About the Committee on Education

The Committee on Education and the University of Chicago

Leading social and behavioral scientists at the University have long pursued questions of fundamental importance to education.  The questions are broad in scope, for example: How do children learn to speak, to read, and to reason mathematically? How can classroom instruction promote such learning? How can school organization support such instruction? How does the political economy of a school system affect its productivity? Taken in isolation, each question is important for understanding human development and society. But the answers emerging in each domain of research have implications for inquiry in the other domains.

The Committee enables scholars throughout the University to explore these implications, deepening the work in each domain, uncovering new questions, and intensifying interdisciplinary scholarship in education.  It also sponsors the Chicago Education Workshop, a weekly forum for lively exchange on cutting edge education research conducted locally and around the nation.

Integrating Research and Practice

By promoting and supporting powerful collaborations between researchers and practitioners, the Committee aims to find solutions to the urgent problems facing preschool through high school education in the U.S.  Our internationally renowned faculty contributes expertise in the areas of comparative human development, economics, psychology, public policy, social services administration, sociology, and statistics.  Expert practitioners, whose work is based at the University’s Urban Education Institute and the Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education, contribute their experience and knowledge in training teachers, running schools, developing and scaling interventions and tools, and collecting and analyzing large public education data sets.  Together, our faculty and expert practitioners promote the idea that research aimed at improving education must be driven by practice-based knowledge and, likewise, that changes in practice must be driven by science-based evidence.

Two ambitious, multi-year initiatives are foundational to the Committee’s goal to germinate, support, and advance projects that integrate rigorous research and practice in the education sciences.  They are Successful Pathways from School to Work and our IES Pre-Doctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training Program in Educational Sciences

Successful Pathways from School to Work supports innovative research across a range of disciplines, bringing together researchers, policy makers, and practitioners to address the urgent need to improve the academic preparation of youth in Chicago and other major cities.  The initiative was launched in January 2013 as a ten-year program specifically focused on urban schooling and the labor market. It calls for faculty and practitioners inside and outside the University to help schools effectively foster the skills, dispositions, and experiences that are essential for success in the modern labor market. Current projects focus on researching and creating interventions for the preschool and elementary years that provide the basis for later success in school and adulthood as well as on researching and developing practices at the secondary and post-secondary levels that help high-risk high school students successfully transition to adulthood. 

Closely connected to Successful Pathways is our IES Pre-Doctoral Interdisciplinary Training Program in the Education Sciences, funded by the US Department of Education since 2005.  Our IES program has been highly successful having already produced 7 assistant professors, 3 post-doctoral fellows and 4 research analysts in addition to the junior fellows who are currently on track to become expert educational researchers.  (Learn more about our IES Fellows.)

With recently renewed funding, at least 19 new fellows will enter the program over a two-year period, beginning in the fall of 2015.  Current and new IES fellows are able to work with Successful Pathways grantees as well as apply to Successful Pathways for additional research funds. The connection between Successful Pathways and the IES Fellowship Program creates the basis for an active and intense intellectual community within the Committee and the University. In this community, students and faculty from a variety of disciplines collaborate with practitioners and policy makers to design and conduct research and practices relevant to solving critical challenges in education. 

IES fellows, COE faculty, and expert practitioners at the University additionally collaborate on projects beyond the Successful Pathways initiative.  Getting on Track Early for School Success and From the Classroom to the Lab and Back exemplify ongoing major research and practice-based projects connected to the COE.

Getting on Track Early for School Success responds to recent research demonstrating that focusing on early oral language development positively influences children’s later proficiency in reading comprehension, writing, and numerical reasoning and that the early acquisition of spatial reasoning and geometry skills can substantially enhance the development of children’s mathematical thinking.  Evaluations of preschool instruction find that these critical oral language and math skills are not sufficiently emphasized. Researchers and practitioners are collaborating in this project to develop valid, formative Pre-K math and literacy assessments that will provide teachers with useful and useable data on each student in these critical skill areas and help clarify literacy and math instructional goals at the preschool level.

From the Classroom to the Lab and Back is closely linked to Getting on Track.  It integrates deep mathematical thinking into early childhood classrooms by conducting research and developing and piloting instructional strategies that help preschool children learn the critical numerical, geometric and spatial skills that are measured in the assessment.  Recent research suggests that math instruction and math-related interactions between adults and children can substantially enhance the development of children’s mathematical thinking.  Mathematical instruction, however, remains rare in early childhood classrooms. Such instruction has been shown to be particularly critical for children from economically disadvantaged households, indicating the essential need for the strategies being developed through this collaboration. 

To learn more about COE members' education projects, see our list of Major Initiatives and visit our COE members' webites.

The Chicago Education Workshop

The Chicago Education Workshop is a weekly forum in which IES fellows, faculty from a range of disciplines both within and outside the University, and expert practitioners come together to present, discuss, and scrutinize new findings in education research.  The Workshop includes “New Findings in Education” and “Methodology” sessions.  Learn more about our Workshop.