About Us

The Institute for Learning (IFL) is an outreach of the University of Pittsburgh's Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC). Comprised of scholar practitioners called Fellows, the IFL helps educators bring what research tells us about teaching and learning into classrooms to help students grow their intelligence and reach the high standards demanded by today's colleges and workforce. We believe — and research confirms — that virtually all students are capable of high achievement, if they work hard at the right kinds oflearning tasks.

To do this, the IFL:

  • serves as a professional development leader. We design instructional materials, tools, strategies, formative assessments, and other resources to enhance instructional effectiveness in K-12 classrooms.
  • provides educational services. We offer customized preparation and consulting designed to meet districts where they are in the school reform process. Along with our in-district work, we regularly convene superintendents, other central office administrators, and principals from our partner districts to share their experiences and best practices.
  • operates as a think tank. We bring to educators the best current knowledge and research about learning processes and principles of instruction.
  • offers research-based solutions to the challenges facing public education. Our work has been and continues to be evaluated by independent researchers and organizations, including the Institute of Education Sciences, RAND Corporation, and MDRC, among others.

The IFL functions as a bridge between the domains of research and practice, bringing educators the best of current knowledge, research, tools, and models related to instruction and district design.



Valerie Kinloch

Valerie Kinloch

Renée and Richard Goldman Dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Education


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Fellows & District Liaisons

Tabetha Bernstein-Danis

Tabetha Bernstein-Danis

Visiting English Language Arts, Emergent Multilingual Learner, Special Education Visiting Fellow

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Ivonne Durant

Ivonne Durant

District & School Leadership & Emergent Multilingual Learner Visiting Fellow

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Joe Ramirez

Joe Ramirez

Visiting History Fellow

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Michelle Rimbey

Michelle Rimbey

English Language Arts Fellow

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Administrative Support

Production & Content Support

Media Support

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 holds a joint appointment as a professor in the School of Education and the English Department, and was recently the associate dean in 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. Petrosky currently co-directs The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded IFL Network for School Improvement in partnership with 14 Dallas ISD schools, the Learning Research Development Center, and the Center for Urban Education.

Christian 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.

Rosa E. Apodaca, Executive Director (2018 - Present)

Rosa Elodia Apodaca serves as the executive director of the IFL. Prior to this role, she served as a senior fellow at the IFL since 2002. She was selected by the IFL's leadership because of her commitment to inclusivity and diversity and ability to lead a complex, mission-driven organization to create impact and make a difference in the way we educate every student. In addition to her role as executive director, Apodaca serves as a cluster lead and on the steering committee in the Dallas ISD Network for School Improvement project funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. While at the IFL, Apodaca has played a vital role in leadership development and English learner (EL) education. Her contributions to the evolution of The Learning Walk® routine as a qualitative, transformational tool for doing continuous improvement work, EL unit development, and foundational training for educators of ELs have been implemented district-wide in some of the IFL's largest school districts in the country. Apodaca served as IFL lead for work with Austin ISD, New Brunswick Public Schools, Paterson Public Schools, Schenectady City School District, City School District of New Rochelle, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, the Texas Association of School Administrators, El Paso ISD, and Hartford Public Schools. Her life's work has been to provide high-quality education to every student, particularly those traditionally under-served. Find Apodaca on Twitter @Mita11Rosita.

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.

We at the Institute for Learning (IFL) know that virtually all students are capable of high achievement if they work hard at the right kinds of learning tasks. As a translational research group within the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC), we serve as a bridge between the domains of research and practice, bringing educators the best of current knowledge, research, tools, and models related to instruction and district design.

Our team is comprised of scholar practitioners we call fellows. Our fellows all have extensive classroom and school experience and share a deep interest in research of teaching, learning, and ongoing organizational change. IFL fellows help educators bring what research tells us about teaching and learning into classrooms to help students grow their intelligence and reach the high standards demanded by today’s colleges and workforce.

Are you a seasoned practitioner with an interest in research and a passion for improving outcomes for all students, especially those disadvantaged by income, race, and language? We’d love to meet you. Send us your resume at ifl@pitt.edu.

The University of Pittsburgh is an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or veterans’ status or other status protected by applicable law.