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Q&A with Karen Murphy, AERA, PIBBS Co-Editor

October 23, 2019

P. Karen Murphy (Ph.D., University of Maryland) is Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology at The Pennsylvania State University. She was a co-editor for the latest issue of Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences (PIBBS), which has a focus on education research.

How did you decide which topics/articles to include in this issue? 

This is our second issue highlighting education research.  In the first education-focused issue, our goal was to highlight established researchers whose long history of research has pervasively changed the way that we understand teaching and learning in formal and informal settings. Those scholars have had a profound impact on how we understand various aspects of what it means to learn, from the social to the cognitive and behavioral, and consequently, their lines of research have fundamental implications for policy and practice.  By contrast, in the present issue it was our goal to highlight the research of young and mid-career scholars who are conceptualizing teaching and learning in new ways.  As is evident in the collection of articles, these scholars are tackling difficult topics like learner autonomy and teacher trust as well as thinking deeply and meaningfully about inclusive learning environments that recognize the value and importance of social factors in and out of school that impact teaching and learning.  Further, the scholars in this issue also introduce new ways to think about what it means to achieve as well as how we can think about measuring achievement over time.  Given the lenses employed by these young scholars, their research necessarily has inventive implications for practice and raises questions about the meaningful repositioning of extant education policy.

How does the unique format of this journal add to policymakers and practitioners understanding of education research?

What I find particularly important about the format of this journal is that it focuses on research with explicit implications for policy and practice, and provides a forum for scholars who might not normally write for a policy audience.  

Can you tell us something that you learned from this issue?

As an intervention researcher invested in improving teachers’ and students’ critical-analytic thinking and reasoning about text and content through small-group discussion, my mind’s eye is generally drawn to the intersectionality between my own scholarship and that being presented in a given article.  Discussion is necessarily a social process that is influenced by the knowledge and experiences of teachers and learners.  What I took from the articles in this issue is that my team and I should be considering additional factors like the ways that student identity interplays with content or the importance of autonomy supports, as well as the ways that discussion can be framed to build a safe, dialogic space that embraces differences.

Who should read this issue of PIBBS?

This particular issue really draws a roadmap for education change to come.  I think it is relevant for education stakeholders like university faculty studying education, school district leaders and administrators, as well as curricular coaches and teachers.  Similarly, I think those who play an explicit role in education policy will find the articles informative and thought provoking.


P. Karen Murphy (Ph.D., University of Maryland) is Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology at The Pennsylvania State University. Her research focuses on the role of critical-analytic thinking in the processing of disciplinary content including the development and implementation of curricular interventions that maximize the interactive effects of reasoning and classroom discussion on students’ comprehension and content-area learning. Her externally-funded research projects pertain to the role of critical-analytic thinking in teaching and learning, and promoting high-level comprehension and content area learning through classroom discussion in elementary language arts and high school science. Murphy frequently publishes in such prestigious journals as the American Educational Research Journal, Educational Psychologist, Journal of Educational Psychology, or Contemporary Educational Psychology. She is the current Editor of the Review of Educational Research, a former Executive Editor of the Journal of Experimental Education, a former Associate Editor of Learning and Instruction, and serves on the editorial boards of numerous other journals including the Contemporary Educational Psychology and the Journal of Educational Psychology. Active in several national organizations, Murphy is a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association and the American Psychological Association. She is also a past Vice President of Division C (Learning and Instruction) of AERA.

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