Grants Office Update: March 2019

Congratulations to the all the School of Education faculty members who have recently been awarded grants. With $2.96 million in new projects, 27 principal investigators have now been awarded 41 new grants totaling $23,814,044 for fiscal year 2019, surpassing last year's total.

Principal Investigator:  Xu Qin
Department:  Psychology in Education
Project Title:  Sensitivity Analysis for Causal Mediation Analysis
Agency Name:  Spencer Foundation
Award Dates:  1/1/19- 6/30/20
Amount: $49,898

Causal mediation analysis is essential for investigating the mechanisms through which an intervention operates. Causal inference regarding the hypothesized mediation mechanism might be invalidated in the presence of unmeasured confounders of the treatment-mediator, treatment-outcome, or mediator-outcome relationships. However, this has not received enough attention in educational studies. Dr. Qin and colleagues will develop simulation-based sensitivity analysis strategies to numerically and graphically evaluate the sensitivity of causal mediation analysis results to the presence of an unmeasured pretreatment or posttreatment confounder of the mediator-outcome relationship under treatment randomization. The methods have three primary advantages over the existing methods. First, using the conditional association of the unmeasured confounder with the mediator and that with the outcome as sensitivity parameters, the methods enable applied researchers to intuitively evaluate sensitivity parameters in reference to prior knowledge about the strength of a potential unmeasured confounder. Second, the methods accurately reflect the influence of unmeasured confounding on the estimation efficiency of the causal effects. Third, the methods reduce the reliance on model-based assumptions. The broad utility of the proposed methods will be illustrated through a re-analysis of the Job Search Intervention Study (JOBS II). Dr. Qin will also develop an R package that implements the proposed methods.

Principal Investigator:  Thomas Akiva
Department: Psychology in Education
Project Title:  Modeling the Creative Learning Ecosystem in Pittsburgh 
Agency Name:  Heinz Endowments
Award Dates:  2/1/19 - 8/31/19

Creative learning occurs in arts and other informal education settings for young people. How can we describe the creative learning ecosystem in Pittsburgh? What children get to experience what parts of it? How can we engineer the learning landscape for more equitable access and opportunity? These questions guide the second phase of a research-philanthropy partnership between our research team and the Heinz Endowments. Through focus groups and surveys, we will engage with creative learning programs and organizations, as well as teaching artists, in order to map and model the local creative learning ecosystem. Throughout the process we intentionally focus on equity and access with a systems perspective. We also will engage a group of high school students to help inform our perspective of creative learning in the region.