bilingualism. My methodologies include laboratory experiments, classroom interventions, and corpus analysis. N/A N/A
Bryan Matlen Carnegie Mellon University David Klahr My research focuses on applications of analogical instruction for promoting robust learning and transfer in science education. I also study how representational tools - such as gesture, sketching, and diagrams - facilitate concept acquisition in spatially intensive domains such as the geosciences Analogical comparison in Science Education
Nora Presson Carnegie Mellon, Psychology Brian MacWhinney I am studying how practice conditions can improve learning of second language grammar, especially testing the effects of explicit instruction. Second Language Grammar Instruction
Mary Lou Vercellotti University of Pittsburgh Dr. Nel de Jong My research looks at complexity, accuracy, and fluency in the oral production of English as a second language. N/A Refinement and Fluency
Ruth Wylie Carnegie Mellon, HCII Ken Koedinger & Teruko Mitamura I'm interested in second language learning and self-explanation. Self-Explanation and ESL

Science of Learning Relevant Courses

The PIER program offers three courses -- see the PIER Web page

See also the courses taught be any of the PSLC faculty.

(Please add the names of relevant courses and web pointers if possible!)

05832 / 05432 Cognitive Modeling & Intelligent Tutoring Systems
3:00pm-4:20pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Fall 2010
Room 3002, Newell-Simon Hall, Carnegie Mellon University
9 units
Dr. Vincent Aleven,

Students in this course will learn about the Cognitive Tutor technology that has been demonstrated to dramatically enhance student learning in domains like math, science, and computer programming. This type of tutoring software is currently in use in 2,700 schools around the country and is used extensively as platform for learning sciences research. The technology is grounded in artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, and cognitive task analysis. Students will learn data-driven and theoretical methods for analyzing human problem solving and will learn to use such data to inform the design of intelligent tutoring systems. Course projects will focus on the development of an intelligent tutor using CTAT, the Cognitive Tutor Authoring Tools (see Some assignments will focus on creating cognitive models in the Jess production rule modeling language.

Students should either have programming skills, or experience in the cognitive psychology of human problem solving, or HCI / design skills, or permission from the instructor.