History

In 1995, the Institute for Learning was founded by Lauren Resnick, an internationally renowned cognitive psychologist and senior scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh. At the time, the education community focused on developing standards, not on how to ensure students could meet them. As a leader in the standards movement, state policy makers and urban superintendents approached Resnick, who asked her to address this gap. She created the IFL to help schools and school systems provide opportunities for all students to reach or exceed world-class standards. Her first task was to assemble a team of expert practitioners and school and district leaders. They began by pulling together decades of learning research to develop the Principles of Learning. These nine principles are the foundation of the IFL’s work and provide a common lens for analyzing and improving teaching and learning. Lauren retired as co-director of the IFL in 2016.

The current IFL leadership team includes:

Anthony Petrosky, Co-director (2012 – Present)

Petrosky is a professor in the English department and Associate Dean at the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. As an award-winning poet and nationally recognized expert in assessment and instruction, Petrosky was instrumental in advancing the IFL’s work in disciplinary literacy, and curriculum and assessment design. He has worked with professional learning and curriculum development in English and literacy for school and district leaders in the public schools of Austin, Boston, Dallas, Denver, El Paso, New York City, Fort Worth, Prince George’s County, and Pittsburgh. He headed up the design team to develop assessment prototypes in English language arts and literacy for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC). He was the principal investigator and co-director of the Early Adolescence English Language Arts Assessment Development Lab for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards that developed the first national board certification for English teachers. He has also served as co-director of the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project. He was a senior researcher for the MacArthur Foundation’s Higher Literacies Studies, where he was responsible for conducting and writing case studies on literacy efforts in the Denver, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Ruleville and Mound Bayou school districts in the Mississippi Delta. He is past chair of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Committee on Research and a past elected member of the NCTE Research Foundation.

Chris Schunn, Co-director (2016 – Present)

Christian Schunn is a senior scientist at the Learning Research & Development Center and a professor of Psychology, Learning Sciences and Policy, and Intelligent Systems at the University of Pittsburgh. Most recently, he has joined the leadership team at the Institute for Learning. Having obtained over $80M in federal grants, he has led many research and design projects in science, mathematics, engineering, technology, and writing education. His current research interests include STEM and learning, neuroscience of complex learning, peer interaction and instruction, and engagement and learning. He also launched a startup called Peerceptiv, based upon his research on technology-based peer assessment in high school and college settings.

Lindsay Clare Matsumura, Co-director (2017 – Present)

Lindsay Clare Matsumura is a professor and associate dean at the School of Education at University of Pittsburgh, a research scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center, and recently appointed co-director of the IFL. She studies the effectiveness of both ‘in-person’ and web-based professional development programs for teachers, with a special focus on instructional coaching. Her work also examines the influence of classroom discussions and text-based writing assignments on students’ literacy skill development. She has received several grants from the Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences, and the results of her research have been published in both scholarly and practitioner-focused journals such as the Reading Teacher and the Learning Professional (JSD). She also has published a book for teachers focused on developing high-quality writing assignments.

Colleen Briner, Executive Director (2012 – Present)

Since 2000, Colleen Briner has worked as part of the vibrant team at the IFL. Before being named executive director in 2012, she held several strategic positions including contract and budget administrator, assistant director, and chief financial officer.

Acknowledged by the University of Pittsburgh as a Pitt Innovator 10 years running, Briner applies business acumen to the process of bringing research solutions to educators. She is also an entrepreneur and business consultant. Briner supports social entrepreneurs both regionally and internationally through strategic marketing and business consulting—helping them to find innovative solutions to social issues. She is also committed to giving voice and agency to underserved populations through active board membership with various groups, including those that serve the blind and ethnic minorities of the region.

The IFL’s work has continued to expand and grow in order to support the improvement of education and achievement of all students, especially those traditionally underserved. We began at the policy and senior leadership level. Overtime, without changing our vision and mission, we have moved closer to the classroom. Our work includes the development of leadership tools and instructional materials in each of the four core content areas—English language arts, mathematics, science, and history/social studies for grades Pre-K through 12. The IFL combines curriculum design and assessments with professional development tools to build capacity to support implementation at the classroom, school, and district levels.

Because of the IFL’s commitment to bridge research and practice, the IFL has collaborated with and welcomed studies by numerous researchers including Isabel Beck, Richard (Rip) Correnti, Paul Cobb, Jane David, Robert Flodden, Linda Kucan, Gaea Leinhardt, Lindsay Clare Matsumura, Jennifer Russell, Christian Schunn, Margaret Smith, Mary Kay Stein, and Joan Talbert; and organization including RAND, and MDRC.

The Institute for Learning continues to work with educators in schools, districts, and states across the country to improve teaching and learning for all students. We offer:

  • instructional materials for students;
  • professional development for teachers, coaches, and leaders at the school, district, and state level;
  • capacity building tools for leaders to support school and district improvement efforts;
  • senior leadership support for district leaders;
  • assessment tasks for students, and assessment tools and protocols for educators; and
  • custom solutions for school, district, and state partners.