Psychologist David Klahr named Bingham Professor

After years of having an effect on Carnegie Mellon and other institutions, David Klahr, a researcher in education, has received the prestigious title of Walter van Dyke Bingham Professor of Cognitive Development and Education Sciences from Carnegie Mellon University.

Klahr’s accomplishments include the investigations of scientific discovery and cognitive development. Klahr has written several papers addressing these topics, each one recognized by esteemed publications, including the British Journal of Psychology and the International Journal of Man-Machine Studies.

Michael Scheier, head of Carnegie Mellon’s psychology department, said that there are two characteristics that distinguish Klahr as an education researcher.

“The first is the quality of his research. Put simply, David is a first-class scientist and theoretician, who [has done] some of the most interesting work on the nature of scientific reasoning. The second characteristic is that David is determined to have the seeds of his work find its way into educational practice and policy. He is very committed to seeing that scientific findings get translated into real-world classroom settings.”

Klahr graduated from Carnegie Mellon with a master’s degree in 1965 and a doctoral degree from the Graduate School of Industrial Administration (Tepper School of Business) in 1968.
Prior to teaching at Carnegie Mellon, Klahr taught at the University of Chicago and the London School of Business. Klahr also conducted research at the University of Stirling.

After joining Carnegie Mellon in 1969, Klahr became the head of the psychology department in 1983 for the next 10 years.

Klahr is currently a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. In addition, Klahr is a member of the governing board for the Cognitive Development Society.

Klahr’s contributions to these organizations include input from his own publications

“I hope to be able to continue to contribute to educational research efforts,” Klahr said, “both in programs at CMU, such as PIER [Program of Interdisciplinary Educational Research] and the PSLC [Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center], as well as serving on national committees that are involved with improving education, such as the National Academy of Education, and the National Research Council.”

PIER is a program within Carnegie Mellon that teaches scientists how to conduct research that is required for practicing education. Klahr directs this program, personally assisting students in conducting research as well as submitting his own work to PIER for improvements on their methodology.

PSLC, on the other hand, is an institution in which researchers conduct experiments that investigate learning. The institution holds a variety of resources, including online course authorship and learning curve analysis software.

Klahr’s most recent study pertains to the cognitive process that supports children’s scientific thinking. Klahr strives to improve the teaching of experimental science.
“My research is aimed at understanding the most effective ways to teach elementary school children how to design experiments,” Klahr said.

Klahr said that he views his research as a contribution to the education of many grade levels in a variety of ways.

Klahr said, “First, the topic is a central part of the science curriculum, and anything that improves kids’ understanding of how to ‘do science’ is valuable. Second, I try very hard to make sure that any claims made about effective instruction are supported by rigorous evidence, rather than by hunch, intuition, and tradition...which, unfortunately is all too common in education.”