Faculty Member Xu Qin Receives NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Xu Qin, a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, has been selected as a 2022 National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow.

Qin is among the 25 early-career scholars selected from a pool of 258 applicants nationwide. The $70,000 fellowships support outstanding researchers at the postdoctoral level who are pursuing education research projects.

As an assistant professor in research methodology at the Pitt School of Education’s Department of Health and Human Development, Qin’s research focuses on developing causal mediation analysis methods and applying causal inference methods for educational program evaluations.

“Causal mediation analysis uncovers the mediation mechanism underlying the effect of an intervention on an outcome.” says Qin. “Further assessing the heterogeneity of the mediation mechanism may generate important information for understanding why an intervention impact varies across different individuals and contexts, reveal a need to revisit the intervention theory, and may suggest modifications of the intervention practice.”

Qin developed methods for causal mediation analysis in multisite trials using data from more than 300 Head Start programs across the United States. “The Head Start data showed that the impact of Head Start on children’s vocabulary varied significantly across the nation, but why is that?” says Qin. “In order to understand why, we want to further investigate how the underlying mechanism varied among different individual and contextual characteristics.”

The NAEd/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship will support Qin’s project, titled “New Tools for Causal Investigations of, for Whom, and Where an Educational Intervention is Effective and Why.” The project aims to develop tools that will help researchers understand how reforms can be designed and implemented across different students and settings to maximize the benefits of educational programs.

“Causal mediation analysis is still a relatively new area, so there are important gaps in the literature for us to fill,” says Qin. “On one hand I’m developing methods, and on the other hand I’m applying the methods. These applications are then used as a template for educational researchers to learn how to apply the methods to answer deeper research questions in their own projects.”

Qin was a NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellow in 2017, a valuable experience that inspired her to apply for the postdoctoral fellowship. She is looking forward to the professional development opportunities of the fellowship, including retreats and mentorships.

“Receiving this fellowship has been one of my dreams in my early career, so I am excited, says Qin. “I look forward to benefiting from the retreats and meeting the other fellows, leading scholars in education, and working with my two assigned mentors.”

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Xu Qin teaches in the Pitt School of Education’s Department of Educational Foundations, Organizations, and Policy. The programs are now accepting applications.